‘Vacation Shaming’ Is Preventing Many Canadians From Taking Their Holiday Time

Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw

As a nation, Canadians value their time off work. According to a new study commissioned by travel company Skyscanner, 96% of Canadians say it’s important for them to take time off work.

Of course it is. But are they actually taking the vacation time they’re entitled to? The survey says no: just 66% take all of the time they’re owed – which may be attributed to a rising workplace trend called “vacation shaming.”

The study of 1,000 Canadians and 500 Americans, conducted by research firm Maru/Blue, showed that 50% of Canadians have experienced vacation shaming, wherein co-workers or bosses use guilt or peer pressure to discourage employees from using their vacation time. The trend is most prevalent among millennials, with nearly two-thirds (62%) saying they’ve encountered vacation shaming in the workplace.

When it comes to vacation shaming, not all provinces are created equal. Regionally, Quebeckers and British Columbians are least likely to have experienced vacation shaming, at 26% and 41% respectively. Trends differ south of the border, too, with only 57% of Americans taking all their vacation time, and 58% saying they’ve experienced vacation shaming, 8% more than Canadians.     

“Many of us assume that taking time off will negatively impact our career trajectory, but evidence suggests employees that take their vacation have increased productivity, creativity, and decreased stress and risk of burnout, making them more likely to get promotions and raises,” said Dr. Lisa Bélanger, a behaviour change expert who specializes in helping employees maximize their mental and physical well-being. 

“Ultimately, the payoffs are significant for both the employer and the employee.”

In pursuit of rest and relaxation, the process of requesting time off can be a stressor itself. Millennials across Canada are most likely to feel nervous, stressed, worried, guilty or ashamed when asking for time off work (33%), compared to Gen X at 17% and Boomers at 12%. They were also least likely to say they use all their vacation time, with only 60% taking all the time they’ve earned.

When asked why they don’t use all their vacation time, Canadians cited several concerns, including being too busy at work (22%), being unable afford to take a vacation (17%), and not wanting to have more work waiting for them when they get back (8%).

“While employees can take steps to ensure they take their vacation, the onus is on the company, leadership and managers to support their teams in taking their vacation time by modelling appropriate vacation behaviours, setting expectations of how vacationers should be treated, and creating a supportive culture,” added Dr. Bélanger. “In fact, companies can use their vacation promotion strategies to attract and retain better talent.”

“Despite the proven benefits of taking time off work, the reality is that due to vacation shaming or perceived lack of affordability, not everyone feels empowered to take their vacation time,” said Tahiana Rodrigues at Skyscanner. “Skyscanner makes it easier to turn ‘vacation shaming’ into ‘vacation claiming’ by offering an affordable range of flight, hotel and car rental options for every traveller.”

Bruce Parkinson

Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief

An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.