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America Supports Employee Burnout, Not Paid Time Off

By June 3, 2022February 16th, 2024Current Events

After Covid wrecked two years of vacationing, 2022 was predicted to be the summer of “travel revenge.” But 55% of Americans are not using their time off. Americans take less time off from work for leisure than in any other advanced nation in the world.

For one thing, PTO for paid vacation is not mandatory in the U.S. since our culture generally praises burnout. In other countries, workaholics are highly disrespected for desecrating joie de vivre (love of life) — a long-held cultural detachment from work and work performance.

The subject opens a can of worms on this side of the pond, with myriad viewpoints from U.S. employees. Bottom line: many Americans live to work, rather than work to live.

Surveys show women take less leisure time than men, experience greater work stress than men and use up more PTO managing sick children, appointments and other family matters, as well as their own self-care. As a rule, corporate America is apathetic to menstrual cycles, pregnancy and infant/parent bonding, though some progressive companies are beginning to offer unlimited PTO (a controversy in and of itself).

Why Does America Buy into the Cult of Overwork?

We went to Twitter and asked the question directly, bombarded with two dozen responses in minutes. Here’s the question and a sampling of comments (11 are from women and three from men) to provide a snapshot of the situation.

Q: Is anyone going on holiday this summer? Researching how Americans (uniquely) often don’t take PTO because they’d rather not get behind at work or think the operation can’t run without them.

  • 1/ Ugh! Such a backwards system. What’s frustrating is when you do finally go on vacation and you meet some vacationing foreigners, this is the conversation: Them: This place is fantastic! We’re staying here until mid-July. How long are you staying? Me: Um… till Monday.
  • 2/ I didn’t use PTO last year because HR declined my vacation request and then tried to take all of the PTO hours away on January 1st. It’s not always that we don’t want to use them.
  • 3/ My audience is mostly men so I advise men. Don’t spend much time thinking about what women should do.
  • 4/ You think this is just a man thing?
  • 5/ Please include in your article that we don’t get much PTO to begin with. My business can certainly run without me, but we’re led to believe that taking more than a few days off is considered not normal.
  • 6/ Yep. 3 weeks in Europe. I’m lucky enough to have a job that allows me to do exchange shifts so I can bank leave. Even then, I will be using a couple days of leave but the rest is exchange.
  • 7/ Or the culture of the organization is that you’re always available.
  • 8/ I get 5 weeks paid annually and use 4. Bank the rest. I always use my 4 and an extra day here and there thru the year. I earned it. I will use it.
  • 9/ Yes, I don’t feel like it [my office] can run without me. My employer makes me feel guilty because then they have to cover my job and it inconveniences them, so it’s hard to ask for more than a few days off.
  • 10/ I almost never took mine, because I worked on commission. Even when I could afford it financially, I still had a quota I had to meet.
  • 11/ It is sad. I know many who cannot afford a vacation.
  • 12/ If I had no plans, then I would rather make money than spend it. I do take time off to do things with family, and sometimes friends.
  • 13/ If only we could cash out half of the hours to actually be able to afford the vacation.
  • 14/ I’ve got 4 weeks racked up but I rarely take more than a day or two at a time. It’s not worth all the stress I have when I come back because I have little to no help.

The Build Back Better (BBB) plan, currently on life support, included a federal proposal to mandate four weeks (reduced from 12 weeks) of paid leave before victory fell short by one vote: Joe Manchin’s.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has recently hinted, according to Politico (May 2022) that he might be willing to revisit sections of BBB, but it’s unclear how serious he is. Manchin, who is from West Virginia where coal mining is king and climate change a forbidden ideology, voted with Republicans, single-handedly killing Democrats’ bid to pass BBB in December. Sources close to Manchin say he could be stringing fellow Democrats along with no intention of ever supporting anything concrete.

Paid employee leave should be a necessity, not a perk, enacted for the entire country. In order to resurrect Build Back Better, Democrats must have all 50 Senate votes. Here’s how to contact Manchin and urge his cooperation.

Email him today! Contact Joe Manchin.