How employees really feel about asking for time off during the holidays

Are employers checking their PTO list? They may want to check it twice, according to new data, workers may be leaving vacation days on the table during the holidays because they feel uncomfortable asking for time off.

More than half of employees (51%) feel uneasy about asking to use their paid time off during the holidays, according to a new survey of more than 2,000 employees from consulting firm West Monroe Partners. This discomfort was even more prevalent in smaller companies with smaller staffs, where employees work more closely with their managers and colleagues.

Michael Hughes, managing director at West Monroe Partners, says part of the reason employees are so nervous about asking for time off is the expectation that they have to be available 24/7. An employee may also be concerned they will appear to be slacking if aren’t in the office with many companies being short staffed to begin with, he says.

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“With the war for talent, people are being asked to do more and more because either they’re shorthanded or can’t find people,” Hughes says.

Also see: To work or not to work: the expectations when using PTO

Nearly two-thirds of employees working in the banking sector felt uncomfortable asking to use their PTO, according to the survey. Although Monroe Partners did not specifically review why this might be the case for banking, Hughes says he thinks that, like other service industries, bank employees often have to work during the holidays to attend to customers.

Banks were hit hard during the 2007 economic recession, he adds, and some have been cautious about beefing their workforce — forcing current employees to carry heavy workloads. But, he adds, this is fairly common across many industries.

“I think it’s something that impacts industries across the board,” he says. “[But] just based on the study banking is one that sticks out.”

West Monroe Partners recommends companies close the office on days other than just federal holidays and accommodate for remote working or flexible scheduling.

Training managers to fairly process PTO requests may also be necessary, the report notes. Managers can do a better job of having open conversations with employees around PTO and job satisfaction.

Despite worker’s anxieties, employers should communicate the importance of taking time off during the holidays, Hughes says. It’s good for workers to get time to rest, he adds. If employees are unhappy in the office, it will likely trickle down to the customer experience.

“A lot of it is just personal health,” he says. “If you give people the opportunity to recharge, they’re going to be more productive when they’re happy.”

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