Vacation Guilt

Photo from Daveferguson. org: Ferguson Family

If the mentality of those around you and possibly even your higher-ups is that you are lucky to have a job in this economy, how do you take much-needed personal or even vacation time without being overrun with guilt?

It is a well-known fact that United State residents take far less vacation time than any other industrialized nation. (A table on Paid Vacation Around the World can be found here and an article from Business Week on how much of available vaction time United States Residents take can be found here.)

As it is getting any time off approved in the first place can be a battle, especially with dwindling department sizes. But for your own mental health and for the good of your personal work, taking time off is important. But how can you feel like you aren’t letting people down while you are away?

I’ll be upfront and say, I don’t have the answer. I have some suggestions, but no clear-cut answer.

When I take scheduled time away, I try to make sure all pertinent projects are completed. Any projects that will be coming due shortly after I return are at least started and I have a list of what will need to be done first thing when I get back. Additionally, I make sure my supervisor knows exactly where I am in these projects so that if any one needs a status update while I am away, he has the information on hand.

These steps, don’t keep me from feeling guilty while I’m gone. I try to consciously not think about it and focus instead on enjoying the time with my friends or family. I don’t check in, unless I know I need to for a specific reason. That being said, I’m lucky. I’m not in upper or middle management and don’t need to make sure other people are accomplishing tasks in my absence.

How do you prepare for a vacation? And assuage the guilt from leaving your co-workers behind?

12 thoughts on “Vacation Guilt

  1. As a former Catholic, I have a lot of guilt, about everything. I feel guilty if Neil has a bad day, if my cat remotely looks at me with the feeling of neglect. So vacations are huge for me. I sit in guilt for weeks beforehand. Trying to “up the ante” so to speak. I work double-time for weeks, trying to “earn” it somehow.

    I’ve worked in two different types of work environments, those that prey upon such guilt to get more productivity, and those with so much flexibility I worry that it has a dark side.

    1. Jessica,
      I agree there needs to me a middle ground. You already “earned” the vacation by working so working extra doesn’t add up, but then again if the office doesn’t care that you aren’t going to be there, then how do you know you are wanted in the first place?

  2. Hmmm… vacations.. I like them… However, it is my philosphy to always be available for work – at least via email and text. In the long run, I believe it speaks to your reliability and character….. providing you have the right type of boss who will not abuse as such.

    1. Travas,
      I don’t know too many people who don’t like vacations. Even just a day here or there to recharge is wonderful.

      I see your point about being accessible, but how do you draw the line between a true emergency and something that can wait? Obviously, you have a boss who respects that line, but for those who have co-workers wired 24/7, how do you address it without seeming negative?

  3. I rarely go on vacation. 2 reasons:

    1. My husband gets no paid time off. We can’t afford for him to take off with no pay. I get very nice vacation/sick benefits at my university I work at but it sucks when your husband has none. Don’t want to spend my time off @ home by myself. I currently have 7 weeks of sick built up and 4 weeks of vacation.

    2. No one can do my job but me. My boss doesn’t want me to train anyone as a backup. That puts guilt on me that if I take time off stuff doesn’t get done. And Murphy’s Law is that I can sit here for 3 weeks and nothing happen but the 1 day I leave the shit hits the fan and everyone needs something. My co-workers have no problem calling me on my cell and sending me emails to do things while I am on vacation.

    1. Karen,
      Does that on-call mentality keep you from relaxing? Or really enjoying your vacation? If you get such little time with your husband away from the daily grind of work, don’t you want to spend it enjoying time with him instead of answering crises from the office?
      I’m curious how you handle that added stress.
      If you could take all 11 weeks off at once, what would you do? Where would you go?

  4. I wouldn’t say that the on-call mentality disrupts my vacation but I just think it’s disrespectful. These are the same people that want their vacations honored. Mostly it is piddly stuff that is only important to them and could wait until I got back in.

    11 weeks off. . . . . the world. In reality, I’m waiting to win the lottery because I want to travel the world.. . . every bit of it. Or, I’m waiting to be a kept woman. I could SOOOOO be a kept woman and then I could travel!

    1. Karen,
      No worries. I think I am of the mindset that I would like my vacation honored. I wouldn’t call a co-worker if the printer wasn’t working on her vacation. Now if some thing major happened that I would want to know, of course I will call and hopefully leave a voicemail.
      Winning the lottery sounds great! Though I’ve heard you actually have to play to win.

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