60 Minutes/Vanity Fair: Time Off

Check out what Americans are saying about "time off" in the July edition of the 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll

Welcome to the 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll for July 2015. As many Americans prepare for their summer vacations, what better time is there to explore how we view taking time off? Americans are known for taking less time off from their jobs than most people from other developed nations. In fact, we are the only major country that does not guarantee our citizens paid, vacation time. Where does our well-earned reputation for having a good old-fashioned, Yankee work ethic stop and a worker's right to fair compensation and time off begin? You will be hearing much more about this issue from many candidates as CBS News covers the upcoming 2016 elections.

Research shows that people who take time off are happier, healthier and more productive, and yet many of us do not even take off all of the time we have earned and are entitled to. Whether it is fear of losing their job or falling too far behind when they return to work, the resulting burnout and fatigue often end up costing businesses more in lost productivity in the long run. It has been said that too much of anything is not good for you, perhaps that includes working too much. If you were starting a new job, would you rather have $20,000 in extra salary or four extra weeks of paid vacation? We look forward to your answer to this question and many more. And now the results...



Two out of three Americans would take the money and run and the other third would take the extra paid vacation time and relax. It is understandable that younger workers early in their careers might opt for the extra 20 grand, but even six out of 10 Americans earning more than $100,000 annually said they would take the money. It appears that for a solid majority of Americans, cash is still king.

Sick Days


When it comes to what should happen to their leftover sick days, 63 percent of Americans say, "Show me the money." Twenty-three percent said they would prefer time off in exchange for them and 11 percent said, "What leftover sick days?" The system of "use them or lose them" is being phased out by many companies and is now called PTO (paid time off) which provides today's modern workforce more flex time to take care of their personal matters.

Vacation Time


Only one out of three Americans were aware that the USA is the only major developed country that does not require employers to guarantee their workers paid vacation-time. Twenty-seven percent said they did not know and the other 40 percent guessed between one and three other countries did not require paid vacations either. If two-thirds of our nation is unaware of this, perhaps that number will soon go down as more and more political candidates from both sides of the aisle jump on the employees bandwagon to talk about raising the minimum wage, income inequality and stagnation and workers' rights.



Although most Americans are aware that many French workers get a lot more paid time off in the summer than they do, 63 percent said they still want to be American even in the summer. Twenty-nine percent would prefer to be French (just for the summer) and six percent would stay French full-time. With their joie de vivre, the French found this out a long time ago and take full advantage of summer's delights. Maybe they're on to something. Or put another way, how many people on their deathbed said, " I wish I had taken less vacation time"?

Spare Time


When they have some time to spare, it appears that nearly a third of Americans (32 percent) didn't get the memo that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. The rest chose one of the three pillars of self-improvement, exercise (body) 30 percent, reading (mind) 20 percent and chilling out (soul) 18 percent and doing all three will win you the Triple Crown for spare time well-spent.

Time Off


If they had it to do over again, 26 percent of Americans would leave the kids at home a little more when vacationing. Twenty-three percent would have taken more maternity/paternity leave and 17 percent would have taken more time off between the end of school and the beginning of their career. Sixteen percent said the honeymoon was over (too soon) and eight percent said, "Give me a break," as in more Spring Break.

Never a Day Off


Only 14 percent of Americans correctly guessed that it was First Lady Nancy Reagan who made the observation that presidents don't get vacations. Other first ladies receiving votes were Michelle Obama 14 percent, Laura Bush 13 percent, Hillary Clinton 13 percent, Jackie Kennedy 9 percent and 36 percent said they did not know. When you travel with the nuclear codes and problems and issues that are portable, it's pretty obvious that Mrs. Reagan knew what she was talking about.

Busy Bee


Fifty-two percent of Americans droned on about being like a worker bee, 26 percent let fly and likened themselves to butterflies, 15 percent wanted to swim with the sharks and 4 percent took it slow while comparing themselves to a sloth.

Strike a Balance


About half of Americans (51 percent) think working women with children have a better work/life balance than their male counterparts (37 percent). Maybe the ladies tend to be a little more family-oriented and the men may be more career-oriented. However, the times they are a changing, and fast. Those stereotypes might not be applicable for much longer especially with men seeming to spend more time than ever with their kids.

Checking In


Fifty-five percent of Americans now think that checking work emails when they are not at work is necessary and part of the job and 38 percent think it is unnecessary and beyond the call of duty. Younger workers under 30 who have been emailing most of their lives (68 percent) tend to think that it's part of the job while older workers are more inclined (41 percent) to think that being "off the clock" extends to being "offline" as well.

Civic Duty


The verdict is in and eight out of 10 Americans said they did not consider serving on jury duty to be time off and only 16 percent disagreed. One of our most important rights, a right to be tried by a jury of our peers would not be possible without everyone being willing to do their civic duty and serve as a juror. And anyone who has served on a jury knows that it's far from an easy job.

This poll was conducted by telephone from May 8-12, 2015 among a random sample of 1,001 adults nationwide. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by SSRS of Media, PA. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus 3 percentage points. The error for other subgroups may be higher. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Poll.