Many U.S. employees struggled to maintain healthy work-life boundaries during the COVID-19 outbreak. But as the country nears the tail end of the pandemic, they're seeing greater value in stepping away from work and making use of their paid vacation days.
In the new Work-Life Balance Report, travel deal provider Priceline revealed most Americans (92%) have either already traveled this year or have plans to do so, with many of them taking trips in the summer (52%) or fall (26%).
Remote work led to more 'workcations' during the pandemic
A mere 21% of American workers used all of their PTO last year, compared to 30% in 2019. They held onto their vacation days for a variety of reasons, including:
- 30% hoping they'd be able to travel later
- 29% saving their PTO in case they or a loved one got sick
- 28% planning to carry over their unused days
- 19% believing their company was too busy for them to take time off
But a break from the daily grind offers a wealth of health benefits — ones that overworked employees miss out on. In fact, Priceline found that taking time off work makes respondents feel relaxed (56%), happy (53%) and excited (40%).
In contrast, more than 4 in 10 of those with leftover PTO (42%) said they felt frustrated and exhausted — this could explain why over half of employees in a recent survey said they feel burned out on a weekly basis.
The Priceline survey showed that 54% of those who didn't take advantage of their vacation days regretted it — a considerable increase from the 21% who said the same in 2019. In addition to feeling like they "wasted" the flexibility that came with remote work (35%), workers regretted not taking more trips (40%) and not working from new or different places (32%).
The Work-Life Balance Report also paints a very different picture for those that did take advantage of their PTO over the last year. Three-fourths of remote workers felt that work-life balance was more achievable once they began telecommuting. Many remote workers also took the opportunity to:
- Work from different locations (72%)
- Explore new destinations (66%)
- Take more workcations (60%)
- Extend a trip because of their ability to work from anywhere (34%)
Workers plan on taking advantage of their PTO in 2021
This year, respondents are making up for lost vacation time: Remote workers plan on traveling more in 2021 (66%) and, in the process, using more PTO this year than in any previous one (65%). About 8 in 10 respondents (82%) predict they'll use up their remaining PTO by year's end, with 16% of them saying they'll use all of their days for one vacation.
While 32% will use this precious time to visit family and friends, others have more ambitious plans — these include:
- Taking a trip to a place they've never been before (62%)
- Taking a vacation based on a personal passion (61%)
- Visiting destinations on their bucket lists (53%)
- Going on a road trip (35%)
Still, though many Americans started vacation planning months ago, those just beginning to map out their itineraries may be shocked by the steep prices caused by the recent travel surge. Understandably, travel deals remain important for 74% of respondents, while 71% say that travel packages make workcations easier.
Methodology: Between April 29 and May 3, 2021, Priceline conducted an online survey of 1,000 full- or part-time employees ages 18 and older. Results are nationally representative by age, gender, income, race, ethnicity and U.S region.