Why Millennials Never Stop Working, Even When We’re On Vacation

 
photo by Daria Kobayashi Ritch

photo by Daria Kobayashi Ritch

We set our auto-reply email to OOO, yet we can’t stay away

You know how people keep insisting that this generation is a bunch of lazy narcissists concerned only with the avocado toast right in front of our faces? Well, add this study to the file of counterarguments calling bullshit on that tired trope: staffing firm Accountemps recently conducted a survey that found 62% of workers ages 18-34 check in on their work situation once or twice a week during their time off.

We strongly desire more flexible work schedules, and 44% of women surveyed said they feel like they don’t have enough time off. And yet when we do get away, we can’t really stay away. Why is that? 

Chalk it up to FOMO + anxiety + crippling fear of the workload that awaits your return: 54% reported that they feel the need to know things are under control in their absence; 53% cited the need to know their projects are making progress; 47% are trying to lessen the amount of work they’ll come back to; and 34% feel guilty that they might’ve left their colleagues high and dry. Contrast this with previous generations, who didn’t have the ability to constantly be plugged in; they had no choice but to soak up every ounce of sun and margarita sans distraction, allowing them to come back to work refreshed and recharged.

 

Americans suck at taking vacation

As such, Millennials may be risking the efficacy of hitting that “reset” button on the beach if we never really embrace that OOO auto-reply. But if this is you, don’t be too hard on yourself; our culture has some serious hang ups when it comes to taking time off. Last year, 54% of employees didn’t use all their allotted time off, giving up 662 million vacations days collectively, according to the U.S. Travel Association’s Project: Time Off, and women were even more relentless, taking 4% less time off than men. It’s largely due to a disconnect between management and employees: Over 80% of managers surveyed believe vacation time for their employees significantly improves their well-being, but 66% of employees believed their company was ambivalent or discouraging when it comes to the concept of peacing out for a while. But skimping on time off is bad for everyone involved, according to the study, which found that “employees who forfeit vacation days and prescribe to the work martyr attitude are less likely to have received a recent raise, bonus, or promotion.”

The takeaway? Try not to stress so much about taking time off. Your boss may not be sending you sale notifications for flights to Aruba, but they do get that you need to go on vacation. And if checking in every once in awhile after you get there manages to make you feel less stressed, you do you, but try and keep it to a minimum by allowing yourself only to engage with work during a designated (and small) window of time. If you have a mail app on your phone that checks all of your accounts at the same time, take your work email out temporarily, so you have to manually log in to check your work email. Lose yourself in a podcast or in a book or at the bottom of a pint glass and let yourself live up to that lazy Millennial stereotype for once.

-Deena Drewis