1,000+ US Workers Share Their Thoughts on Taking PTO

Vacation is good for you, but does it look good on you?

With summer officially upon us, many employees are looking forward to their vacations, but paid time off (PTO) restrictions, lack of managerial support and stress upon returning can all affect that well-planned trip, according to a survey released today by leadership development and conversation experts at Fierce, Inc. Fierce surveyed over a thousand full-time employees across the U.S. and found some surprising variances in employee experiences around PTO.

While a third of respondents receive 20 or more vacation days each year, one in every five employees receives less than 10 days. Age, tenure and company size all play a large role—the lower the ranks, the less PTO granted.

And let’s discuss what PTO is for a minute – PTO can be vacation, but it can also be used for dealing with family matters, taking sick days, and volunteering of going to conferences. PTO is more fluid, but it’s still PTO – time away from work. So, in today’s digital age, is that a good thing because you can easily fix things in case of emergency or because you can travel and work for a company?

Let’s look at some of the survey’s key findings:

·      Post Vacation is Stressful: Two-thirds of responds noted they are either more stressed or have the same level of stress upon returning to the office than they did before vacation.

·      Co-workers are less-than supportive: Only 40% of respondents said their co-workers are supportive and encourage them to take time off

·       Time off varies widely:  Nearly a third of those surveyed (28%) have taken 3 days or less off consecutively over the past year, with another third taking off a full 5 days. Just 1 in 10 take 10 or more consecutive days off.

Post-PTO Stress: Stop Checking Your Email

For those that do take time off, however, the stress of work doesn’t stay away long, as returning to the office appears to offset any relaxation that may have occurred. Nearly two-thirds (62%) of those surveyed are either more stressed or have the same level of stress once they return to the office. The main reported cause of this stress is catching up on missed work, followed by having to readjust to a work mindset and needing to resolve major issues that arose while away. 

While on vacation, half of all employees check in with the office, with 13 percent checking in daily.

Job Satisfaction and Post-Vacation:

There has been no change in the reported stress level upon returning from PTO since Fierce asked this same question of employees five years ago, indicating that post-vacation stress continues to be a concern. These numbers vary, however, when taking into consideration an employee’s current level of job satisfaction. Thirty-eight percent of those unsatisfied with work feel more stressed returning from vacation; just 14 percent of those very satisfied feel the same.

“PTO is a key benefit for any full-time employee, and one that most individuals take to heart as it is an essential component to striking a healthy work-life balance,” said Stacey Engle, Executive Vice President of Marketing at Fierce. “The fact that returning to work is a stressful situation speaks volumes to the lack of support many employees feel both leading up to, and upon returning from vacation. This is an issue all organizations should address to ensure employees are getting the most out of their time outside of the office and returning refreshed and ready to tackle what’s ahead.”

Company Support

Having PTO days is one thing, but receiving the support and encouragement to take those days is something else entirely. Over half of all respondents believe their managers support and encourage them to take time off, however, just 40 percent of employees believe the same of their co-workers.

This discrepancy is even more apparent when breaking down employees by job satisfaction and current income levels. Of those unsatisfied with their current job, 57 percent say no one encourages them or supports them taking PTO; just 18 percent of those very satisfied feel the same. Those in lower pay brackets have a similar experience: 45 percent of individuals in households making $50,000 or less a year say no one encourages them to take vacation, while less than 30 percent of those making $100,000 or more say the same.

 Impact of PTO on Loyalty

As a key benefit for many employees, just over half (56%) of respondents state that additional PTO would make them more loyal to an organization, with the other half not seeing it as a factor. This shifts, however, when taking age, position and tenure into account. The majority of those who are younger, in entry-level positions or are less tenured are receiving less PTO and claim additional PTO would increase their sense of loyalty to their organization.

“While offering a high number of vacation days isn’t possible for every organization, these results show that for those receiving fewer days, upping this number could make a big difference in overall satisfaction,” continued Engle. “This is a key area where open and honest conversations are key; employees need to feel empowered to ask for what they need, and managers must be open to hearing concerns of these employees. While it may not end in an extra week of vacation, the dialogue and mutual understanding will be beneficial in the long run for the individuals, and the company at large.”

 

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