Why Employees Feel a Need to Work on Vacation or Paid Time Off
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​Employers Put Undue Pressure to Work on Vacation - How You Can Squash Common Conceptions

By Irelis Arias on 6/4/2014
vacation time for employees 

Vacations are essential to our mental wellbeing. Time away from work – whether close to home or half-way around the world – can provide a much-needed break from routines, as well as a fresh perspective. We’re free to reconnect with friends and family and disconnect from our usual workdays. But in most cases, employees aren’t really disconnecting while on vacation. Thanks to technology, the office is always just a few clicks away, tempting employees to keep working during their time off.

Working while on vacation is a uniquely American problem. Of the 21 richest countries in the world, the United States is the only nation that doesn’t have any mandatory annual leave or national holidays. Many employers offer time off (paid or unpaid), but that’s a perk, not a right – and employees see it that way, too. Even if your company allows it, employees may feel guilty for using time off, especially if they’ve held previous jobs which didn’t grant paid leave.

Here are some common reasons why employees struggle with taking vacations and how you can avoid putting undue pressure on them to work:

"No one else can do my job."

What you can do: Have direct supervisors meet with employees before going on vacation to discuss what absolutely needs to be done while the employee is out of the office. If possible, assign these tasks to other team members for the duration of the employee’s vacation. While there might not be someone else who can handle everything on the employee’s list, chances are that a team member or two could take on extra work while the employee is away.

“I don’t want to look useless.”

What you can do: Make it a point to give employees regular feedback so they know they’re essential to your business. Fear of being seen as unnecessary is part of the larger issue of employee recognition and feedback. If employees know they’re valued, they won’t worry that their worth will diminish when they’re out of the office.

“I’ll get too far behind.”

What you can do: Ask your employees to schedule vacations as far in advance as possible. Try to work deadlines around their time off to avoid a slew of projects popping up immediately before employees leave or after they return. Regular duties, e-mails and messages can all pile up when employees are on vacation. With a coworker or two helping to take on some of their workload, the pile should be considerably smaller.

"I’ll risk a promotion or raise."

What you can do: Schedule regular weekly or monthly meetings so employees can talk about their work. Many employees are reluctant to leave the office for fear of losing out on advancements. Face time is crucial when it comes to promotions and raises, so regular meetings are key. As long as employees know their bosses are informed about their work activity, they’ll feel less concerned about stepping away for a vacation.

"I can’t disconnect."

What you can do: Unless it’s an emergency or no other employee can address the situation, try to refrain from contacting employees during their time off work. Of all the listed employee concerns, this is the one employers have the most control over. With the ubiquity of smartphones, tablets and laptops, it’s easy to reach out and contact an employee any time a question or concern arises – but don’t. One “quick question” may spiral into an hour-long phone conversation, which mentally places an employee back at their desk and pulls them away from their friends and family.

The key to avoiding employee concerns is to make vacation time a priority at your organization. Set up systems and policies to make it easier for employees to step away from work, and strive to create a company culture that supports a healthy work-life balance.

Tags
Attendance Tracking, Policies, Attendance, Employee Vacation Policy, Paid Time Off