05/10/2018 Molly Moseley

The chronic problem of the working vacation

With summer just around the corner, many workers are dreaming of fun and relaxing vacations. For some, unfortunately, these will forever remain a dream.

A true vacation means taking time off, disconnecting from work and genuinely enjoying what you’re planning to do. That could be time alone to explore a hobby, time with a partner in the great outdoors, or quality time spent with the kids.

What it does not mean is sneaking peeks at work emails, checking voicemails and fielding sporadic calls from colleagues. However, this is the reality for most people.

A whopping 66 percent of Americans have worked while on vacation, according to a Glassdoor survey. Of those people, 30 percent said the reason was no one else at their company could do the work while they were out.

At face value being indispensable appears to be the ultimate goal for an employee. But indispensable employees, for whom no one can share responsibilities, is bad for the worker and bad for the company.

The stress of being the only one who can do something takes a toll daily. When that employee tries to take a vacation, they can’t disconnect, which is a detriment to their mental health and the highly coveted work-life balance.

For the company, placing all bets on one person is a big risk. Even if that person is unwavering, you never know when they’ll have an emergency or get sick. What’s worse, without being able to take advantage of earned benefits like PTO, they’ll likely burn out and look for a new job, leaving the organization out of luck.

Vacations are a good thing and employees need to take them! First, many companies need to make efforts to change their vacation culture so employees feel comfortable in fully using their PTO and disconnecting while off. Here’s how:

Managerial communication: Addressing PTO problems must come from the top. Send out communication that clearly states policies about taking time off and requiring employees to avoid any work-related activities while gone. Revise company handbooks and update intranets as necessary.

Create a backup plan: Be proactive and make every employee create a backup plan for when they are out so that when the time comes, they are ready. This could mean documenting processes so they are easily accessible and training colleagues on procedures. Each person should list minimum daily responsibilities and how to complete those when gone. This goes for everyone, from the front desk to the C-suite.

Leadership sets the tone: Words will not change a culture, only actions can do that. Leadership must live by the rules they set and create their own backup plans that allow them to pass along any time-sensitive responsibilities to colleagues. They also must follow the rules that they are not to be bothered unless absolutely necessary.

Are you guilty of working while on vacation? It’s time for a change! Make a resolution for yourself and your team that this summer you’re going to enjoy your PTO to the fullest.