workplace psychology

Nervous Employees Are Taking ‘Stealth Vacations’ Now

Mature man peeking through office cubicles, portrait
Photo: ColorBlind Images/Getty Images

Americans, as you may have heard, have a problem with taking time off, in that many just … don’t. On average, full-time employees who receive paid vacation days take only about half them, according to a recent survey of 2,300 American workers by the research firm Harris Interactive. This is a workplace culture, after all, that convinces some that it’s so important to put in long hours that if they’re not actually working 80-hour weeks, they should lie and say they do.

And so this means that many employees are a tad sheepish about the fact that they may be daring to take a day or two off — which often means that they fail to let their colleagues know about their plans until the very last minute. Over at Harvard Business Review, finance firm CEO Karen Firestone writes about this problem at her workplace, and how too many of her employees are taking what she calls “stealth vacation” days. “As another summer comes to a close,” Firestone writes, “I find myself noticing once again that my co-workers and employees have been very reluctant to both commit to a vacation and to communicate that time off to everyone else.”

This is annoying to the colleagues left behind, who are surprised by the late notice and may need to scramble to reschedule meetings or push back project deadlines. But it’s a problem for the reluctant vacation-takers as well, Firestone notes. Taking time off from work is associated with both increased creativity and productivity, as both common sense and the scientific evidence suggest, which means that a summer spent staring at a screen without a significant break is not a summer very well spent. Imagine that. 

Nervous Employees Are Taking ‘Stealth Vacations’