46% of U.S. workers leave vacation time on the table. Is there a cost?

“What are your summer vacation plans?” has been a common water cooler topic for years. The 2011 version is more likely: “Are you taking any time off?” As noted in Scared to Go On Vacation? by Diane Cadrain in AARP Bulletin, a survey by Right Management and World at Work showed that 46% of American workers left unused vacation time on the table.

Several key reasons are at play: job insecurity, financial concerns and workload. It’s no secret that unemployment is an especially significant issue for older workers. The rise in underemployment – taking a job that pays less or working part-time -  factors in as well. Even people lucky enough to be gainfully employed find themselves being squeezed by increasing costs, from gas to grocery store prices. 

The bottom line: workers of all ages are taking less vacation time – but at what cost? “When people don’t take time away from the workplace to reenergize and recharge, it’s neither good for the individual or the business,” says Leonard Sanicola of World at Work. Even when we take time off, we often remain plugged in – from pulling out the BlackBerry while poolside or stealing a quick glance at our e-mail out of sight of those we love who think we’re already too wrapped up in work. (Guilty… although I discovered recently that vacationing in a bad cell area had its pluses.)

Are you among the 46% who forego some of your vacation time? Has not using all of the time you’ve earned affected your work and/or home life? If you’ve taken time off — whether for a local staycation or something further afield – did you unplug, or stay in touch with work? Would you do things differently next time? Give us your insights in the comments section below or on the Bulletin’s article page. And stay tuned for Unused Vacation – Part 2, next week.