Reluctant To Take Time Off? Why Americans Still Can’t Get The Hang Of PTO


A recent in-depth PTO survey by TSheets found that 1 in 3 US workers are prevented from taking time off. The survey compared US vacation policies to those in Canada and Australia and discovered that due to restricted policies and workload, Americans are hesitant to take their Paid Time Off (PTO). Workers feel pressured to avoid taking time off even though their mental or physical health probably calls for it. The stats found in this recent survey are shocking and could mean big problems for the future workforce. Take a look below at just a few of the stats found on why employees didn’t (or couldn’t) take time off.

Common excuses that were found for taking time off included: insomnia (15%), mental health (13%) and physical health reasons (12%).

  • Only 84% of the workforce currently has access to paid time off. That means about 16% of workers are left without.
  • Of the 84% who have PTO, 65% did not use their PTO allocation last year. WHAT?!
  • 18% of employees blamed their workload for not taking days off, which created a grand total of 573,694,800 UNUSED PTO hours in 2017!
  • The most desirable PTO benefits are paid holidays with (91% wanting this), sick leave (88% wanting this) and paid vacation days (87% wanting this).


Who doesn’t want the benefits of having PTO? The majority of workers look for PTO in their benefits package, but at the same time, few end up using it, even when it’s offered. Why? Because, even when they do take it, workers still end up putting in those hours either while off the clock or when they return. 60% of employees who took time off last year, worked through their vacation.

For those that took part in the survey, 48% (ALMOST HALF) of employees said they didn’t get enough time to take off. Again, that could lead to less than amazing employee performance. Take a look at some of the issues TSheets uncovered from a lack of PTO usage:

  • Stress levels are at an all-time high, with 43% of those that participated in the survey, saying they are “often” or “always” stressed. Geez, is anybody else stressing from how high that percentage is?
  • 1 in 3 of these employees said the stress they experience at work is detrimental to their health. Stress levels were found to be higher among employees who DO NOT get PTO, and 58% agreed and described their stress as “unhealthy”. Yikes, it’s time to give your brain a break every once in awhile!
  • Common excuses that were found for taking time off were insomnia (15%), mental health (13%) and physical health (12%).


With all these negative effects on the worker, you can see just how plausible it is that lower PTO usage could mean big problems for the organization who employs them. A Project: Time off Study shows most managers recognize the benefits employees experience from taking time off from work. They cite higher productivity, stronger workplace morale, greater employee retention and significant health benefits.

With that in mind, it’s hard to believe those same managers pressure their workers to work through a deserved break. Luckily, many do offer PTO and flex-work options. Red Branch leadership, for instance, has been known to remind employees who have a large bank of unused time off how important a break is to their career. However, that isn’t every company. Unfortunately, many organizations mean well, but probably get caught up in the day to day stresses of deadlines while overlooking the bigger picture. In other words, we’re “go, go, go” until all of a sudden the year is over and time off is impossible.


From the stats above, you can get a pretty good idea of how the US partakes in PTO. The survey found that in the US, employees are offered 11 days of PTO per year, whereas in Australia they are typically offered between 16 and 20 days of PTO per year. Take a look at the rest of the stats TSheets found when they compared the different countries:

  • Compared to Canada and Australia, Americans are LESS likely to receive PTO, 16% of American workers say they get no PTO at all compared to 14% of Australian workers and 8% of Canadian workers.
  • 74% of Americans say they would take a raise over increased PTO days, while in Australia this number drops to 69% and Canada even lower to 65%.

After reading these stat’s and learning more about America’s PTO policies, what thoughts do you have about your current PTO policy?

This article was originally published on the Red Branch Media Blog by Molly Spelts.




Chief Marketing Brain of @RedBranch Media. I help folks in recruiting, talent acquisition and HR, figure out marketing, community and social. #TBEX #TChat

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Maren Hogan

Maren Hogan

Chief Marketing Brain of @RedBranch Media. I help folks in recruiting, talent acquisition and HR, figure out marketing, community and social. #TBEX #TChat

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