The Post-Vacation Quitting Trend And How Employers Can Reverse It

Labor Day is just around the corner. Many of the workers who take vacations will not want to return to their jobs, and some won’t. Research shows that taking a well-deserved break can significantly increase worker healthiness, happiness and productivity. It shows that 86% of full-time employees agreed that taking more vacation time would improve their mental health, and 80% agreed that they always feel refreshed at work after they take vacation time. But sometimes workers can get so refreshed that they don’t want to go back to their jobs, according to a new study, especially those who take working vacations.

A Visier survey polled 1,000 full-time U.S. employees about their company’s time off policy, what they use vacation time for and whether time off affects overall satisfaction or retention. The results showed that 44% of respondents thought about quitting while on vacation, and those who thought about it most worked during their time away. Of those who thought about quitting while on vacation, 44% followed through, meaning 20% of all surveyed respondents have quit after returning from a vacation.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • Most employees (89%) feel refreshed after taking paid time off (PTO) but that the renewed energy doesn’t necessarily translate to a readiness to return to work with 43% saying they dread returning to work after their time off.
  • Employees aren’t waiting long after returning from vacation to begin their search for a new job. It takes less than three months for 63% of respondents to leave their job after thinking about it on vacation, signaling that workers are starting to look for new roles shortly after returning from their time off.
  • Employees who work over vacation experience increased thoughts of quitting and rates of departure than those who totally disconnect from work during PTO. Case in point, 71% of respondents who thought about quitting while on vacation and stayed “very connected” to work while on vacation followed through with their plans to resign upon their return to work.

During breakfast on a business trip to New York City, I chatted with a young executive from Chicago who had come to the Big Apple for a long weekend vacation. I asked her why she hadn’t planned to stay longer. “I wish I could, but my boss frowns upon us being out of the office for more than a few days,” she said. “I used to not take any vacations until I discovered short trips and long weekends work best. I don’t want management to think I’m a slacker. Lazy feet don’t eat.”

A 2021 study found that 62% of Americans, like the young executive, were afraid to take time off because they were worried that corporate honchos would judge them or label them as a slacker, that they might get passed over for job promotions or that someone might be angling for their job. Why would anyone want to return to a job that requires them to be “always on” and limits their vacation days?

How Employers Can Reverse Post-Vacation Quitting

New research found that over four million American workers have quit their jobs each month so far this year, and this record-breaking trend isn’t going to wane anytime soon. According to McKinsey and Company’s survey of 13,000 people across the globe, including 6,294 Americans, about 40% of workers are considering quitting their current jobs in the next three-to-six months. As resignation rates show no sign of slowing down, companies are struggling to fill roles even amid a looming recession. Changes in vacation and time off policies might be necessary if companies want to retain top talent.

Job seekers in 2022 are looking for employers who demonstrate caring attitudes and prioritize mental health and kindness. With so many vacancies in the job market, it would behoove employers to design ways to limit the likelihood of a post-vacation quit. They can support employees at risk of post-vacation quitting by identifying the barriers they face that cause them to leave their positions after a vacation.

The Visier report advised that companies pay close attention to demographics more at risk, such as millennials and those with dependents. Tactics such as stay interviews or even just having managers check in after a return from vacation could limit the likelihood of these groups leaving their jobs in the following months. Since working while on vacation seems to be a critical factor in quit rates, those who want to support boosting retention may want to create policies that insist that workers take vacations and prevent employees from working while on vacation, the study concluded.

Vacations and time off from work are essential to bring balance to hard work. For those who don’t want to return after time off, here are some tips to create a seamless transition back to work, renewed and refreshed:

• Buffer your work exits and reentries. Don’t work right up until the moment you leave and head back to work as soon as you get off the plane. Schedule an extra day off before you depart and another when you return, to ease back into work slowly.

• Have a plan. When you’re away, limit your connection to the office and don’t check your electronic devices more than once or twice a day.

• Choose a point person. In your absence, have someone you trust manage day-to-day tasks and make sure your coworkers know you’ll be away. In your out-of-office voicemail and email messages, designate a single person to be contacted on matters you consider important.

• Breathe deeply. Meditating and paced breathing stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system, which works to balance the surges of adrenaline and cortisol from work stress. When your lungs are full of air, your body can’t produce adrenaline, so it’s your body’s way of getting you to relax.

• Balance activities. Alternate your time between staying active and resting. A run on the beach and ten minutes of meditation give you two different kinds of biochemical boosts.

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