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School’s out for summer (as my husband, who’s a high-school teacher, has been singing all week), but it’s business as usual for those of us who work in the corporate world. Research shows that American workers are among the worst when it comes to utilizing our paid time off — but the summer is a perfect time to take a break and plan a vacation or a staycation.

According to a CNN article last fall: “A … study has found that U.S. workers forfeited $52.4 billion in time-off benefits in 2013 and took less vacation time than at any point in the past four decades. American workers turned their backs on a total of 169 million days of paid time off, in effect ‘providing free labor for their employers, at an average of $504 per employee,’ according to the study.”

The problem is that all work and no vacay can lead you to serious burnout.

According to an article in Fortune: “Workers, on average, fail to use nearly five vacation days a year, the U.S. Travel Association found. As a result of all these unused days off, one study puts the liability taken on by U.S. businesses at $224 billion, due to workers’ rolling over unused paid time off. And that doesn’t take into account the fact that when people don’t take time off to reset, their resulting stress and burnout can be detrimental to both workers and their employers.”

Interestingly, if you worked in Japan, taking time off may not be so much an option as an obligation. According to an article in Time: Japan has plans to legally require its workforce to take a break. … it’s meant as a workaholic intervention.”

Crazy as it sounds, it just may work. Research has shown time and again that U.S. workers are among the most over-worked population in the entire world.

I have friends who live in places like London and Auckland who enjoy what seems like countless paid vacation days designed for them to be able to travel and enjoy leisure activities they may not otherwise have time for.

It’s been a while since I’ve personally taken time off, but I’ve got a week-long vacation to look forward to in July during which I’ll be attending my best friend’s wedding. Thankfully I love my job so much that, unlike a lot of people I know, I don’t think of a break as an escape from the monotony of work — I just see it as a time to refresh and recharge.

And you should, too. You work hard and you’ve earned it!

Tweet back at @CareerBuilder: Are you planning to take some well-deserved time off this summer? What will you be doing?

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