© Tetra Images / Alamy
| Credit: © Tetra Images / Alamy

Are you tired? Stressed from work? Want to take a vacation but feel like no one else can do your job or that you’ll return to an avalanche of unanswered e-mails and Excel spreadsheets? You are not alone; using paid time off is a pipe dream for many working Americans.

According to a survey conducted GfK Public Affairs & Corporate Communications for the U.S. Travel Association, one in four American workers are reporting that they are “very” or “extremely” stressed. But almost four out of ten American employees do not plan to use all of their paid time off (PTO) in 2014, despite having paid vacation days as part of their employment compensation.

The survey breaks down the various challenges in taking PTO:

- 40% of workers say “I would come back to a mountain of work” so it is difficult to leave the office.

- 35% of employees operate under the “Work Martyr Complex”-- they won’t use their time off because they believe “nobody else can do the work while I’m away.”

- 22% said they didn’t want their employers to see them as “replaceable,” and 28% of those surveyed do not use all their time off because they want to demonstrate total dedication to the company and their job.

For employees who do use their PTO:

- 74% of employees report being completely disconnected from the office on their last PTO experience.

- However, nearly 46% of business leaders continue to respond to emails, while approximately 29% return calls from work during their PTO—sending a message to employees that “it’s never OK to be away from the job.”

In addition, the study also finds that there is poor communication between business leaders and their employees about PTO.

- 33% of senior business leaders state they never or rarely–usually just once a year–talk with employees about the benefits of taking vacation.

However, the benefits of PTO are universally recognized in the survey.

- 96 percent of workers recognized the importance of using PTO, including 95 percent of senior business leaders.

- Nearly 65% of employees say their concentration and productivity improved with PTO, and 61% report greater satisfaction in the workplace.

- Senior business leaders agree that time off from work benefits the company: 91% believe employees return from PTO recharged and ready to work more effectively.

Have you taken your PTO vacation or staycation yet?

Pearly Huang is the assistant research editor at Travel + Leisure.