- Forty-two percent of U.S. workers have not taken time off in the past 12 months, an August survey of 1,000 employees from Eagle Hill Consulting found. Younger workers and lower-income workers were least likely to take vacation, at 50% and 56% respectively.
- Workers listed a variety of reasons for not taking vacation, including the expense (47%), self-imposed pressure to stay on top of work (31%), a heavy workload (27%), no paid time off (25%) and no colleagues available to cover their workload (25%). In addition, 28% of those who did take vacation said they continued to check work email and messages and 6% said they continued to work.
- Melissa Jezior, president and CEO of Eagle Hill Consulting, said the results pointed to a worrying trend. “Employees really need time to disconnect from work, especially as we continue to see high burnout levels across the U.S. workforce,” she said. “It’s incumbent upon employers to create a culture that encourages employees to both regularly take time off and fully unplug from their job while they’re away.”
Burnout was a major source of workplace discussion roughly a year ago, as the pandemic had been in full swing for over a year and workers juggled child care with work and had difficulty switching off. But as the conversation shifted more toward inflation and bracing for a potential economic downturn around the beginning of the year, attention has veered from the topic.
The results of Eagle Hill’s survey bring into question whether burnout was ever effectively dealt with on a wide scale, as 3 of the 5 reasons workers cited for not taking vacation — pressure to stay on top of work, heavy workload and no colleagues available to help — suggest very little breathing room for employees and high pressure for output.
Vacation is not a cure-all for burnout; respondents to a Visier survey last year said it provided only a temporary relief, and a significant number said preparation for vacation and catching up upon their return took a toll on the benefits.
Beyond providing paid time off as a table-stakes benefit — one that still isn’t a reality for many U.S. workers — employers have explored creative ways to ensure employees take advantage of the benefit and make the experience more effective. Carta’s then-Chief People Officer Suzy Walther wrote for HR Dive last year about the company’s concept of minimum time off, for example, through which workers are required to take a minimum of 15 days off each year. Other companies, such as HubSpot, have introduced companywide rest weeks.
But making vacation effective also requires a mindset change, HubSpot’s senior director of culture recently told HR Dive. The company is taking a multi-pronged approach to fighting burnout, and crucially, is identifying not only what its priorities are, but also what they are not.
Indeed, letting go of some projects may be key to helping employees develop better balance and engagement at work; last fall, 82% of respondents to an Eagle Hill survey said that “a reduced workload” would effectively combat their burnout.