For several years, Scott Stevenson, director of advisory practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers, did not take all of his vacation days. "There was almost a feeling of guilt when you took time off," he says.
Now Mr. Stevenson uses almost all of his allotted four weeks, some of it in half-day increments. Although he concedes that he still has "a twinge of guilt sometimes," he says, "I do credit the firm for having us talk about it more, and the need for it, and the value of it to the work we do."
Although staffing is tight at TripAdvisor, a website in Newton, Mass., the company encourages all employees to take their vacation. It even added four summer Fridays to everyone's holiday schedule. "The bosses are leading by example, promising to take them all," says spokesman Brian Payea. "Everyone gets a minimum of three weeks' vacation at the start, plus the new summer Fridays."
The decision by some worker to endure years of vacation deprivation may be extreme, but they symbolize a pattern common to many American workers – a reluctance to take all the vacation days they have earned. A new poll estimates that 47 million employees will forgo some vacation time in 2008. That adds up to 460 million unused days, an average of three "wasted" days per worker, according to Expedia, a travel website. More than half of respondents to a Yahoo! HotJobs survey plan to skip their vacation this year to save money.
During a bad economy, in particular, workers may be concerned that going away will make them expendable in the boss's eyes.