Skip to main content

Post-Vacation Glow? Survey Finds Two-Thirds of Employees Return to Work Feeling Stressed

How do you feel when you come back to work after taking a vacation? Are you relaxed? Happy? Sad? Stressed out of your ever-loving mind?

If you selected the last option, then you're right on trend with a new survey out today from Seattle leadership development firm Fierce, Inc.!

Fierce surveyed more than 1,000 full-time employees about vacation time, and reveals two-thirds return to work feeling either more stressed or as stressed as they always feel on the job. Welcome back?

Back-To-Work Stress Is Real
The three main causes of back-to-work stress for employees are (1) catching up on missed work; (2) having to readjust to a work mindset; and (3) needing to resolve major issues that percolated to the surface while they were on vacation.

Even though half of employees surveyed report checking in with the office while they were out (and 13% report checking in daily!) there is still so much to fix do upon their return. Vacation all I ever wanted, vacation had to get away, vacation meant to be spent alone but I'm on a conference call.

Perhaps not surprisingly, how employees feel about returning to work following a vacation depends on how much they like their job. Nearly four in 10 employees surveyed (38%) who report being unsatisfied with their current job position feel more stressed when they return to the office. For those surveyed who generally enjoy their job, this number drops by more than half to 14%.

Two-thirds of employees surveyed think their managers encourage them to take time off. That's great, but get this: only 40% of employees believe their co-workers support their right to a vacation! In fact, when car rental agency Alamo surveyed 1,500 employees, it found more than four in 10 Millennials (42%) admit to making their co-workers feel badly for taking time off. The same percentage (42%) indicate they are "at least somewhat serious" in their vacation-shaming efforts.

Wow, it must be nice to take a vacation when it's always so busy around here. I can't imagine dropping my work on my co-workers just so I can go snorkeling in Hawaii, but maybe that's just me. I love my job too much. Stop me if you've heard this one before.

Bottom line: Employees need to feel supported on the day they return from vacation. From the official Fierce Inc. press release:

"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."

Hear, hear! So what can we do about the stress we feel going back to work post-vacation?

First, remember that back-to-work stress generally lasts for a few hours and then we're back in the swing of things. Two, an overwhelming sense of return-to-work dread that persists upon return might be a sign it's time to explore the job market.

Finally, never feel guilty about using your hard-earned vacation time. If a colleague guilt trips you for taking time off, then this post is for you. I hope you have fun on your vacation this summer. You deserve it!


  1. Thanks for bringing attention to this topic! Yes, even when employees go "on vacation" they really don't get a break or any of the benefits that come with taking real time off. Just look across the pond to Europe to see what a "real" vacation can do for employees AND companies. They typically take vacations that last several weeks (or months!), presumably long enough for them to stop obsessing over work. And in return, those employees are usually more productive. So, with "real" vacations, everyone wins...which makes me wonder why North American companies seem so against it.

    1. I agree. Employees are more ready to work when they feel rested. Real vacations are very important. Thanks for your comment!

    2. Good read. Yes - productivity is very important, which can only really come from well rested employees.

  2. I get this. I can usually forget about work and I don't bother checking in when I'm on vacation, but numerous times I've been contacted by co-workers and managers requesting items or asking where things are. I think employers should arrange for minimal contact when employees are away to ensure their employees return and feel like they actually took a vacation.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Seven tips for dealing with a jealous coworker

Look at you, doing so well at work! We're so happy for you. Well, most of us are happy for you and refuse to spend the entire work day talking behind your back. Let's talk about how to handle our jealous co-workers!Like every other professional, you've no doubt experienced your share of failures and successes. Lately, however, things seem to be going your way at work. And how! Perhaps you've managed to ace an important project this quarter, been instrumental in landing a huge client, earned some well-deserved rewards for this and that, or -- egads! -- been given a slight promotion or additional work responsibilities (e.g., the work responsibilities you actually want).You're quietly chuffed, but somehow your co-workers seem none too pleased with this rapid turn of events. Oh no, what should you do now?It's a workplace tale older than the disjointed last season of Mad Men. The playing field in the department was even, cozy and overall very friendly -- until so-an…

Employees Blame Technology For Slowing Them Down At Work

Do you feel like you're always working, but never getting very much done? If so, you're not alone. Too much technology, and too much red tape, keep slowing us down at work. But technology, and more of it, is supposed to make our lives easier! Too much technology, however, does not compute for employees. A new SAP/Knowledge@Wharton survey of almost 700 corporate employees finds a full 60% of respondents blame technology "for inhibiting their ability to meet strategic goals." Gee, anyone who has ever used the self-checkout line at the grocery store can tell you that. However, 40% surveyed said that looking for ways to simplify the technology has been "a low priority" for their company. Too much paperwork is an on-going problem for the workplace, too. A new ServiceNow survey of nearly 1,000 managers finds that 90% are doing too much administrative work, no matter the size of the company. This paperwork includes filling out forms, writing status updates, …

Is Your Co-worker Always Late For Work?

You've started the workday, but where is your co-worker? Oh, she's running late again, just like yesterday. And the day before. And the day before that. Let's get an early start on solving her tardiness problem, shall we? Working with someone who is consistently late is one of the most annoying aspects of office life, and also one of the most common, unfortunately. It's a universal theme of the workplace that everyone will get to work on time (give or take a few minutes...) except for the employee who is egregiously late nearly every day. And the excuses can get pretty amazing. Employees became more punctual as the Great Recession lingered, at least according to surveys. Everyone, that is, except for your able-bodied but habitually-tardy co-worker. It's bad enough dealing with tardiness when you're a manager, but it can be even more frustrating when you're a rank-and-file peer without any magical "shape up or ship out" managerial powers. So you…