Americans continue to experience “vacation deprivation,” failing to use earned vacation days because they feel they are too busy to miss work, according to an annual survey commissioned by the online travel agency

About 30 percent of Americans give up vacation time they have earned, handing a total of 415 million unused vacation days back to their employers, according to the fourth annual survey.

The average American misses out on three days of vacation, up from two days in 2003.

Also, “working vacations” are becoming the norm, the survey suggest, with a third of American workers checking office voice mail or e-mail while they are away.

Midwesterners are least likely to miss vacation days, according to the survey conducted by Harris Interactive, while 43 percent in the “workaholic West” said they would take less vacation because they have too much work.

Recent studies have shown that Americans are working longer and harder and that workplace stress is on the rise. Job stress has been shown to increase accidents, absenteeism, employee turnover and illness.

An organization launched last year called “Take Back Your Time” is holding its first national conference next week in Chicago. The group, which sponsored the first “Take Back Your Time Day” last October, attacks what it calls “time poverty” resulting from over-scheduling and overwork.

Presentations scheduled at the June 10-13 meeting at Loyola University include how to reclaim leisure time, how to change workplace culture, assessing the impact of new technologies and restoring the Sabbath.

The group also has a four-point legislative agenda to: make Election Day a holiday, enact a paid family and medical leave act, established minimum paid leave of three weeks and limiting mandatory overtime, according to its Web site.

Bob Allen is managing editor of

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