“The catching up I have to do when I get back from vacation makes me not want to take one!”

Something’s wrong with this commonplace statement. The American Psychological Association’s recent survey concluded that burnout – that depressed, unengaged, low-energy feeling – is the real deal for American workers. In fact:

  • A third of U.S. workers say their workload makes it difficult to take time off
  • A quarter worry they will miss important information or opportunities
  • One in five say they feel guilty when they do take time off
  • 41 percent of working Americans say their organization’s culture encourages them to take time off

Here are some ways to help combat employee burnout when they return from their hard-earned vacations.

The Problem with Vacations is They End

Why do we take vacations? For a break, to reconnect with loved ones, to experience new or old places, and possibly so we can post pictures on Instagram. Unfortunately, although 93 percent of vacationers say they enjoy their time off and experience things like lower stress and better sleep, up to 53 percent of them dread returning to work.

Why? If they vacationed properly (unplugged), they should come back rejuvenated and motivated to absolutely kill it at work. Unless…their workload is so stressful they can’t overcome it.

Keep That Vacation Feeling Going

To help employees keep their good vibes, be proactive in company vacation policies. Here are some simple ways to ease them back to work:

  • Teamwork: Get the employee’s team together to plan for how tasks will be handled while the employee is out.
  • Communication: Be clear on the expectations of availability and responsiveness of the vacationer.
  • Schedule as a Team: Embolden employees to schedule their PTO requests in advance and encourage vacation days outside of the “busy season.”


Have a Time-Off-Positive Culture, Starting with HR & Leadership

Many organizations can do a better job of communicating and training leadership positions on what their expectations are regarding PTO and vacations. They can help management by:

  • Alerting team members of unused PTO and encouraging them to schedule and use it.
  • Educating employees about the importance of taking vacation and how to combat burnout.
  • Encourage cross-training among team members so taking time off isn’t as stressful for the team.

Ease Them Back Slowly

Make it easy for the newly back-to-work by giving them some catch-up time.

  • Encourage returning employees to build time into their schedule for catching up on email and other built-up tasks.
  • Allow for remote working on the day of return, so the employee can ease in and catch up undisturbed.

Review Your Company Culture

Part of building a positive culture means supporting workers’ outside hobbies, as well as taking stock of their wants from their employer. Time-off policies can be one of the most important factors in employee happiness, so evaluate your company on occasion:

  • Are employees encouraged to take time off?
  • When they’re away, are employees expected to be unplugged from work?
  • Does leadership set a good example of taking time off?

If the answer is a resounding “Yes!” then congratulations. If not, your company may need to re-evaluate the message it’s sending to employees. With smart HR tech like the BirdDogHR talent management system, management of time off and a positive company culture are easier to attain than ever.