Employee Vacations are on the Rise – But So is Work-Related Stress

Matthew Tarpey

American workers are expecting to leave fewer vacation days on the table in 2018, yet stress levels among workers still remain high. A recent CareerBuilder survey found that 16 percent of workers gave up vacation time in 2017 because they didn’t have time to use it – an incremental improvement over the 17 percent who did so in 2016.                   

The percentage of US workers who aren’t planning on taking a vacation this year has dropped to 31 percent – down from 33 percent last year and 35 percent in 2016. Most of those vacations will be for a week or less (46 percent), while 7 percent say their vacation will last 2 weeks, and 3 percent planning on taking more than a month for vacation.

Still, despite the uptick in worker vacations, the percentage reporting high or extremely high levels of stress at work has also risen to 33 percent – up from 31 percent last year.

This may be due to the fact that, for many workers, vacations simply aren’t as relaxing as they used to be. More workers may be opting to use their vacation days, but many are still finding it difficult to disconnect, even when physically away from the office. Nearly a third (31 percent) of workers check their work email while on vacation, and 16 percent check in with work.

Additionally, 40 percent of workers say they’ve returned from a vacation with so much work that they wished they’d never taken the vacation at all – up from 36 percent last year. Similarly, 20 percent say that vacations cause them to be more stressed out about work – up from 18 percent last year.


What Does This Mean for You?

While a moderate level of stress can be viewed as evidence that your employees are invested in their work, extreme and pervasive stress can be seriously detrimental to workers’ productivity and job satisfaction – of workers planning on changing jobs in the back half of 2018, 27 percent said they were looking for a new job because their current job is too stressful

And that’s not to mention the impact of stress on employees’ overall wellbeing. Reported effects of work-related stress among employees this year include:

  • Loss of sleep – 46 percent
  • Feeling depressed – 31 percent
  • Weight gain – 22 percent
  • Nightmares about work – 20 percent
  • Becoming physically ill – 14 percent
  • Fights with spouse or significant other – 13 percent
  • Fights with coworkers – 13 percent
  • Strained relationship with family – 12 percent
  • Weight loss – 6 percent

Vacation time is a major factor in maintaining a healthy work-life balance. However, as the numbers show, there’s more to it than just using vacation days. As an employer, it’s important that you cultivate a culture and policies that encourage your workers to make the most of their vacation time so that they can come back feeling rested and recharged.


Thinking about reworking your company’s vacation policy? Check out these examples great vacation policies for inspiration.

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