"Vacation shaming" holding young people back from taking time off from work

Nov 20 2019, 11:49 am

In a recent press release issued by popular travel company Skyscanner, 96% of Canadians believe that it is important to take a break from work.

However, only 66% take all of their allotted time off.

This attitude is potentially a result of a rising trend in many workplaces called “vacation shaming.”

Research firm Maru/Blue conducted the study, which consisted of 1,000 Canadians and 500 Americans.

According to the study, 50% of Canadians have been subjected to some form of vacation shaming by bosses or coworkers using peer pressure or guilt to hinder employees from utilizing their full time off.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Skyscanner (@skyscanner) on

The trend is most common amongst millennials, with nearly 62% confessing that they have experienced vacation shaming in their place of work.

However, there is a discrepancy in the amount of vacation shaming that occurs, and it varies from province to province.

Those in Quebec and British Columbia were found to be the least likely to experience vacation shaming, at 26% and 41%, respectively.

The tendencies differ south of the border as well, with just 57% of Americans taking all of their vacation time, and 58% saying that they have encountered vacation shaming, an increase of 8% over Canadians.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Skyscanner (@skyscanner) on

Dr. Lisa BĂ©langer, a behaviour-change expert who specializes in helping employees maximize their mental and physical well-being, said in a statement, “Many of us assume that taking time off will negatively impact our career trajectory, but evidence suggests employees that take their vacation have increased productivity, creativity, and decreased stress and risk of burnout, making them more likely to get promotions and raises. Ultimately, the payoffs are significant for both the employer and the employee.”

The release describes how, in the quest for rest and decompression, the actual process of requesting time off can be stressful in itself.

Millennials across Canada are most likely to experience feelings of worry, guilt, nervousness, and even shame when requesting time off of work (33%) compared to their Gen X counterparts (17%)  and Boomers (12%).


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Skyscanner (@skyscanner) on

Millennials were also the least likely in the study to state that they had used all of their allotted vacation time, with just 60% taking all of their earned time.

Canadians referenced multiple reasons when asked why they don’t use all of their vacation days, including being too preoccupied with work (22%), being unable to afford a vacation financially (17%), and anxiety surrounding work piling up while they are away (8%).

Tahiana Rodrigues at Skyscanner said in the release, “Despite the proven benefits of taking time off work, the reality is that due to vacation shaming or perceived lack of affordability, not everyone feels empowered to take their vacation time. Skyscanner makes it easier to turn ‘vacation shaming’ into ‘vacation claiming’ by offering an affordable range of flight, hotel and car rental options for every traveller.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Skyscanner (@skyscanner) on

When their vacation time is approved, Canadians can take full advantage of even the most limited travel budgets by booking through Skyscanner.ca during popular retail holidays such as the upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday, providing a notable amount of savings.

According to the release, “In 2018, Canadians booking flights on Skyscanner were able to save up to 25% in fare prices to destinations like Sydney, Australia, during Black Friday sales.”

No one should be made to feel guilty for taking a much-needed rest from work.

However, Canadians experience vacation shaming at every stage of the time-off process: 38% experience it when initially requesting the time off, 22% experience it in the days leading up to their trip, and 27% experience it on their last day in the office before their departure.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Skyscanner (@skyscanner) on

“This can lead to burnout and resentment in the workplace, with employees feeling hesitant to take their vacation time in the future.”

Dr. BĂ©langer insists on the importance of creating boundaries by establishing a line of communication well in advance. This communication can be through requesting time off as far in advance as possible and working with superiors and colleagues to make sure that any critical work will be addressed before your departure or will be covered in your absence, minimizing feelings of guilt.

As well, don’t be afraid to delegate and ask for help from colleagues while you’re gone. Lend a hand in your absence by leaving written instructions to ensure that you are not inundated with questions while you are away.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Skyscanner (@skyscanner) on

Ensure people know that you are on holiday by creating email alerts and blocking time off in your calendar so that others are conscious of your absence and will understand that you are not available for calls or meetings.

Finally, Dr. BĂ©langer suggests being empathetic and considerate with your time off by working around any absences that have already been reported by other colleagues while also adhering to critical dates of significance for your company, department, and industry.

With the workforce becoming increasingly younger, the value of a work-life balance is coming to the forefront for many company vacation policies.

Establishing an understanding and respectful approach to time off is crucial to ensure the happiness of management, coworkers, and ourselves moving forward.