Workers reluctant to take time off

Disconnecting from your job improves productivity

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The traditional start of the summer vacation season, always produces vacation-themed reports. This year’s theme is “vacation shaming.”

That’s the common workplace condition when employees leave paid vacation time unused because they’re afraid to take time off.

An odd thing is that vacation shaming appears to abound at companies that offer unlimited vacation time. It happens at companies that formally have recognized the need to get unplugged from work.

Those unlimited-time-off places have been in the forefront of employers who recognize that always-connected work cultures are counterproductive. They also understand that the need for time off doesn’t always neatly match a few weeks of preplanned vacation time.

So they tossed the time-off rulebook, essentially saying to their workers, “We trust you to get your job done but also take the time off you need when you need it.”

‘Taint happenin’.

The company Kickstarter, for example, ended its no-limits vacation policy when it found that its employees were taking less time off than when they had a specific number of paid vacation days.

Some of the 2017 vacation surveys indicate that American workers got slightly better last year at taking their allotted time off. But, in the Project: Time Off report released Tuesday, the slight uptick to taking 16.8 vacation days in 2016, from 16.2 days in 2015, largely was fueled by an age and gender disparity.

The report said 51 percent of millennial men (and 48 percent of men of all ages) used their vacation time. In comparison, 44 percent of millennial women (and 44 percent of all women) used all their vacation time.

That guilty feeling

That gets back to the shaming angle. More women than men said they felt guilt about taking time off. Why? Perhaps some women are supermom or “lean in” wannabes. Or perhaps they worry more about removing themselves from promotion pipelines if they’re not work martyrs.

Other vacation surveys, such as one from CareerBuilder, focus on the burnout or stress reported by workers who don’t take vacations. About one-third of CareerBuilder’s respondents to a Harris Poll said they don’t plan to take a vacation this year. Among those who do plan time off, about one-third said they’ll stay connected with the workplace.

The result is no respite.

And here’s another odd thing: The higher workers are in their organizations, the more likely they are to stay at least somewhat connected to work while they’re on vacation, but they’re least likely to feel stressed.

A bevy of other time-off and stress reports are from Pew Research, Gallup, Alamo Rent-A-Car, Bankrate.com, and Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Take all the data in a bunch and come to an obvious — but not necessarily practiced — conclusion:

Take time off. It’s good for you and your employer. That, and one other thing: Plan ahead. People who plan their time off take longer and better vacations.