Marco Chumacero won’t be taking all of his vacation days in 2022.
He’s already taken 15 out of the 20 days allotted to him, but he’s happy to have a few days to carry into next year.
Having switched careers from the restaurant industry to tech during the pandemic, Chumacero no longer works gruelling 12-hour shifts. Now, he works from home for up to eight hours a day. This new work pace is vastly different and he’s no longer experiencing burnout.
“Working from home means I no longer have long commute times and the days don’t feel as long,” he said. “I don’t feel that need to have an extended break in the same way.”
Chumacero has also taken advantage of working while travelling, a novel opportunity that came out of the pandemic lockdown.
Chumacero is far from alone. But while he is happy not to take all his vacation, many other workers are hoarding them out of caution, experts say.
A recent poll of 811 Canadian workers conducted by Maru Public Opinion for ADP Canada — an online payroll and human resources solutions company — found that just 29 per cent of workers surveyed plan to use all their vacation time in 2022. That’s up slightly from 2021 when a similar survey found that 27 per cent said they’d take all their vacation days, but far below pre-pandemic levels when 48 per cent of workers used all of their annual vacation.
The poll also found that nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said they put in extra time leading up to and returning from a vacation, with respondents clocking an average of 20 additional hours before and after a one-week break.
The poll conducted in November cannot be assigned a margin of error because online surveys do not randomly sample the population, said the Canadian Research Insights Council.
Heather Haslam, vice-president of marketing with ADP Canada, said while the vacation gains in 2022 might seem minor, at least more workers are taking time off to recharge.
“It’s going in the right direction,” she said.
Still, vacation levels are below pre-pandemic levels, Haslam said, noting the pandemic has cemented new work habits that will take some time to change.
“When so many people went remote, work and home became one place,” she said. “It seeps into how we view taking time off and ensuring we get enough time to recharge.”
Bill Howatt, founder of Howatt HR, a human resource firm focused on psychological health in the workplace, agreed that working remotely during the pandemic shifted work expectations and added pressures.
“People could be worried. ‘If I’m struggling to keep up at work now, what will happen when I go on vacation?’ ” he said.
Another stressor is finance, Howatt said. The impending recession and inflationary pressure are also contributing to less travel, with 56 per cent of respondents citing financial constraints as a main reason for reducing travel, the poll found.
“More people are becoming concerned about their financial health,” Howatt said. “People may have saved more in the pandemic but the high cost of basic necessities is a stressor.”
International travel experiences have also impacted people, who are choosing to travel less, especially during on-peak seasons. Sixty-nine per cent of those surveyed said they will not travel during the holiday season.
“Travel has changed drastically since 2019, all you see now are customer complaints from flights being cancelled and not getting refunds,” said remote work consultant Nola Simon. “It’s not a great client experience and many might be avoiding it,” she said, adding passport delays are also contributing to less travel.
But, Simon points out, the survey doesn’t address a key point which is remote employees who continue to work while travelling and perhaps don’t feel they need a vacation per se.
“Are you doing work during vacation? That’s an important question,” said Simon. “I don’t think people are working less, they’re just working remotely in different locations.”
For example, employees can go to a cottage, work until 5 p.m. and then enjoy cottage country in the evening. It can give the sense of vacation, without taking time off work, she said.
Another factor is caregiving, Simon said. The flu, COVID-19, and respiratory illnesses such as RSV, all contribute to employees hoarding their vacation days to look after children or seniors in their family.
Many workers don’t have enough paid sick days or personal leave options, so are saving up vacation days to use instead, she said.
“I think this speaks to the fact there isn’t enough support for caregivers.”
Hasham said employers play a pivotal role in employees taking their full vacation days.
“Employers can make sure employees know they won’t be penalized if they take time off, or that there are enough resources to ensure everything runs smoothly in that person’s absence,” she said. “Organizations that can help workers prioritize healthy work-life habits may contribute to increasing engagement and employee retention levels.”
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