Did technology ruin your summer vacation? Why gadgets are killing the measly breaks Americans get

by Bob Sullivan on October 10, 2013

Center for Economic Policy Research

Center for Economic Policy Research

Now that fall has fully arrived, can I play a game with you? What did you do on your summer vacation? I don’t want to know where you went, though you can tell me that. I want to know if you managed to unplug or not.  Researching this topic today for a secret project, I came across some really, really depressing data. I’ll list some of it in a second, but the upshot is this: You probably know Americans get less vacation time than workers in any country in the developed world.   And you probably know that we don’t even use all the vacation time we get. Now comes word that, even when on vacation, we don’t stop working. Back in 2008, one survey showed that 25 percent of workers checked in with the office from the beach or the road trip.  This summer, 61 percent of workers said they did.

So, did you manage to unplug? If you did, how did you do it? If you didn’t, what went wrong?  If a family member or friend annoyed you by working during your vacation, what was the worst thing that happened?

Here’s a taste of the depressing numbers I’ve found.

More than 80 percent of employees check in with the office while on vacation, while 40 percent check in more than once a day, according to a survey by PGi, a company that facilitates virtual meetings.

Some 61 percent of Americans plan to work during vacation in 2013, according to a survey by Harris Interactive. That’s up from the 52 percent found in a similar survey in 2012 and 46 the year before that.

And just to get this out of the way, yes, Europeans get a lot more vacation days than Americans. From a recent report by the Center for Economic Policy Research:

“The European Union’s Working Time Directive (1993) sets a vacation floor for all EU member countries of four weeks or 20 days per year. Several EU member countries require substantially more than the lower limit established by the EU. France mandates 30 days of paid annual leave; United Kingdom, 28; and Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, 25…The United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation….In the absence of government standards, almost one in four Americans has no paid vacation (23 percent) and no paid holidays (23 percent).



  1. Penny Williams says:

    So sad! I wonder why we check-in. To make it easier when we get back? I know that’s why I do. Seems like something there is broken as well.

    1. Martha says:

      I agree, it is really sad these days when you go somewhere for fun like a water park with the kids/grandkids or event to the Movies there are people (parents mostly) who are ON THEIR PHONE/IPAD, etc! It’s sick! When do kids get their parents attention anymore? When the TV isn’t on? The computer in every room isn’t on? When the cell phones aren’t on? I wonder, even in church I see people texting and not paying attention at all! I’m glad I am 56 and can remember when there was NO technology! We had a tv, black and white with Rabbit ears and 3 channels! Not that that’s how I’d like things today, I enjoy my phone, computer, etc. But when my grandkids come over ALL goes off!

      1. Tim says:

        Everyone keeps bashing Technology for the problems of the world. There were bad parents before there were iPads I promise. If you go to the article previous to this one, (Just how many people have dropped their phone in the toilet?) there’s a commentary on how these “survey’s/polls” are usually biased. People WANT to blame technology, it’s easier that way. Human beings are horrible nasty creatures, get use to it. Martha, you don’t have to cut anything off to spend time with your grand-kids! There are lots of ways that technology can be used to bring you together as well. If you can sit down and play a board game, you can share a game on a computer or game console. In fact there is alot of fun activities on many different electronic platforms (i.e. Computer, Game Console, Smart Device.) that is also educational. I think the problem may be that people don’t know how to use all of this new technology. First let me say, your phone should definitely be off in church. If it’s so important you can’t wait an hour, excuse yourself!That being said, people are intimidated by technology. They blame it for everything because they don’t know how to use it. They’re may be a bit of jealousy here as well! Technology has out grown you and you feel left behind so you get mad at those that weren’t. I just don’t understand why people blame technology and everyone’s argument seems to be “Give everyone nothing to do so they’ll only be left with what we want them to do!” Come on people grow up. Technology is constantly growing, you should be to.

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