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Canceled travel, working from home make it easy to forget to take a break

At this point in any other year, Chelsea Johnson and her family would likely have been to a few states, perhaps even another country, for vacation.

“My family has always made travel a priority,” said Johnson, director of community relations and BlueCross Foundation, BlueCross BlueShield, Tennessee. “We don’t have big birthdays or holidays. We share the memories we make on the street.”

When the pandemic broke out, the Johnsons paused their vacation plans, unsure when to travel again. Months of home work and school passed, and suddenly it was summer.

“It was the middle of the year before we took time off and I realized – I think everyone had the reality that we now have half a year to take a year off,” said Johnson.

As the spread of COVID-19 sank travel plans and turned homes into makeshift schools and workplaces across the country, wasted vacation time has accumulated for many people.

In August, a Qualtrics survey of more than 1,100 US workers found that 72% would not be on summer vacation this year. The same survey found that 44% had no free time at all, according to the ValuePenguin personal finance website, which the survey was conducted on.

At US Xpress, employees used about half of their paid time off from March to September 2020 than in the previous year, said Ralph Romero, vice president of talent management.

“Especially during the uncertainty of this pandemic, we encourage employees to take time for themselves, their families and their general mental health,” he said.

Most employees are entitled to paid time off [PTO] you lose any time you didn’t take in the calendar year, Romero said.

“In the last few months we have reminded employees of our vacation policy and the value of leisure time through internal communication, various training courses and town halls with our management,” he said.

Lindsay Killian, director of corporate communications at US Xpress, said she canceled a long-planned Disney trip in September that her 4-year-old daughter was counting down to.

“She’s been talking about going to Mickey’s house since she could speak,” Killian said. “I know this isn’t a problem right now in a world full of problems, but when it’s a four year old it’s hard to explain.”

Her family opted for a beach getaway in September instead, and they’ll try to use more vacation time in November and December, Killian said.

“I’m going to take time out on vacation – more than I should have,” she said.

Dalya Qualls, director of corporate communications at BlueCross, said data earlier this year showed employees didn’t have as much free time this year as they did last year.

“We noticed early on that PTO use was lagging behind, and we started actively encouraging our employees to use theirs [time] to relieve their stress and recharge their batteries, “she said.” It’s been a stressful year. “

Time off at BlueCross varies, and employees can add a maximum of 160 hours or 20 days of paid time each year, Qualls said.

For the Johnsons, realizing that they had to unplug and charge it led them to explore their hometown. Her 11-year-old son has visited 42 states, but saw some new local locations this summer, Johnson said.

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In August, a Qualtrics survey of more than 1,100 US workers found that 72% would not be on summer vacation this year. The same survey found that 44% had no free time at all, according to the ValuePenguin personal finance website, which the survey was conducted on.

“If we couldn’t travel, we would have decided to make the most of it, stay here and use our vacation time to reconnect with our community and families,” she said. “We had time to hike together and see parts of our Tennessee Valley that my 11-year-old hasn’t been exposed to.”

[Read more: Road trips drive hopes for brisk tourism this holiday weekend.]

Patti Harris, HR manager at Pinnacle Bank, said the flood of applications for loans for the paycheck protection program and other state aid in the spring and summer meant people were working non-stop.

“We’ve encouraged our leaders to go out and try to make sure our teams are trying to get away with it if they can,” she said. “We know we are all more productive when we have the time.”

The bank has also changed its normal rules for exempting individuals constantly working on Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans and other pandemic-related needs, Harris said.

“This is a rare opportunity,” she said. “We allowed selected people to broadcast. That was helpful.”

Pinnacle typically offers three to five weeks of paid time off per year, and employees can give away unused PTOs to their colleagues for a period that employees can take advantage of if they have unexpected free time and it’s no longer in the books. Pinnacle also has a slightly unconventional approach to its vacation calendar, Harris added.

“Our PTO year ends on September 30th,” she said. “Not to say that we don’t have a lot of PTO during the holidays, but it’s less of a problem if our PTO year doesn’t end at the same time.”

Contact Mary Fortune at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @maryfortune.

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