One in Four Feel Unable to Take Vacation

Remind employees that their vacation benefits are there for a reason

By Stephen Miller, CEBS Jun 1, 2011

Financial constraints and demanding work schedules have some U.S. workers forgoing vacation plans. A CareerBuilder study shows that:

  • 24 percent of full-time workers say they can't afford to take a vacation in 2011, up from 21 percent in 2010.
  • Another 12 percent can afford a vacation but don't have plans to take one in 2011.
  • 30 percent reported they will contact their office while on vacation, up from 25 percent a year earlier.

More than 5,600 U.S. workers participated in the nationwide study, which was conducted Feb. 21-March 10, 2011.

"Taking advantage of vacation or paid-time-off benefits is critical not only to employees' well-being but to their overall job performance," said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of HR at CareerBuilder, a provider of recruitment support services. "Workers who set aside time for rest and relaxation tend to have less burnout, more creative energy and higher-quality output. While financial challenges and heavy workloads may make vacation planning difficult, it's important to find time to recharge away or at home. It can ultimately translate into a more gratifying work experience."

Workers who set aside time for R&R have
less burnout, more creative energy and
higher-quality output.


As the economy heals, more than one-third (36 percent) of workers reported that they feel more comfortable taking a vacation than they did in 2010. Among those planning to take time off:

  • 26 percent are planning a vacation of seven to 10 days.
  • 11 percent expect to be gone two weeks or longer.
  • 24 percent are planning for three to five days or a weekend getaway.

Tips to Share

Haefner recommended sharing the following tips to help employees make the most of their time off:

  • Give plenty of notice: 24 percent of workers reported that they have had to work while their family went on vacation without them. They should coordinate schedules with family, friends and co-workers as early as possible so they can plan vacations before and after big projects and events.
  • Don't take a guilt trip: 12 percent of workers reported that they feel guilty that they're not at work while they're on vacation. Remind them that their vacation benefits are there for a reason. The work likely will still be there when they return.
  • Ask about discounts: Many employers offer discounts on personal entertainment and travel for employees that might make vacation plans more affordable. Tell them to check out the company intranet or contact HR for more information.
  • Make sure they're covered: Employees should buddy up with co-workers to cross-train one another on responsibilities, upcoming deadlines, key contacts, where information is stored, and so on. If the company needs to contact them for something while on vacation, they should make sure to set parameters on when they'll be available—and stick to them.
  • Use 'em or lose 'em: 16 percent of workers reported they gave up vacation days in 2010 because they didn't have time to use them. If they can't take a number of days at once, they should consider taking a day here and there for extended weekends or midweek breaks.

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Related Articles:

Unlimited Vacation Policies Pose Challenges, SHRM Online Legal Issues, May 2011

One-Fourth of Workers Would Forgo Vacation to Double Income, HR News, February 2010

Quick Link:

SHRM Online Benefits Discipline

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