The cost of unused vacation days

South Dakota Summer is vacation season, but a new report shows many South Dakotans are leaving a lot of unused vacation time on the table.

A study by Project Time Off, an initiative of the U.S. Travel Association, revealed that on average, 54 percent of Americans did not use all of their vacation time in 2016.But those statistics are much worse in South Dakota.

According to this new report, 73 percent of South Dakota workers had unused vacation days last year, the fourth highest percentage in the country.

With more than 1.8 million unused day, project time off says South Dakotans are losing more than $400 million in direct spending potential.

“We try to use all of our vacation,” South Dakota Native George Arnold said while back home on his summer vacation. “We feel like if you're not using your vacation time, you're leaving money on the table.”

While every workplace is different, human resource professionals say many companies have moved to Paid Time Off or PTO accruals.

“If you're not taking your time and you’re capped out at 320, you're basically losing your PTO you're not accruing anymore,” Avera McKennan Human Resource Officer Lynne Hagen said.

The report reveals many South Dakotans fear taking time off because of what they might face when they come back.

“There are a number of reasons people might not use their time off,” Jen Adix, the President of the Sioux Empire Society for Human Resource Management said. “Sometimes they feel like if I take the day off today I’m just going to come in tomorrow and have that much more work to do; or some people feel like there’s no one who can do their job if they’re gone.”

“I do come back relaxed and I find that I have a little more ambition, but yes I do also come back to a huge inbox,” Arnold said.

While many South Dakotans are choosing not to use their vacation days, some employers say they would rather see employees take a break from work, get relaxed and come back even more refreshed.

“Studies have shown that employees who take the time that they're given have stronger professional lives, their personal relationships are healthier and physically they're stronger,” Adix said.

“We strongly encourage employees to take time away to just do that mental, kind of, reset or regroup, think about things that aren't maybe as stressful or as taxing as what you have to deal with in the work place,” Hagen said.

HR professionals do say the amount of PTO people have saved likely depends on their age.

In general, millennials place a high value on vacation time and tend to use it throughout the year, while baby boomers are more likely to keep a safety net of time-off stored up.