Are Northwesterners spending their vacation days at work?

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The FIANNCIAL — As summer beckons, the latest poll from PEMCO Insurance suggests that Northwest workers may be more focused on their jobs than enjoying leisurely vacations. According to the poll, one in five Northwest residents didn’t take any time off for vacation last year and, in a typical year, one-half say they take less time off than they’ve earned.

New data from the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll finds that while half of the working residents of Washington and Oregon say they do typically take full advantage of all their employer-provided paid time off, an astounding 21 percent say they didn’t take a single day off for leisure last year.

One in four residents polled fall somewhere in the middle, following a national trend that shows many workers leave some but not all of their vacation days unused. According to the PEMCO poll, 25 percent of Northwest residents typically use less than 75 percent of their allotted time off.

But even when residents do get away from their daily grind, the poll reveals there’s a good chance that many vacationers will keep an eye on their work responsibilities. Of them, 25 percent admit they’re not likely or even not at all likely to completely disconnect from checking in via electronics. An additional quarter (24 percent) say they’re only somewhat likely to tune work out.

“We were surprised that despite a prevailing ‘work-life balance’ mantra, many people choose to forego their vacation days to spend more days on the job,” said PEMCO spokesperson Jon Osterberg.​

National studies show this trend isn’t unique to the Northwest. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms that employers across the country increasingly provide paid leave to their employees, but other studies show a significant number of employees leave their benefits only partially used.

For those who do get away, the PEMCO poll revealed who among the Northwest workforce is most likely to take time off. Intriguingly, those living in households with lower incomes in Oregon are more likely to use more vacation days, while the reverse is true for Washington.

In Oregon, 83 percent of workers in households that earn $50,000 or less take at least 75 percent of their time off, while just 74 percent of those in higher-earning households said the same. But in Washington, 59 percent off workers in lower-earning households take more than 75 percent of their days off while 77 percent of those in high-income homes do the same.

When it comes to travel destinations, the poll finds that gone are the days of the “stay-cation” for many Northwesterners. Just one in 10 residents (11 percent) say they used their time off to enjoy the city where they live. In fact, about twice as many people traveled abroad – 20 percent said they left the country last year on vacation.

A majority took time to travel domestically last year, with 53 percent vacationing within their state and even more – 69 percent – vacationing across the United States beyond their home state.

And relationships, over any other appeal, seem to be the greatest motivator for travel. PEMCO’s poll found that vacationers are twice as likely to choose destinations for their proximity to friends and family, rather than for their desirable weather (55 percent vs. 23 percent).

However, Washington residents are more likely to seek the sun during the Northwest’s notoriously gray winter months. About half in Washington (51 percent) said a sunny destination is extremely or very important in the wintertime, while just 38 percent of Oregonians said the same.

Putting seasons aside, the appeal of seeing specific events or attractions beat out weather, too – about one-third (35 percent) are motivated by seeing certain sights when they travel.

International travelers, to no surprise, are drawn to destinations to experience the local culture, but they’re equally motivated by visiting friends and family abroad, as well (49 percent and 50 percent, respectively).

“Many studies show that the benefits of taking paid time off go beyond the joys of sunshine or sight-seeing. Employees return from vacations less-stressed, refreshed, and more productive,” Osterberg said. “We hope workers continue to take advantage of time away, despite the many pressures that keep us focused on our jobs.” 


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