How much is too much time to take off work during the holidays? That can be hard to glean by asking co-workers one by one. Luckily, there’s US government data that can offer insight into how people like you take time off work.
Every year, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics asks over 26,000 Americans how they spent the previous day, with the interviews evenly spread throughout the year. According to a Quartz analysis of this data, December is the month 1 in which the average person over the age of 15 works least, at about 7% less than average. For full-time workers that’s the equivalent of about eight hours less of work.
While nearly everyone works less in December, how much less is varies by their circumstances. Among full-time workers, those with college degrees work 2.5 hours less in December, while those without college degrees work about one hour less. This is likely because more educated, higher income workers typically have more vacation time. In 2017, nearly 30% of the US’s highest 25% of earners got 10 days or more of paid leave, while that was true of only 5% of those in the bottom quarter.
Another major factor is age. Workers in their 30s don’t tend to work much less in December than they do in the rest of the year, while people in their 40s and 50s work significantly less. This might be because workers in their 30s don’t yet have the seniority to take time off during the holidays, or maybe they don’t feel as compelled to reserve this time for family. The reasons for performing certain activities aren’t reflected in the data.
Perhaps surprisingly, unmarried workers take off more time from work than married ones, though they tend to work similar amounts the rest of the year. This might be because unmarried people are expected to travel home, while established families find it easier to stay put.