Vacations: Take a Break, Please! 

Vacation shaming takes on new meaning during the pandemic 

by Joe Mizzi

There is a growing trend to remind employees to “use your vacation days,” despite work demands and travel limitations. In a recent survey of more than 1,000 workers conducted by global staffing firm Robert Half, nearly 4 in 10 workers surveyed (38%) said their employer has encouraged them to take time off. 

While 55% report having received no communication about using vacation days, and 7% report being discouraged from taking time off, that “encouraged” 38% is up significantly from the 25% found in our survey three months earlier. Of these respondents, 68% said their company has increased communication about the importance of using vacation days. 

How has “vacation shaming” evolved in our current work environment?

The term “vacation shaming” has taken on a new meaning during the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, vacation shaming meant being guilted by one’s boss or colleagues for taking time off from work. Now, it’s the opposite — workers are feeling pressured by their company or boss to use their vacation days. We’re seeing this trend throughout the county and definitely in Phoenix. 

Why do employers feel vacation time is important enough to warrant this attention?

Now more than ever, employers recognize their staff have been managing work demands alongside family responsibilities for several months now. A big reason employers are encouraging staff to take time off is to avoid burnout. The pandemic combined with family and work responsibilities will take its toll, and people need to take some time to unplug and recharge. While time-off and vacation plans have been disrupted for many people, employers want to make sure their staff are taking care of themselves and disconnecting from work to recharge, even if they have nowhere to go. 

How can managers cultivate a vacation-taking culture? 

We often see that the culture of an organization is set by its leaders’ behaviors. Managers should lead by example and use their vacation days. 

Managers should create a clear vacation policy and encourage staff to take time off from work. They should ask workers to request time off as far in advance as possible and, of course, make sure there is adequate coverage for employees who may be out of the office. It’s best to divide the work of an “out-of-office” staff member among several employees as well as temporary staff to ensure tasks get done and deadlines are met.  

A Nudge to Unplug

Top Ways Companies Are Encouraging Employees to Use Their Vacation Days

Method Percentage
Increasing communication about the importance of taking time off 68%
Instituting an unlimited vacation policy 28%
Limiting the number of vacation days employees can take in a given time period (e.g., the fourth quarter) 28%
Allowing employees to cash out vacation days 4%
Allowing employees to donate their vacation time to colleagues 18%

This Robert Half survey of more than 1,000 workers typically employed in office environment in the U.S. was conducted July 16-22, 2020.

Source: Robert Half

Joe Mizzi is a career expert with the professional staffing firm Robert Half, in its Phoenix office.

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