37% of People Regret Taking Vacation Because of Their Workload — If That's You, Here's What to Do

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
June 20, 2024 at 5:18AM UTC

Thirty-seven percent of American regret taking vacations because of their workloads, research from New View Strategies finds. And when they take more than a week away from work, 41% feel guilty about it.

It’s not difficult to see why — Americans are facing enormous pressure at work. The same study reveals that nearly half of employees are not taking their full paid time off (PTO) each year, and 57% say their managers have contacted them when they do go on vacation.

But there are numerous benefits to taking time off, for employers and employees alike. So, how do you ensure you use your vacation to refresh and relax — without worrying about your workload?

Before your vacation

1. Meet with your manager, colleagues and direct reports.

Well in advance of your vacation, make sure your manager, colleagues and direct reports know that you’ll be away and plan to unplug. Leading up to your PTO, delegate responsibilities as appropriate, planning ahead for any potential complications or issues that might arise. Remind your colleagues shortly before you leave.

2. Set an out-of-office reply.

Set an automatic out-of-office reply for the period of time you’ll be away. This message should include the date of your departure, the date of your return (or when they can expect a reply), the name and email address of the person or people to contact in case of emergency and any other pertinent information.

3. Choose your vacation timing wisely.

Try to plan so that you take your vacation during a period that’s typically less busy for your organization, a time when you have no pressing deadlines. This will ease the anxiety for you and your manager.

During your vacation

4. Remember the benefits of taking time off.

Research shows that taking vacation time is correlated with greater productivity, increased innovation and engagement and healthier employees overall. So, while you’re on vacation, any time that guilt creeps in, remind yourself that you’re not just giving yourself a much-needed break — you’re actually helping your employer and improving yourself as a worker.

5. Limit checking your email.

You know those apps that allow you to block out distractions during work? Use them to your benefit to block out the distraction OF work while you’re taking a break. For example, lock your work email on your phone for a certain period of time so you can’t be tempted to check. 

If you know you’ll become anxious if you’re not able to check your email to the point where you won’t be able to enjoy your vacation, then give yourself specific (short) times when you’re allowed to check, but keep them to a minimum.

After your vacation

6. Don’t sign back on until your vacation is truly over.

Your plane is landing on a Saturday. So, your first move is to check your email and start responding — right? Wrong! Don’t sign back on until your vacation is truly over, and remember that that doesn’t end until you’re actually back on the clock. Just because you’re physically back doesn’t mean you have to get back into the work mindset just yet.

7. Tackle your inbox and to-do list one step at a time.

Your inbox and to-do list will seem overwhelming at first. But when you see that long list of unread emails, don’t panic. You expected this. Instead, start at the bottom and work your way up, flagging the most pressing issues so you know to prioritize them. You may want to check in with your manager first, in case they need to give you any important information before you work on anything else. Take it one step at a time.

8. Reflect on how the time off will benefit your career.

Finally, before you start regretting your vacation, take a moment to reflect on how time off will benefit your career — not detract from it. You’ve recharged and refreshed, which will make you a more productive and better worker. Hopefully, you’ve gained a new perspective, too, which will boost your creativity. And, most of all, you’ve taken care of yourself.


This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.

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