European workers not only earn more vacation days than U.S. workers, they actuallytake them all. And that makes them happy, because they feel wellrested, returning to work in a better frame of mind than when theyleft.

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This is one slice of the research pie served up by Expedia inits 2014 Vacation Deprivation study. Nearly 8,000 employeesworldwide were asked about vacation habits and policies, and whatthey would give up for a week to get one additional vacationday.

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“Somewhere between 80 and 90 percent of people worldwide saythat vacations make them feel happier, better rested, closer totheir family, less stressed and more relaxed,” said John Morrey,vice president and general manager of expedia.com. “These are allemotions that correlate to a productive employee. So it's almostparadoxical: spend more time away from work, and you might just bea better performing employee.”

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Yet many of those surveyed said they didn’t take all the daysthey had, and others said their bosses frowned upon those who madefull use of earned time off. Even in Europe, where the averageworker gets 28 vacation days a year, some workers said they tooktheir days despite the fact that it displeased their boss.

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First, let’s look at how many days are earned in various regionsof the globe. The median number of days is 28; workers in Denmark,France, Germany, and Spain get 30 days. UK employees earn 26,Italians 28, Austrians, Norwegians, Dutch and the Swedish have 25,the Irish 21.

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These are all more than U.S. workers, who only get 15, the samenumber workers in Mexico have at their disposal.

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Although U.S. workers get far fewer days, they, like mostEuropeans, use most of them (14 of 15 in the latest survey).Italians are the European exception: they only took 21 of 28 days.Asian workers used 14 of 19, Mexican workers 12 of 15.

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Oddly enough, feeling “vacation deprived” didn’t seem to havemuch to do with how many days one received or took off. Forinstance, those in the United Arab Emirates reported feeling themost vacation deprived, despite receiving and using 30 days a year.A little over half of U.S. workers said they felt vacationdeprived, and 38 percent of Mexican workers labeled themselves asvacation deprived.

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“Among those feeling vacation deprived, 69 percent of theSwedish and 75 percent of U.K. workers report feeling deprivedbecause ‘I do not get enough vacation days,’ despite receiving 25and 26 vacation days, respectively,” the survey found.

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The top four reasons globally that people cited for not takingall their accrued time off:

  1. “Work schedule does not allow for it” (19 percent);
  2. “Bank them/carry over to next year” (18 percent);
  3. “Lack of money” (18 percent);
  4. “Difficulty coordinating time” (16 percent).

However, some of the reluctance to use time off may stem fromdisapproving bosses. Overall, 55 percent of all bosses said theyapprove of people taking all their time off. The most disapprovingbosses were French and South Korean, while U.S. bosses were seen assupportive of time off by 72 percent of workers. The highest “bossapproval” rate came from Norwegian respondents; 82 percent saidtheir bosses were just fine with taking time off.

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Now, for the fun one: What would you give up for a week to getone more day off? The winners were:

  • Junk food — 54 percent
  • Alcohol — 48 percent
  • Social media — 42 percent
  • Television — 37 percent
  • Coffee — 35 percent
  • Sex — 24 percent
  • Smartphone — 21 percent
  • The Internet — 20 percent
  • Taking a shower — 9 percent

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Dan Cook

Dan Cook is a journalist and communications consultant based in Portland, OR. During his journalism career he has been a reporter and editor for a variety of media companies, including American Lawyer Media, BusinessWeek, Newhouse Newspapers, Knight-Ridder, Time Inc., and Reuters. He specializes in health care and insurance related coverage for BenefitsPRO.