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Summer Vacation Outlook 2012: All Work and No Playa del Carmen?

American worker dreaming of summer vacationFor many American workers, the recession has turned dreams of barbeques on faraway beaches, swims with faraway dolphins, and vacations with faraway children to… more work at the office?

It’s true — many workers are reluctantly saying “no” to their annual vacation, according to CareerBuilder’s annual summer vacation survey among more than 5,000 full-time workers and more than 2,000 managers, and instead choosing (or being forced to settle for) bright office lighting over natural sunlight.

It appears that bosses, however, are finding more time for getaways than their workers: 81 percent of managers have taken or plan to take vacation this year, compared to 65 percent of full-time, non-managerial employees.

INFOGRAPHIC: Summer Vacation Outlook

Five years of fewer vacations

While it’s a positive sign that the number of American workers who have already taken or plan to take a vacation this year (65 percent) is up from 61 percent in 2011, the number of Americans packing up the car for a family vacation still falls well below pre-financial crisis levels: To give a little more perspective, back in 2007, 80 percent of full-time workers either went on vacation or expected to take a vacation that year. Long story short: A lot has changed in five years — and when it comes to work/life balance, not necessarily for the better.

The vacation situation

Though the outlook is a bit better than last year, vacations are still financially out of reach for many Americans. One in five workers (19 percent) say they can’t afford to go on vacation, down from 24 percent in 2011. An additional 12 percent of workers say they can afford vacations, but have no plans to take one, consistent with past years.The duration of vacations has also been shrinking post-recession: This year, 17 percent of workers took or planned to take a vacation for ten days or more, down from 24 percent in 2007.

As Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, points out, it’s  not only managers’ responsibility to help their employees with work/life balance when it comes to vacations, but it’s also advantageous for a productive work environment:

“Managers may be more likely to afford vacations, but they should still be encouraging their employees to use paid time off, even if they are staying close to home. Workers who maximize vacation time are less likely to burn out and more likely to maintain productivity levels. Heavy workloads and financial constraints can make it difficult to get away from work, but even if you’re not traveling far from home, a few days away can have have a very postive impact on your health and happiness.”


Slide into your recliner with your favorite summer cocktail and see how other American workers are faring when it comes to vacation time:CareerBuilder's Employee Summer Vacation Outlook 2012

What else can you do to make sure employees enjoy their vacations?

The first step is encouraging employees to take that vacation, obviously. Once they’re on it, though, your job as their manager doesn’t end. Help them enjoy their vacation by prioritizing what needs to get done before and after they’re gone, so they don’t feel so overloaded (and can actually enjoy their time off). Consult with them on what work is most important, and what can be eliminated or put off until they return and catch up. Some projects or tasks may be able to be jump-started early in anticipation of a vacation, and others may not be so vital.

If you’re communicating with your employees and setting up expectations upfront that both parties agree upon, there won’t be surprises later — and employees won’t have to spend all year turning their cubicle into a surfing hot spot and wishing the water cooler into a poolside bartender.

As an employee or a manager, are you taking a vacation this year? Have you noticed that most of your peers are doing the same?

Amy K. McDonnell

About Amy K. McDonnell

Originally hailing from Ohio, Amy is the editorial manager on the content services team and has been with both CareerBuilder and the city of Chicago for nearly a decade. She writes on a range of recruitment topics on The Hiring Site, striving to bring a dose of clarity and humor to sometimes complicated issues around employee attraction, engagement and retention. When she's not working, Amy spends as much time as possible reading, pretending to be a chef, writing short stories, eating Nutella out of the jar, waiting for CTA buses and trains, going to see her favorite bands live, and spending time with people who inspire and challenge her.


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