Road trips were the transportation method of choice last 4th of July, according to AAA’s summer travel report. It was projected that over 43.2 million Americans were driving versus flying–an increase from 2022. Despite these statistics, we are becoming a no-vacation nation. Falling behind and career advancement concerns are preventing American workers from un-pluging completely while on vacation this year. And reports show that this trend is eroding work-life balance and the well-being of the nation’s workforce.
Americans Scrapping Summer Vacations
Are you one of the 47% of Americans refusing vacations altogether, because it’s too stressful to plan a big getaway. Or are you concerned you might send corporate honchos the image you’re not a team player? With the July 4th holiday, it’s important to recognize the value of taking time off from overflowing email inboxes, constant texts and nonstop phone calls. But several polls suggest that the 2023 summer vacation is becoming a dinosaur.
Even when off the clock, workers are checking inboxes and sacrificing downtime. A 2023 Pew survey found that 46% of Americans say they typically take less time off than their employer offers, and 49% state they worry about falling behind at work if they take time off. Others (43%) say they feel badly about their coworkers taking on additional work, while smaller numbers cite concerns that taking more time off might hurt their chances for job advancement (19%), that they might risk losing their job (16%) or their manager or supervisor discourages them from taking time off (12%).
Another ELVTR study of 2,300 employees found that even when employees take vacations, 46% struggle to switch off during their downtime, and 57% feel anxious if they don’t check their work emails while away. As a result, 68% of workers admit to working on vacations, and evidence shows that this lack of work-life balance takes a toll on their well–being. Case in point: 73% feel guilty when working on vacations, and 41% feel guilty if they don’t.
The poll asked whether their bosses or team members pressured them to work, and one in five confess they get asked to check their emails while on vacation. Another 25% admit they are bombarded by work-related text messages while away, 28% are bothered by email and eight percent via socials or phone calls during their break. In addition to those openly asked to check their emails while away, 35% feel an implicit expectation to work through vacations, and 41% feel guilty if they don’t. In fact, 45% of workers upset their partners or travel companions by doing so. But that doesn’t stop them from bothering their vacationing team members, as onein four say they disrupt their vacationing colleagues: 12% by email, 10% by text messages and four percent via social media or phone calls.
The study found that the recession and economic downturn have their impact as well: 37% are taking less time off, and 20% won’t be able to take vacations at all due to under staffing following company layoffs. Moreover, 37% say having no one to delegate their work to is the main reason they work on vacation, while eight percent are afraid to lose their job.
“Alarmingly, American workers are being pushed to the brink, with many sacrificing their well-deserved vacations and downtime in the name of productivity,” insists Roman Peskin, co-founder and CEO of ELVTR. “It’s high time we hit the ‘pause’ button on this relentless race. We at ELVTR urge employers and employees alike to join forces in tackling this work-life balance crisis head-on and let’s transform the way we approach time off. After all, a rested mind is a creative and effective one.”
Take A Guilt-Free And Balanced Vacation
If it’s hard for you to relax, if vacations are too stressful or if you feel guilty when you take time off, here are six steps you can take for an enjoyable, guilt-free vacation:
1. Set boundaries. There is something to be said for preventive stress. Limited communication with the office while vacationing can be less stressful than no communication at all and worrying about things piling up. Feeling that you’re getting behind can make you feel out of control and make it harder to chill. Strictly enforced limits on vacations such as an hour a day to check email or make phone calls can help you relax.
2. Manage your devices. Are you trying to match the electronic speed of light? The breakneck speed of technology can activate your stress response, provoking a cortisol/dopamine squirt. Then you respond to the immediacy of the device as if it were a threat to extinguish. Be master instead of slave to your devices. Use custom ring tones for your family, friends or coworkers when you want to screen calls during off-hours. Ease up on instant messaging so you don’t create the expectation that you’re available 24/7.
3. Buffer work exits and re-entries. Don’t work right up until the moment you leave and head back to work right off the vacation. If possible, schedule an extra day cushion before you depart and another when you return to ease back in.
4. Balance activities. On vacation, alternate your time between staying active and restorative rest. A walk on the beach combined with five minutes of meditation both give you a biochemical boost. Activity raises endorphins. Quieting your mind stimulates the part of your brain that dampens the surges of adrenaline and cortisol accompanying stress.
5. Plan ahead. Choose a colleague you trust to manage day-to-day tasks during your absence, and make sure your coworkers know you’ll be away. Designate a point person to be contacted on your voice mail and out-of-office email only on matters you want to be bothered about.
6. Work at not working. Ask yourself, “Why do I deny myself time away from work? What am I doing to my mind and body when I don’t take time off from the job? Why can’t I give myself a break once in a while?” If you believe what you do is never enough, it can make you pile on more tasks. Examine your own tendencies to create stress for yourself and to deprive yourself of healthy self-care. It might lead you to insight and healthy changes.