Americans are taking more time off from work and feeling better about it: Report

If you used all of your vacation time last year, you're in the minority of American workers -- but it's a minority that is growing steadily.

Fifty-two percent of American workers had unused vacation time at the end of 2017, according to Project: Time Off's State of American Vacation 2018 report.

While that figure may seem high, it's actually been falling slowly but surely: it's down three whole percent from 2015, and the report's authors said it's representative of the beginning of a cultural shift where employees are feeling increasingly encouraged to use their paid time off.

The number of days off each employee takes is also on the rise, up to 17.2 days in 2017 from a recent low of 16 days in 2014. That figure fell steadily during the early 2000s and ultimately tanked (perhaps unsurprisingly) around the time of the Great Recession in 2008.

On average, each employee surveyed had earned 23.2 paid days off per year. They collectively forfeited 212 million days of paid time off, amounting to $62.2 billion in lost benefits.

Many employees who didn't use all of their vacation time said they chose not to out of a fear of looking replaceable or because they had a heavy workload that they felt they couldn't walk away from.

Still, a growing minority of workers said they felt that their company culture encouraged them to take their earned vacation time. Those who said they felt empowered to take time off also reported feeling happier about their company, job, personal relationships and physical health than workers at companies with a discouraging vacation culture.

"Companies are increasingly realizing that an encouraging vacation culture has the power to positively influence the bottom line," Katie Denis, the report's author, said in a news release.

Project: Time Off, an initiative sponsored by the U.S. Travel Association, compiled the report based on data collected from more than 4,300 American workers in January. The employees surveyed were over the age of 18, worked more than 35 hours a week and all received paid time off from their employer.
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