Millennials: It’s Time To Claim Your Vacation Trophy

I thought we had a deal.

Remember last year, when we had that heart-to-heart about vacation shaming? Here’s a quick reminder:

Misery loves company. Colleagues who actually use their hard earned time off merely serve as a reminder to those who waive their right to wanderlust. When you’ve reached your breaking point and continue to forfeit your time, (and apparently shame others out of using theirs) it can consume your workplace. 

Unfortunately, it looks like we need to have that same chat again. According to the 2017 Alamo Rent A Car Family Vacation Survey, U.S. workers—especially us younger ones—are feeling more guilt than ever before about planning and taking their vacations.

But here’s the troubling thing: some of that is definitely on us.

According to the survey, 68 percent of Millennials have felt some sort of vacation shame. At the same time, we’re also 20 percent more likely to shame our co-workers about taking a vacation. And these workers — our co-workers! — are 23 percent more likely than other groups of workers to say that this shaming would likely keep them from going on or planning a vacation.

Look, I realize that you think a little needling of your cubemates is just part and parcel of office culture. What’s the harm in a little joke between friends, right? Well, more than half—53 percent, an increase of 11 percent over last year—of our co-workers say that they take that sort of shaming seriously. That has real consequences, whether it’s leading to a sense of guilt in the office that gets in the way of productivity, or, even worse, encouraging people to actually keep working while they’re on vacation.

I thought that we were better than this. After all, we’re all in the same boat when it comes to struggling to take our time off. Even though our cohort is now the largest generation in the American workforce, we’re still the most likely generation to forfeit time off — even though we earn the least amount of vacation days.

As part of my job, I spend a lot of time talking about how businesses need to recognize the power of time off and create a positive workplace culture that encourages people to recharge. But young workers like us have an important role to play when it comes to fostering a culture that works. While the concept of merging our professional and personal lives together is in our DNA as American Millennials, it’s also on us to try and flip the script; chastising each other isn’t going to help extinguish that generational burnout we talk so much about.

Ten years into my career (yes, I’m still a Millennial), I’ve been down the work martyr path before and it I promise it isn’t worth it. The next time one of your co-workers talks about taking time off, think about how it’s proven to help them be more productive on projects you’ll work on together, or how if they’re taking their time off, you should feel as confident in asking to take some of your own. That’s a trophy you’ll want to claim.

March 10, 2017