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Most Americans don't take all of their PTO, dread workload when they return, survey finds

30% of people surveyed say they schedule an email to send outside regular working hours to give the impression they're working.
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Posted at 11:45 AM, May 24, 2024

Americans say they use paid time off to go on vacation or for their health and well-being, but many feel guilty for taking days off, and most dread what awaits them when they return.

A May 2024 survey by the Harris Poll showed that 66% of American workers dread the backlog of work awaiting their return. Nearly half of workers say they feel guilty for taking days off.

For some, they are genuinely unable to disconnect from the office. The poll found that 86% of workers said they would check emails from their boss while off. Over half of workers, 56%, say they've taken a work-related call while off.

Of course, that's assuming you're even allowed to take the paid time off companies offer.

The Harris Poll found that 78% of Americans don't use their full allotment of paid time off in a given year. Additionally, 75% say they wished to take all their allotted days off.

A hiring sign is displayed outside a day care.

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Justin Boggs
7:12 AM, May 03, 2024

The No. 1 reason Americans say they don't take all of their time off is due to pressure to always be available. The next top reason is a heavy workload.

Some Americans feel they have to give the appearance of working. For instance, 30% say they schedule an email to send outside regular working hours to give the impression they're working.

Also, 31% say they move their mouse at work to keep their computer's messaging system active.

Exactly 50% of workers agreed that "Taking time off from work is a luxury I cannot afford." For those earning less than $50,000 a year, 63% of respondents say they can't afford to miss work. Millennials and Black Americans were also more likely to say they can't afford to take time off.

According to March 2023 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 80% of workers have access to paid sick leave, while 77% get paid vacations and 79% get paid holidays.