Many leaders barely needed to think about staff vacations through the pandemic, with so many layoffs; in fact when they did think of vacation it was as a concern that they couldn’t get anyone to take their time off. But a new reality is setting in this summer: in a recent Korn Ferry survey, nearly 80 percent of people say they plan to use more vacation days this year, while 82 percent say they will check in with the office less—if at all—while away.
It’s no wonder that the drain and strain of the pandemic is changing worker attitudes around vacation. As workers grapple with added stresses, fatigue and burnout, many are crying “uncle” and taking time to put work in their rear-view mirrors and unplug on vacation. However, this comes at a challenging time for many companies. Already facing the greatest labor shortage in a generation, they are now trying to juggle that with stacks of vacation requests.
The emphasis on not being tethered to the office while on vacation is yet another pandemic-inspired change from recent history. To be sure, the norm has been for people to not just check in with the office but also work while on vacation. And it isn’t because they love what they do—44 percent of people polled by Korn Ferry cite “having to put out fires” as the primary reason for working while on vacation, and 56 percent say they have had to cancel or cut short vacation because of work pressure.
But managers and corporate chiefs are of two minds about worker vacations. While it is true that employees often return from vacation energized and more productive, companies also benefit from people who do more than they are paid to do. The financial services, healthcare and media industries, for examples, are notorious for making people work on a weekend, day off or while on vacation and not paying them extra to do so. In industry parlance, it’s called “charity work,” or people putting in time on the job when they don’t have to.
The attention on unplugging comes at a time when many companies are trying to fill vacancies of as much as 20 percent to meet mounting consumer demand. The dynamic may leave short-staffed managers considering if they need to call people back while they’re away on vacation. Don’t do it! After the mental and emotional taxing employees absorbed last year, not honoring personal time away from the office this summer is the surest way to lose employees who still remain. Be gracious, respect the time off that was earned, and welcome them back rested and ready to go. If you don’t, someone else will be more than happy to.