Americans are proud to be hard workers, but we might be working a little too hard. The United States is the only advanced economy in the world that doesn’t guarantee workers paid time off. And within companies that do offer these paid time off benefits, most still only offer the standard two weeks off per year, leaving American workers to figure out how to not only fit in vacation time, sick days and emergencies—but also how to accommodate for parenthood, doctor visits and other appointments.

Compare this to other countries such as France (30 paid vacation days per year) or Australia (20 days), and it’s easy to see why Americans are overworked. And over half of American employees don’t even use their full vacation allowance.

Overwork is Bad for Both Workers and Employers

The tendency of Americans to overwork is bad news for both employees and those who sign their paychecks. Work-related stress has been linked to a slew of serious health risks and working long hours in particular has been found to lead to an estimated 33% increase in risk for stroke.

Despite common belief, overwork can actually impede productivity, as it can lead to decreased work performance, more mistakes and absenteeism.

Adequate PTO can Help

If companies want to have happy and productive employees, they should go beyond offering PTO—they could encourage employees to use it. It’s a great idea to set an example for everyone in the company—Netflix CEO Reed Hastings have been vocal about taking 6 weeks of vacation every year and encourages employees to do the same.

Netflix, like other top companies including General Electric, Hubspot, Dropbox and Indeed, offers open PTO—PTO without a cap.

It makes perfect sense than employers would be wary of this non-traditional policy—the top fear being that it would lead to abuse. However, under these open PTO policies, employees actually take less time off than under more traditional vacation policies. So a potential problem with open PTO may not be its abuse, but rather employees being even more overworked than before!

A good balance of time off may be the answer. Employees who use vacation time are happier, less stressed out and more effective workers. And companies who neglect to give their employees time off—or make them feel guilty for taking time off—often experience high absenteeism, burnout and difficulty with retention and recruiting.

If you’re looking for a little help at your company, the experts at TalentBridge offer a range of HR advisory solutions, so reach out today!