How to End Your Employees’ Vacation Guilt

One reason employees don't take time off is that they don’t think their employers encourage it. Clear guidelines, smart planning, and example-setting by the boss can go a long way toward changing that.

Do you have employees who rarely—or never—take a vacation? There’s a chance that’s less about poor planning than it is about messages you’re sending.

Vacation guilt” has become increasingly common, making workers feel like they have to check their email and take calls when they take time off—or that they can’t get away from the office at all. According to the  most recent State of American Vacation report [PDF] from the U.S. Travel Association, the average employee took 17.2 days off in 2017—well below the 20.3-day long-term average, though a slight improvement from the low point of 16 days in 2014. More than half of Americans don’t take all the vacation time they’re entitled to.

When employees don’t take their allotted time off, whose fault is it? While some may argue that employees need to work on their time management, anxiety about how bosses view vacationing workers may play a role.

“Despite the fact that more and more companies are moving to a results-based culture (that doesn’t care so much about the hours employees are spending in the office), many of today’s workers believe that vacations could sabotage their potential for promotions—and maybe even their entire careers,” according to a recent post on the Trello blog. “That likely explains why a whopping 56 percent of Americans still work while they’re on vacation.”

So managers might need to give employees a nudge. In an interview with HR Dive, Accountemps Senior Executive Director Michael Steinitz offered strategies for supporting both vacationing employees and others covering for them at the office.

“Start by putting all policies in writing, and communicate ground rules to employees with plenty of notice to allow staff time to ask questions and prepare,” he said.

Conflicts can be kept at bay by making it clear that vacation requests will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis, Steinitz noted, and by spreading tasks that need to be covered in someone’s absence among several different team members.

And maybe most important: The boss should set the example. “If employees see you taking regular time off and not obsessively checking in, they’ll see it’s safe for them to do the same,” he said.

(BrianAJackson/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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