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Helping Your Employees Get over Their Vacation Guilt

vcation guilt

The evidence is clear. Taking vacations is good for you. It’s good for your mental health, your physical health, your work performance, and the overall performance of the company. At this point, all of those benefits aren’t exactly a secret. So why do four out of ten Americans not use all of their vacation time each year?

One of the big reasons is vacation guilt. Many employees worry that taking your vacation days equates to letting down the boss. If you put your need for rest first, even for a long weekend, your clearly not dedicated to the job and are probably leaving the rest of your team high and dry, right?


Admittedly, there are some professions where taking time off can literally be a matter of life and death for the people served, but that isn’t true for the vast majority of people. And sure, if you plan a vacation during the same week as a big deadline, you could really mess up your team. But just a modicum of consideration and planning can avert such problems.

The benefits are clear and the drawbacks, in most cases, are only imagined. But even so, breaking those perceptions can be a difficult challenge, especially if your company has encouraged vacation guilt in the past.

As the person in charge, it’s your job to break the cycle of guilt and create an environment where vacations are encouraged and work/life balance is seen as an asset, not a pie-in-the-sky dream. Here are a few simple ways that you can help make getting over vacation guilt easier for your team.

Share the benefits of vacation with your team.

Take time in an upcoming meeting to remind everyone that vacations are good for them both personally and in their work lives. Show them that you understand this to be true, and share some key facts (which you can find in our previous article). Maybe go around the room and ask people about the best vacations they ever went on or where they want to go next.

Set pro-vacation policies.

Create standards like asking your team members to tell you about vacations a month in advance when possible. This will both encourage employees to take the time to plan vacations and schedule them appropriately – which is important because planned vacations are much more restorative than last-minute vacations – and also give you an opportunity to help them reassign any work that might need handling during that time, empowering them to take a real break.

Don’t bother employees on vacation.

Don’t call, don’t email. Don’t bug them with anything unless absolutely necessary. Telling an employee they can be out of the office for a few days because you’ll just call if you need something is NOT a real vacation.

Set a good example by taking your own vacation.

Warn employees in advance, delegate tasks, and disconnect from work as much as possible while you’re away. Showing how it’s done can help reduce the vacation stigma.

About Joy Ruhmann
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