Is America's Workaholic Culture Padding Corporate Profits?

Workers are leaving lots of vacation unused, and their employers are reaping the benefits.

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As if we needed any more evidence that Americans are workaholics, new research shows that nearly half of all workers don't take all their vacation days. And, to add insult to injury, that hesitation to take a day off here and there could be padding corporate big wigs' profits.

Those surveyed in a study commissioned by the Radisson hotel chain cited heavy workloads and a reluctance to play catch up for leaving vacation days unused. But an employee's loss turns out to be an employer's gain, according to some experts, at least when it comes to the company's bottom line.

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The average profit-per-employee a company makes jumped 15.5 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to data from financial information firm Sageworks, which tracks private corporations. While part of the increase is due to growing sales—companies' sales volumes grew more than 8 percent last year—some speculate the jump could be due to vacation-day stockpiles.

Why? Unused vacation days translate into more time at the office and higher productivity, says Mike Lubansky, analyst at Sageworks, which helps companies do more with less, potentially boosting their bottom lines. Indeed, net profit margins have grown to about 6 percent, according to Sageworks data, exceeding pre-recession levels.

"Productivity has certainly increased as employers have been more tentative in 2010 and 2011 in terms of bringing on additional people," Lubansky says. "They were just getting more out of the employees they had, and that's why that profit-per-employee number has gone up."

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From a company's standpoint, lessons learned in the wake of the nation's recent recession are still fresh.

"They're definitely wanting to continue to run leaner and more efficient, getting as much profit out of the people they have, without bringing on additional people," Lubansky says.

Through an employee's eyes, the still-shaky nature of the labor market has made everyone cling to the jobs they have.

"We've been in a more tenuous employment environment and [workers] are going to do everything they can to hang on and maximize their jobs," he adds. "If there are layoffs, they don't want to be the one involved, so they're going to work extra hours or take fewer vacation days."

Twitter: @mmhandley