Advocating that your workers protect their mental health is an essential part of having a safe working environment. Encouraging employees to use their vacation time this summer can give them the break they need to reduce workplace stress and burnout.

A recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association showed that workplace stress – leading to burnout  – is a real issue for American workers. The report showed 77% of workers reported experiencing work-related stress with 57% saying the stress caused negative impacts like:

  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Feeling unmotivated
  • Feeling isolated
  • Having a desire to quit
  • Being less productive
  • Being irritable with co-workers
  • Feeling ineffective


going back to work after vacation

The problem is even with a large amount of workers feeling stress, they don’t always see vacation as a way to alleviate that stress. Why? It could be that employees don’t want to come back to a heavy workload or that they might miss out on important information or opportunities on vacation. But the issue may also be that employees don’t feel their employer prioritizes their mental health. According to the survey, 35% of respondents says their employer offers a culture where breaks are encouraged.

How can organizations encourage employees to take vacation?

Encouraging employees to take vacation requires employers helping relieve the stress they may feel while being gone. Let employees know you have their back so they can return to work refreshed.

Plan ahead

To help minimize the “fallout” of an employee going back to work after vacation (for not just them, but the team they rely on to cover for them) organizations should develop ironclad plans on how tasks will be handled while an employee is out. They can do the following:

  • Be clear on the expectations of availability and responsiveness of team members while another member is away
  • Embolden their teams to schedule their PTO requests in advance if possible, as well as encourage team members to schedule vacation on days that don’t fall under the “busy season”

With a well-planned PTO schedule a priority, it will help teams mitigate the risks of work spilling over into time off and will also help avoid putting more stress on the members who are assigned to cover for someone out on vacation.

going back to work after vacation

Develop 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 doing the following:

  • Training them to keep track of employees’ PTO and encouraging them of the appropriate use of it
  • Providing training to them to spot out stress and burnout, then teaching them solutions for stress recovery
  • Making cross-training a priority for both management and their subordinates to help out when someone is off

Bring them back in slowly

Leadership can make it easier on their employees coming back from vacation by easing them back into their normal job duties. They can do the following to help bring them back to the grind of work-life and avoid burnout:

  • Making it a common practice for employees to take time to catch up on emails and other built-up tasks that have piled on before they return to normalcy
  • Having employees ease back in by having them work from home their first day back to do their catchup, or having them block out a large chunk of their day on their calendar to do those tasks in the office.

going back to work after vacation

Review company culture

Does this sound like your organization?

  • Are employees celebrated for almost never taking time off?
  • Are employees who are “available 24/7” praised and rewarded?
  • Are there members in leadership positions who are always connected to work outside of normal business hours, possibly relaying to their subordinates that they are expected to do the same?

If you answered yes to all three of those questions, then you might work for an organization that is promoting a toxic atmosphere for its human capital. This type of company thinking and expectations can lead to employee burnout not only from them going back to work after vacation but from working for your company in general.

To address these issues, organizations should be holding meetings between leadership and employees to discuss expectations when it comes to taking PTO and planning for vacations.

To learn how to design benefits that inspire and retain your best workers, read The 5 Steps to an Ovation-Worthy Benefits Program

The 5 Steps to an Ovation-Worthy Benefits Program