The Real Reason Why Employees Aren’t Using Their Vacation Time
It’s almost as though companies “dare you” to take time off.
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US workers have been known to forfeit vacation hours. Why would anyone forfeit paid vacation hours? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
I am guilty of not taking vacation time, but the reason isn't always simple and often varies from company to company.
While working at a small firm, I had a lot of responsibility and was the single subject matter expert on a complex technology. The only real time I could take vacation was when everyone else did - Christmas to New Years and maybe the 4th of July week. Sometimes the best I could do was take off an occasional Monday on months that didn't have a three day weekend. Otherwise, my cell phone would ring off the hook, emails would pile up, and unless I handled things right away, I was guaranteed to come back to a nightmare on the following Monday. It was actually less stressful to work on my vacation time a few hours a day, than to worry about what I was going to walk back into.
I thought moving to a larger company would end that nightmare, but the "high performance, no excuses " culture I joined meant that you were still responsible for your project schedule whether you were at work or not. It was almost as if they "dared you" to take time off. The net result was that you worked 20-30 extra hours the week before your vacation and the same afterwards when you returned. This made it rather pointless to take any time off. Again, it was less stressful simply to not take vacation unless the entire company was off at the same time.
At one large bank in Cleveland, our department manager had a policy that if you took time off, you (with no help from the manager) had to "work with your fellow employees" to determine who was going to cover your work (in addition to their own work load). That meant convincing three or four other people to "cover for you", and if you couldn't get them to agree, you couldn't take time off. If someone else was taking time off, it was impossible to find anyone willing to cover for two people so it became a juggling act of tracking who you covered for.
At these firms, you could manage to take about 2 weeks of "vacation" a year if you were lucky. Even if you had accumulated four or more weeks of vacation, it was bad for your career to actually take it. We knew who was planning to leave the firm when they suddenly started using their vacation time.
Although I'm working for a much better firm now, I had planned on taking vacation this week but a customer issue came up and it was just more prudent for me to shorten my vacation by working for a few days than to let this "fire" get bigger if left unattended for a week.
Again, after nearly eight years I have accrued nearly four weeks of vacation per year, but I always seem to have +100 hours of vacation "in the bank", and will actual lose any hours that accrue over 130. I'm hopeful I'll be able to squeeze some time in later this month, or the next.
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