Poll Finds Mixed Expectations About Working While on Vacation

Three-quarters of workers feel they must pack laptops with flip-flops—even when companies encourage work-free time off.

Rather Safe Than Sorry
While half of non-essential workers believe there are no company expectations for them to work while on vacation, the other half feel obliged or uncertain about expectations to get work done when taking paid time off (PTO). As a result, three-quarters of workers bite the bullet anyway—and work—when vacationing, based on a new HR Certification Institute (HRCI) poll of HR professionals.

Based on the views of nearly 300 professionals employed as HR practitioners for organizations, only 16 per cent of workers “believe” they are expected to work while on vacation. Yet, once workers have reached their destination:

  • 59 per cent “occasionally” work when on a vacation;
  • 17 per cent “always” or “almost always” work when on a vacation; and
  • 24 per cent “rarely” or “never” work when on a vacation.

Poor Policy and Role Models
“Most workers bring their laptops with their flip-flops on vacation,” said Barry Lawrence, MBA, aPHR, a researcher and spokesperson for HRCI. “Employees are confounded by a mixed bag of written company policies, unspoken expectations, shared beliefs and poor examples set by CEOs and supervisors.”

Only 31 per cent of HR professionals say their organizations have written policies that specifically discourage work during time off.  Workers fare somewhat better at these companies, working less on vacation vs. employees from companies with no written policy to discourage work:

  • 63 per cent “occasionally” work when on a vacation vs. 56 per cent from no-policy companies;
  • 10 per cent “always” or “almost always” work when on a vacation vs 21 per cent; and
  • 27 per cent “rarely” or “never” work when on a vacation vs. 23 per cent.

 Culture Influences Trump Policy
“Policy is often trumped by more powerful culture influences” said Amy Schabacker Dufrane, Ed.D., SPHR, CAE. “Bosses and executive leaders, especially, set the tone of how the rest of a staff will approach vacation. Emails continue to flood the inbox. And flatter organizations mean that there is no one back at the office who can do your work when there’s an emergency while you’re out.”

Forty-six per cent of HR respondents say supervisors have the biggest influence on employee expectations about working on vacation, followed by the C-suite executives (22 per cent), self (20 per cent), HR (5 per cent), other employees (4 per cent) and other factors (3 per cent).

HR Does it Too!
When asked about their personal vacation work habits, nearly three-quarters of HR professionals are also likely to work—at least occasionally—when taking PTO. Most often, they say, their vacation work involves reading email (72 per cent), responding to an emergency (20 per cent) and working on a project (5 per cent).

“It’s important for all employees—HR and management included—to be reminded that PTO is a benefit, not just a perk,” Dufrane said. “Study after study finds there are huge performance and employee wellness benefits associated with giving people time to rejuvenate. HR can turn the ‘vacation vacuum’ around by developing clearer vacation policies and cultivating champions of work-free rest and relaxation.”
HR Certification Institute® (HRCI®) is the a professional credentialing organization for the human resource management profession. HRCI certifications are proven marks of distinction for various levels of competence, commitment, skill and knowledge in the HR field.

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Category: Workplace Wellness

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