This is a disaster. A goddamn failure. 658 million vacation days went completely unused in America last year. Worse than that? 222 million of those are lost forever. Those are days that didn't roll over to the next year. They're just floating lustily in the wind like the plastic bag in American Beauty.
Those numbers come from a survey by the D.C.-based Project: Time Off, who surveyed 5,600 American workers with paid time off. The project has noted a trend of Americans taking less and less time off year over year, and 2015 showed yet another drop in vacation days used. That's particularly horrible when you note that Americans get fewer days off from work than most other developed nations.
The 222 million lost days represent nearly two full days per American worker. That's a total of $61.4 billion in forfeited benefits in 2015 alone.
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Starting in 2000, Americans began taking less time off than the 20.3 days per year long-term average that the survey found. In 2015 the decline continued and Americans took just 16.2 days off over the course of a year, which is nearly a full week less than the long-term average.
Yet, the project found some reasons for hope. One of the ways people tend to access their time off (and their happiness) is through planning. It's the single most important factor in whether vacation time is used or not. 51 percent of people who planned their vacation in advance took all of their vacation days and reported greater happiness at work, in personal relationships, and in their overall mood.
Project: Time Off's program director Katie Denis suggests, for the non-planners out there, to start by planning just two days this year. That's the number lost by the average worker. Try to reclaim those lost days. Even if that means just staying home for a day and doing nothing or spending time with your family or listening to "Weird Al" Yankovic's greatest hits. Start there and lets try to get that 658 million figure down a bit this year, because that number is ridiculous.