americans taking few vacation daysA new study from the U.S. Travel Association’s Travel Effect Initiative, “All Work and No Pay: The Impact of Forfeited Time Off,” has found that U.S. workers forfeited $52.4 billion in time-off benefits (approximately 169 million days) in 2013 and took less vacation time than at any point in the past four decades. According to the study, in 2013 U.S. employees took an average of 16 days of vacation, compared with an average of 20.3 days as recently as 2000.

“Americans are work martyrs,” says the U.S. Travel Association. “Tied to the office, they leave more and more paid time off unused each year, forfeiting their earned benefits and, in essence, work for free.”

According to Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, 28 percent of workers surveyed said they’ve declined to take earned days off in order to illustrate their dedication to the job.

“But it does them no good whatsoever,” Dow said. “People who take more time off tend to get more raises and promotions.”

A number of studies show that fewer vacation days can, perhaps counterintuitively, lead to decreased productivity. Indeed, one study has found that the so-called “respite effect” of a vacation can increase performance by 80 percent. Reaction times of returning vacationers increased 40 percent in this study.

According to Dow, some U.S. companies, are beginning to overhaul their vacation policies.

“We’re seeing multiple companies — Expedia and Netflix and others — that

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