What vacations reveal about your company’s toxic culture

If you’re feeling stressed about work, a nice vacation could be just what you need. Unplugging from the day-to-day pressures to unwind can help you recharge and refresh so that you’re ready to get back to work . . . right? Not always, finds a survey by Visier.

The people analytics platform polled 1,000 full-time U.S. employees about vacation time and overall job satisfaction. While 89% of employees did feel refreshed after taking PTO, the reset didn’t make them ready to return to work; 42% even said they dreaded getting back to work.

And it gets worse: Some 44% of respondents thought about quitting their jobs while on a vacation, and of this group, 44% followed through and resigned.

A contributing factor to wanting to quit, according to those polled, was bringing work on vacation instead of totally disconnecting. Visier found that 95% of employees worked by choice because they were worried about missing something important or having to catch up when they got back.

But in the group that thought about quitting, those who stayed very connected to work while on vacation were 36% more likely to actually do it. For those who were actually required to stay connected while taking time away, more than 70% thought about quitting.

So should managers be afraid of PTO? Not if they are aware of some of the dynamics in play, says Yustina Saleh, VP of research and value at Visier, noting that it’s imperative for employers to provide employees with a better sense of balance.

“If your work-life balance is not strong and you have time to pause, you may start to think there must be something better out there,” she says.

If an employee hasn’t taken five days off in a row for more than 18 months, it should sound an alarm, Saleh says. Employers should encourage employees to take time off and give them permission to disconnect completely when they’re away. Managers should make arrangements before the employee leaves so they won’t be worried that things will fall apart when they’re gone.

“Encouraging employees to take time off says ‘I care about you. I care that you are healthy,’” Saleh says. “Have some level of redundancy when planning for employee vacation time. Take into account your deliverables. It’s summer. People will take time off, and that means you may have to adjust your plans instead of expecting the same KPIs. Doing that will change the dynamics quite a bit.”

For example, adjust delivery schedules on projects, or cross-train employees so that the work can be covered. Managers should also create a safe environment where employees can speak up and share if they’re feeling stressed and need to unplug.

“If the manager is only about the deliverables, it won’t be good,” Saleh says. “It’s doesn’t mean that you’re not meeting your KPIs. It just means that people have feelings and families. If you don’t build redundancy, people don’t see a way out. They will meet your deliverable but quit later. Absenteeism and vacation need to be part of your operational planning.”

It’s also important for managers to lead by example. “If you know that your boss is off on vacation and is working nonstop, that guilt of not working becomes real for their employees,” Saleh says.

The bottom line is that vacations won’t fix bad culture. “People are not robots,” Saleh says. “If everything was messed up before their vacation, time off won’t fix that.”

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