Vacations. There’s no better way for working people to get clear, rejuvenate, and appreciate what’s important in their lives. Sadly, colleagues and superiors are increasingly using peer pressure and guilt trips to discourage people from taking time off. This alarming workplace phenomenon is known as ‘vacation shaming’ and it’s one reason that one-quarter of all workers will quit their jobs this year. 

For HR, actively encouraging its people to step away periodically from the workaday world is a must. But, what’s the most effective way to combat vacation shaming? 

Managers, leave by example

One recent survey found that 48% of people felt vacation shamed, which is a 7% jump from the last time this survey was conducted. A company’s leaders are at least partly responsible for this increase, even if it’s unconscious on their part. It’s only natural for people to take their cues from their workplace managers. If someone’s immediate supervisor is a workaholic, that person is more likely to feel pressured to burn the midnight oil at the expense of family, friends, and a well-earned break. 

People will choose to go on vacation more willingly if their managers don’t only leave the office physically, but completely tune out during their own time off. This means that your department heads should fight the urge to call in several times a day and check-in with non-stop emails. Managers who truly turn off and drop out for a few days will set the tone for their team members.

HR, equate vacation-taking with value

HR should put a premium on regularly educating its people about how vacation shaming is harmful to individuals and counterproductive to the company as a whole. One way your HR team can do this is by distributing information that shows how long hours and stress can lead to burnout, dissatisfaction at work, poor work quality, and turnover. The cost of losing people can sometimes be almost unbearable for a company. Indeed, CEOs repeatedly name talent acquisition as their top priority. Your people need to understand how valuable they are and how difficult it would be to have to replace them. That’s why their long term happiness and wellbeing is crucial. 

Develop a crystal clear time-off policy

Time Off, a research group located in Washington, D.C., found that people rate paid vacation as the second most important benefit, with healthcare nestled in the top spot. To get the message across to newbies that your company doesn’t just tolerate but actively promotes a healthy work-life balance, your paid time off (PTO) policy needs to be clear, comprehensive and consistent. You’ll want to be as transparent as possible in order to prevent frustrating situations for your people, their managers, and anyone else in the company who could be affected by someone’s vacation. 

One quick, easy, and highly effective way to both encourage vacation-taking and minimize friction back in the office is to create a calendar where everyone can see PTO requests that have been approved. Allowing your entire company to prepare for people’s vacations will make the work that needs to be done more equitably distributed and more efficiently completed. As a result, people who return from a vacation won’t feel overwhelmed by all the catch-up work they need to do.

See you all on January 2nd!

There are certain times of the year that very few of your people are actually in the office. And those who are at work are likely to be on cruise control, only answering emails and taking care of urgent projects – of which there are precious few. Instead of going through the motions like this, why not close the entire office for a few days? Your company’s bean counters may object at first but closing down will encourage your people to come back refreshed and ready to work. Best of all, no one will feel guilty about enjoying their time off.

Work-life balance is job #1

The best way for HR to establish a clear no vacation shaming policy is to establish a culture of balance, one that encourages people to live healthy, happy, and -yes – productive lives. Shawn Anchor, the author of The Happiness Advantage, has found that the brain works much better when a person is feeling positive. When individuals feel positive, they tend to be more creative and better at solving problems. Additional research has shown that when workers are happy they’re more effective collaborators working toward common goals.

Nine of the top ten most productive countries in the OECD, measured by GDP per hour worked, was in Europe. These are countries that mandate paid vacation. The United States, which doesn’t require employers to give its people paid vacation time, ranked sixth. To not advocate for or promote taking paid time off in your company, can result in certain implications that stunt the growth of both your people and the business’ success. Show your people that work-life balance is important, while leading by example; meaning, take some time off, too! 


from Stephanie Stevens

Stephanie is Content Marketer at Hibob. She has a background in Clinical Psychology and Crisis Management, and enjoys abstract painting and watching horror films in her spare time. She believes that people can connect with themselves, their peers, and the world around them through creative writing, helping them foster a deeper sense of self and their life goals in the process.