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Employees More Comfortable Taking Time Off If They Can Access Work

The ubiquity of technology has drastically changed the way Americans work and approach downtime. According to a new report from Project: Time Off, The Tethered Vacation, most employees (46%) report that they check in with work occasionally during vacation while smaller percentages are logging on frequently (27%) or taking the step to entirely unplug (27%). 

Employees want the peace of mind that connectivity provides, with an overwhelming majority (78%) saying they want the ability to access work if they choose to. 

“Many of us can work from anywhere, the key difference is whether we are making that choice or having it made for us,” said Project: Time Off Chief of Research and Strategy Katie Denis. “In our always-on work world, it can be difficult to totally turn off, but many workers believe they are expected to be responsive no matter where they are.”

The findings, based on a GfK survey of 2,598 U.S. employees who can access work remotely, show that employees who are more plugged into the office leave more vacation time on the table and are more susceptible to the barriers of taking time off. Sixty-two percent of employees who check in frequently while on vacation leave time off unused, compared to those who check in occasionally (57%) and those who unplug (52%).

A company's culture around vacation and technology is the context for their employees’ engagement and commitment to the organization. Employees in cultures that support unplugging are more likely to feel valued (69% to 50%), cared about (64% to 43%), and that their job is important (73% to 57%). Two-in-five (40%) employees in cultures that do not support unplugging are looking or planning to look for a new job in the next year; just one-in-five (21%) in supportive cultures say the same. 

Not only is vacation important for talent retention—it is also key for attraction. Employees rank vacation (19%) as one of their top workplace benefits—second only to health care (36%). Vacation also beats out retirement plans (17%), flexibility (15%), and even bonuses (5%).

“Time off is one of the most valued benefits employees receive and has a significant impact on their engagement and commitment to the company,” said Denis. “While it is not a silver bullet, creating a positive vacation culture is a great place to jumpstart change with a benefit that really matters to people.” 

Additional Findings

  • Workplace connectivity transcends generation. Millennials—while technologically savvy—are not that different from the generations that precede them. Generation X is the most likely to say they feel more comfortable taking time off knowing they can connect to work (82%). Millennials are closer to Boomers (77% to 75%, respectively) when asked the same question.
  • Employees who are pressured by the boss to stay plugged in feel less valued (45% to 53%), less cared about (39% to 47%), and that their job is less important (59% to 62%). But employees who put pressure on themselves are no less likely to be engaged than those who do not.
  • Even if managers are not explicitly saying they expect employees to be available at all times, their behavior sends a strong message. Just 14% of managers unplug themselves and with senior leadership, it is even worse at just seven percent. The majority are checking in at least once a day (63% of managers; 73% of senior leaders). 



GfK conducted an online survey from January 26-February 20, 2017 with 7,331 American workers, age 18+, who work more than 35 hours a week and receive paid time off from their employer. These data were weighted and scaled. The survey included 2,598 employees who can access work remotely. This report looks exclusively at those employees. 

About Project: Time Off

Project: Time Off is an initiative to win back America’s Lost Week of vacation. We aim to shift culture so that taking time off is understood as essential to personal well-being, professional success, business performance, and economic expansion. The initiative is supported by the Project: Time Off Coalition a broad-based group of organizations focused on changing America’s thinking and behavior about vacation time. Learn more at ProjectTimeOff.com.


U.S. Travel Association is the national, non-profit organization representing the $1.3 trillion travel industry, an essential contributor to our nation's economy and success. U.S. Travel produces programs and insights and advocates for policies to increase travel to and within the United States. Visit ustravel.org for more information.



Brittany Kemp

Communications Coordinator, Project: Time Off

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