Paid time off (PTO) policies are central to achieving work-life balance. PTO should be a refuge for people to unplug and re-center, so they can return to work feeling refreshed and productive. In today’s society, paid time off is seemingly more valuable than ever, as the line between a person’s professional life and their personal life continues to blur due to rapidly advancing technology and an expectation to be “always on.”
Because paid time off is so critical for a person’s well-being, we created a survey to find out more about the current PTO landscape in the United States.
What Our Paid Time Off Study Reveals
We surveyed over 2,000 full-time workers and obtained some compelling insights and statistics that are sure to surprise you and disrupt a preconceived notion or two. Download the full study to learn everything you need to know about modern paid time off policies and attitudes in the United States.
Our study reveals:
- How much PTO workers have on average in a given calendar year
- Whether or not workers consider PTO to be important when evaluating a potential job offer
- Which industries offer the most PTO
- The correlations between longevity at a company and volume of PTO
- How workers from different generations feel about PTO in general and their own company’s policy
- Whether an employee’s feelings about PTO corresponds to how much they used their own PTO
- How employees with unlimited PTO feel about this trendy policy
After analyzing the results, it’s clear that American companies have some pretty unique, and sometimes startling, attitudes about paid time off for their employees.
American Attitudes Toward PTO is an Anomaly
While a vast majority of U.S. companies offer PTO time, federal law doesn’t require them to do so. The United States is one of the only developed countries in the world that does not legally mandate PTO. It’s no wonder people outside the U.S. have a hard time understanding this seeming obsession with work. After all, many people around the world are accustomed to having as many as five federally mandated weeks off annually, and in some cases, even more.
The following countries have the most federally mandated PTO days:
- United Kingdom – 37
- France – 36
- Spain – 36
- Germany – 33
- Chile – 30
- South Korea – 30
- Australia – 28
- Japan – 25
Paid Time Off Comes in All Shapes and Sizes
Companies in different industries, and of different sizes, treat paid time off policy uniquely. In some organizations, PTO is all-encompassing and includes vacation days, sick time and personal days for employees. In other companies, the method for tracking days away from the workplace depends on an employee’s tenure, title, or responsibility.
There’s a huge disparity out there between “new school” companies with a laissez-faire attitude toward vacation that offer unlimited days off with no discernible tracking system, and companies still rooted in the more formal business tradition that require days to be accrued before being taken, tracking every hour along the path with precision.
Regardless of how corporate PTO policies may be structured, many employees simply aren’t doing enough to protect their own work-life balance, and conditions like burnout are becoming more common.
There’s a Burnout Epidemic
One of the biggest surprises is that employees often don’t take advantage of the few PTO days that they do have. This is true even though the days available are far less on average than what workers in other countries enjoy. An interesting caveat here is that studies have proven that people who take their allotted PTO time actually climb higher up the corporate ranks, and make more money.
Regardless, PTO time off goes unused for a variety of reasons which have been widely studied:
- Some workers are afraid to take time off out of fear of losing their jobs.
- Some have concerns about how their workload will be handled by co-workers who pick up slack during vacation. This is especially true if these co-workers aren’t familiar with the employee’s daily activities and workflow.
- Others yet are just workaholics, who are so bound to their work and consumed by it that they don’t take any days off.
Burnout is the dire cost of workers plowing ahead without taking the time off available to them. A recent study by Stanford University on burnout in the medical profession examined the literal life and death stakes surrounding it. Seven thousand health professionals from around the country were surveyed regarding their stress levels and the burnout associated with that stress, with 55% reporting burnout and 10% admitting they had made at least one major mistake in the past three months.
If burnout is occurring at this rate in hospitals, you can only imagine how common it has become in the average office, and how much overall quality of work is suffering across industries. So much of this is simply due to companies not offering enough time off, and employees not taking advantage of the time they are given.
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