Employees who work on vacation are more likely to quit, survey finds

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Dive Brief:

  • Nearly half (44%) of full-time employees think about quitting while on vacation, according to a new survey by workforce analytic firm Visier. Twelve percent even used their vacation to look for another job, the survey found.
  • More than half (56%) of the 1,000 employees surveyed said they stay connected to work while on vacation – meaning they did anything from occasionally checking email to joining meetings or working on tasks. Almost all employees (95%) who work on a vacation do so by choice in order to not fall behind or for peace of mind, Visier said.
  • However, working on vacation seems to increase the likelihood of a post-vacation quit: Of the employees who thought about quitting while on vacation, those who stayed “very connected” to the job during their time off were 36% more likely to actually quit.

Dive Insight:

There is some good news. Although employees have time to think on vacation — including about quitting — these thoughts don’t usually result in immediate action. About two-thirds (62%) of employees who quit after a vacation take as long as three months to leave, the survey found. This means employers may have a chance to fix the situation, according to Visier’s blog post on the research.

For example, tactics such as conducting stay interviews or having managers check in with employees after they return from vacation can limit the likelihood of post-vacation quits, Visier said.

Employers can also take deeper, proactive steps to reduce the risk of employees quitting after a vacation. Given the survey’s finding that working on vacation is a big factor, companies may want to create an expectation or culture that discourages employees from working on vacation and use the time instead to refresh and recover from burnout, previous studies have shown. This may even involve a major shift in corporate mindset: Of the employees who said they’re required to work on paid time off, a significant portion (72%) thought about quitting while on vacation, according to the Visier survey.

To help its employees unplug, equity management platform Carta has a 15-day minimum time off policy, chief people officer Suzy Walther wrote in an opinion for HR Dive. The company still has unlimited PTO, but minimum time off makes sure employees actually take time off. Walther takes her own PTO and encourages her team to do so, she explained in the opinion.

The key is to pay close attention to the demographics of those more at risk for a post-vacation quit, such as millennials and Gen Z and employees with dependents. Millennials and Gen Z are 2 to 5% more likely to quit after a vacation, while Gen X and boomers are 9% less likely to quit, according to the survey. This could be because boomers are closer to retirement or more likely to be settled in careers they like, Visier suggested.

On the other hand, millennials and Gen Z are still trying to build career capital and experience or may feel they have something to prove as more junior-level employees. That’s where managers can take the lead. If employees observe managers taking regular time off and not obsessively checking in, they can see that it’s okay for them to do the same, a senior executive previously told HR Dive.

Managers can also talk to employees about the value of time off, another expert said. If managers notice someone not taking vacations, they should bring it up in private and explain why taking time off is important for the employee’s well-being. In addition, managers can help alleviate the dread that 43% of the employees surveyed said they feel about returning to work post vacation. By addressing workload issues, managers can help reduce vacation anxiety and prevent post-vacation burnout from trying to catch up.

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