Quiet Vacationing: Are Your Employees Using PTO?

So, employees who feel burned out and overworked are happy with the amount of PTO they receive? But 78% of workers do not use all their PTO days. And workers aren’t being denied PTO requests. They don’t take PTO because they don’t want to. Approximately 63% of American workers don’t use their PTO because of the pressure to always respond to deadlines and be productive. Many employees have recently found an unstable solution.

What is Quiet Vacationing?

“Hush trips” or “quiet vacationing” are the new ways employees are attempting to escape workplace demands without informing management or coworkers. Employees “work” remotely from a vacation destination and change their Zoom backgrounds, periodically jiggle their mouses, and set up Outlook or Slack to send messages outside of business hours to make it appear that they are putting in extra time and being more productive.

Quiet vacationing is most popular among millennials (who were early adopters of the work/life balance concept) and Gen Z workers (who refuse to allow corporate culture to encroach on their personal time), but it can also appeal to Gen X workers, who have grown tired of the “work hard, play rarely” ethic and are surreptitiously slowing down as they look toward retirement.

Workers may take hush trips when they feel guilty for requesting PTO, as it means openly leaving coworkers to absorb additional workload in their absence. Other employees, including 23% of Gen Z employees, feel that taking PTO will negatively impact the likelihood of receiving a promotion or compensation increase.

What is the Effect on the Employer?

When employees choose quiet vacationing over taking PTO, they enforce the “us vs. them” dynamic between management and employees. This undermines the trust between the two parties that must exist to promote a harmonious and productive work environment. Employees caught quiet vacationing may need to be terminated, which can be costly for the employer. Professional development invested in the employee is lost and the employer is faced with the expense of recruiting, onboarding, and training a replacement. Management should respect employees who address workload and the need for self-care honestly and the PTO issue head on rather than opting for a hush trip.

What Can Employers Do?

The amount of PTO granted to employees plays a part in getting employees to use allotted PTO, but more is not necessarily better. Eleven to 15 days per year is generally an effective amount for both employee and employer; PTO use tends to decline when employees are granted 16 or more days per year. Unlimited PTO (also called “flexible time off”) is not always the best option.

Employers looking to combat quiet vacationing may consider alternatives such as mandatory extended vacation policies or business holidays, as in Europe, where the month of August is generally considered vacation time for all employees. Some European countries are also instituting shorter workweeks to prevent burnout and encourage employees to take more time to rest and recharge without the fears that deter employees from taking PTO. Quiet vacationing can also be eliminated by enacting policies that relax response times outside of work hours. Employees can dedicate their hours outside of work to personal pursuits without feeling the need to be “on” all the time. Creating an environment where employees feel comfortable taking their PTO has positive impacts on both morale and productivity.

Which PTO Policy is Right for You?

myHRcounsel® helps you with employment laws in all 50 states and drafts your PTO policy to make sure it is not only the right fit for your company, but legally compliant making your life easier. Our ASK HR subscription gives you unlimited access to employment attorneys for questions on PTO as well as other HR issues that come up every day. Contact us at info@myhrcounsel.com for more information and a demo of our services.

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