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Millennials Are ‘Quiet Vacationing’ Instead Of Taking PTO, And Here’s Why

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Photo by Anastasia Nelen on Unsplash

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Jun. 14 2024, Published 8:00 a.m. ET

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A recent Harris Poll survey of 1,170 American workers shows a majority of millennial and Gen Z workers don’t take all of their paid time off (PTO) days because they fear being looked at as slackers by their bosses. Instead, the survey showed millennials are “quiet vacationing” – taking time off without telling their manager.

The survey showed 38% of millennials “move their mouse” to show they are active on Slack or Teams, 37% schedule messages to be sent outside of regular hours to suggest they’re working overtime and 37% have taken time off without communicating it to their bosses.

Libby Rodney, chief strategy officer at The Harris Poll, told CNBC, “There’s a giant workaround culture at play… They will figure out how to get appropriate work-life balance, but it’s happening behind the scenes.”

Barriers To Taking Time Off

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Fear is a major factor for millennials and Gen Z when it comes to requesting time off, according to the survey.

Forty percent of millennials and Gen Z workers say they lack support or encouragement from their employer to take time off; 18% of millennials and 23% of Gen Zers say they don’t take time off because they are afraid it will negatively impact their promotion prospects; and 21% of millennials and 26% of Gen Zers say they are afraid their boss will think poorly of them if they take time off.

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Fear also lies in the “Sunday scaries” of having to return to work after taking time off, according to the survey. Fifty-three percent of millennials and 56% of Gen Z workers say they feel guilty when they take time off, and 66% of workers say they dread the backlog of work waiting for them when they get back.

‘Quiet Vacationing’ Reflects Desire For Workplace Culture Shift

Rodney told CNBC that when workers feel like they need to sneak out for breaks, it’s a sign that they don’t have a supportive PTO culture. The survey showed Americans would prefer to embrace workplace cultures common in European countries that embrace boundaries on working hours and personal time, extended vacation policies and shorter work weeks.

On TikTok, response to the “quiet vacationing” trend has reflected the survey sentiments, with creators calling for better working conditions.

Emily Durham, a Toronto-based career coach, posted about the trend saying, “Employees will stop ‘quiet vacationing’ when you loud start paying a living wage.”

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Similarly, career coach Hannah Goefftposted a Tiktok responding to the survey saying, “Can we just acknowledge that millennials and Gen Z are overworked and exhausted and tired of the running corporate hamster wheel as the promise of a comfortable, affordable life gets farther and farther away?”

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A Summer Of ‘Quiet Vacationing’

A similar survey from Resume Builder one in eight workers intend on “quiet vacationing” this summer, with 44% of respondents saying they intend to take two or three secret vacation days and 24% intending to take four to five secret vacation days.

Additionally, 69% of respondents said their company does not offer Summer Fridays, which allow employees to take part of all of the day on Fridays off. Instead, 23% say they will leave work early on Fridays without formally requesting the time off.

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By: Gillian Smith

Gillian Smith is a professional communicator by day and night, leveraging more than a decade in the news industry to share stories that have a positive impact on society. Gillian believes everyone has a story worth telling, and she has made it her professional mission to tell those stories in a responsible way. Gillian received a BA in journalism from Ithaca College and a Master's in Journalism Innovation from Syracuse University. She is currently the director of external communication and media relations at Suffolk University.

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