Feeling buried by work, like you can't find time for a few days off, like your entire work-life balance is out of whack?
If you're an American worker, it just might be.
A new study has found that U.S. workers forfeited $52.4 billion in time-off benefits in 2013 and took less vacation time than at any point in the past four decades.
American workers turned their backs on a total of 169 million days of paid time off, in effect "providing free labor for their employers, at an average of $504 per employee," according to the study.
Titled "All Work and No Pay: The Impact of Forfeited Time Off," the study was conducted by Oxford Economics for the U.S. Travel Association's Travel Effect Initiative, which studies the impact of forgone vacation time.
"Americans are work martyrs," says the U.S. Travel Association. "Tied to the office, they leave more and more paid tme off unused each year, forfeiting their earned benefits and, in essence, work for free."
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.
"The economic potential of returning to the pre-2000 vacation patterns is massive: annual vacation days taken by U.S. employees would jump 27% (or 768 million days), delivering a $284 billion impact across the entire U.S. economy," according to the travel association.
Based in Washington, the association is a national nonprofit organization representing all components of the travel industry.
Does this describe you?
Productivity and stress management trainer and coach Joe Robinson says the issue is driven by a number of factors.
"One, workers are afraid to take their vacations in the layoff era," Robinson said. "It might mark them as less 'committed' than coworkers.
"It's called defensive overworking. They work long hours and skip vacations to insulate themselves from cutbacks."
According to Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, 28% of workers surveyed said they've declined to take earned days off in order to illustrate their dedication to the job.
"They say, 'I don't want to be seen as a slacker,' " Dow said. " 'I want to be seen as someone who is really dedicated.'
"But it does them no good whatsoever. People who take more time off tend to get more raises and promotions."
"It's futile," Robinson agreed. "People who don't take their vacations get laid off just like everyone else."
Work force cutbacks and "device addiction" are other factors.
"Lean staffing, with more and more people doing the jobs of several people, makes it hard to escape," Robinson said. "They're not taking vacations because they have too much work."
"About 40% (of workers surveyed) say they're afraid of all the work they're going to get to when they get back from vacation," Dow said. "Work pileup scares the hell out of them."