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Employee Experience

Here’s why some workers don’t feel rejuvenated after taking vacation

Vacation time is an important way for employees to recharge their mental and emotional batteries before returning to work. But new Qualtrics research shows that nearly half (49%) of employed Americans say they work for an hour or more a day, even while on vacation.

In an era of worker burnout and high turnover, 58% of U.S. workers say their job is the main source of their mental health challenges. It can be difficult to completely disconnect, especially as the lines between work and life have become increasingly blurred due to remote and hybrid work arrangements.

Qualtrics asked more than 1,000 full-time employees in the U.S  how they use their vacation time and what they feel their employers expect of them while they’re taking time off. More than a quarter (27%) said they don’t feel rejuvenated after taking vacation. Here’s why that’s the case and what employers can do to help.

Working from vacation (WFV)

About half of American workers say they typically work while on vacation, and many say they are expected to be online or answer phone calls, texts or emails.

  • 24% of employees say they typically work three hours or more a day while on vacation
  • 49% say they typically work at least an hour a day while on vacation
  • While on vacation, 31% say they are expected to answer phone calls or texts, 27% are expected to respond to emails or messages and 20% are expected to be online

How employees use their vacation time

While paid vacation time is an attractive benefit that many applicants look for, much of it goes unused at the end of the year.

  • 9% of American employees get no paid vacation time, and 45% get two weeks or less
  • A lot of vacation time goes unused:
    • Only 27% of employees used all their paid vacation time in 2021
    • 26% had a week or more of unused paid vacation time leftover at the end of the year
    • On average, employees had 9.5 unused vacation days leftover in 2021
    • 32% say unused vacation time does not rollover to next year
    • 28% say they don’t get paid for unused vacation days

How employees feel

Despite what a company’s official vacation time policies might be, many employees feel restricted on when they can take vacation time and how much they can take because of obligations to their teams.

  • The top reasons people don’t feel comfortable using all their allowed vacation time are:
    • 1) Fear of falling behind on work
    • 2) Fear of letting down my team
    • 3) Pressure from coworkers to stay and work

What employers can do

More than half (51%) of workers say more vacation time would influence them to stay at a company longer. But there are other ways employers can make vacation time more valuable to employees.

  • According to employees, the top ways employers can make vacation time more rejuvenating are:
    • 1) Make sure employees don’t have to do any work when off
    • 2) Make sure they’re not contacted when off
    • 3) Give employees freedom to take vacation when they want, rather than working around others’ schedules
    • 4) Encourage employees to use all their allotted vacation time
    • 5) Offer more paid vacation time


Learn more about EX

Qualtrics // Experience Management

Qualtrics is the technology platform that organizations use to collect, manage, and act on experience data, also called X-data™. The Qualtrics XM Platform™ is a system of action, used by teams, departments, and entire organizations to manage the four core experiences of business—customer, product, employee, and brand—on one platform.

Over 12,000 enterprises worldwide, including more than 75 percent of the Fortune 100 and 99 of the top 100 U.S. business schools, rely on Qualtrics to consistently build products that people love, create more loyal customers, develop a phenomenal employee culture, and build iconic brands.

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