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According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 76% of civilian workers had access to paid vacation and sick leave in 2019. 

However, every year a large number of people choose not to take even a single day off, including during the holiday season.  

Aside from the 27.3% that didn’t take any time off, 16.7% took only one or two days, followed by 9.7% with three or four days. Another 10% took five to seven days off, and only 5.9% achieved taking off for eight to 14 days. As for those who got to take 15 and more days off, it’s only 1.9%. 

days off in holiday season

The reasons why differ from one case to the next, but the most common ones are: 

  • No PTO policy in place or no paid time off
  • Fear of being found replaceable
  • Dreading coming back to a mountain of work
  • Inability to disconnect
  • Stockpiling days off.

Highly ranked employees in competitive fields find it especially stressful and more difficult to take a vacation than to work without a break. 

It’s a similar situation with small business owners, who don’t even track work time, and are carrying entire companies on their shoulders. They mostly just have no one to delegate their duties to, so when they don’t work, their businesses have to stay closed thus generating no income. 

Nevertheless, countless studies have shown that taking a break from work is good for both the employees and the company. 

Nowadays called “employee burnout”, and officially listed in the WHO’s International Classification of Diseases, this occupational phenomenon leads to energy depletion and exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job, and diminished professional efficacy. 

Not only that, but it also reflects on the company’s end of the year balance with costs ramping up millions of dollars every year. 

But many managers out there are still wondering how they can take a vacation knowing their employees might not work while they’re gone. 

What Can You Do Before Taking a Vacation?

It’s in the company’s best interest to get ahead of any potential issues that may arise while a manager (or any other staff member, for that matter) is out of the office for a few days. There are a few things, however, you can do beforehand to make sure things run smoothly in your absence without closely monitoring workers. 

Hire the Right Person

This goes back to the very first contact you have with a potential employee - hire responsible people who will be dedicated to working even when their supervisor is not around. 

If you haven’t had any previous contact with a job candidate, and you want to ensure they have a good work ethics, you should make a point of hiring only those people who come with excellent recommendations from previous employers. Provided the information you obtain is true, you will be in the position to employ those with a proven track record of being accountable, trustworthy and able to provide good results even in their bosses’ absence. 

Moreover, your expectations of new hires performing work duties in the same manner and with the same efficiency level as when the superior is in the office will be well-founded. 

Moreover, watching each of your employees as they complete their tasks can also tell you what you can delegate to whom while you’re away. 

When employees are already familiar with the type of work they will have to cover without you, there is a much lower chance of miscommunication and errors than you would get from a newly appointed deputy who doesn’t have a complete grasp on the situation. 

Put Systems in Place

Having the right task management or attendance tracking system in place means you don’t have to police your employees - you always know how they are handling their workload. 

Use this to your advantage when you’re out of the office. 

By establishing a baseline of their productivity when you are near, you will have a clear picture of who is really working and who is playing while the proverbial cat is away. 

Of course, if you really want to disconnect from work or just cannot access the software for monitoring employees (don’t have the time or internet connection), and there are no pressing matters with high stakes, this can wait until you get back. 

Address the Problem

If by chance, checking the systems has revealed that some of your employees have had a slump in productivity while you were away, investigate why via employee computer monitoring software. 

Maybe they weren’t ready to be left without guidance - meaning you should start delegating more to your team members. 

But, if the reason is that they failed to comport themselves in a professional manner in your absence, address the issue in a private meeting. Emphasize that high productivity levels are expected regardless of their having supervision or not and that it’s not only a matter of work ethics but also trust that they are able to simply complete tasks on their own. 

Be Prepared to Discipline

Hopefully, you won’t have to go that far, but if the stakes are high, be prepared to have to fire the person whose lack of work discipline caused serious consequences. Or at least issue an appropriate disciplinary action. 

Ultimately, you must be sure (and employee monitoring can help) that your team can handle your absences and that you can trust them to get the job done properly. 

What Can You Do While on Vacation?

There are ways you can approach taking time off from work or just being out of the office (at a conference, for instance). Here are some of them. 


Barring a family or personal medical emergency, you are probably taking time off work to rest, relax, and recharge your batteries. 

Take advantage of that! 

Turn off notifications from work, don’t read emails, respond to messages, and check in on meetings. 

Of course, if it makes you feel better to glance at the situation via a work tracking software from time to time, just make sure you don’t overdo it. 

Have faith that the people you have chosen to be in your team can hold down the fort in your absence, even if they make a few mistakes along the way. 

It’s your job to lead by example and come back refreshed and ready for work once your vacation is over. 

Work on Vacation

Answering calls, exchanging emails and messages, joining video calls - you’re behaving the same as when working. Why did you bother taking the time off then? 

This won’t get you anywhere, because your brain is wired to expect that next notification and simply cannot rest. The end results will be going back to work even more tired than before taking the vacation in the first place. 

So you should make it clear to your employees that you are available only for emergencies and what exactly that means. Also, give specific instructions that will guide them through resolving other issues without you. 

Implement Time Tracking

Another option is to install a time tracking software that will be your eyes and ears in the office while you’re away. 

You will be able to track employee attendance, productivity levels, and the tasks they are working on. Moreover, screenshots and app and website usage will tell you that they are not browsing their social media or playing games during working hours. 

That still doesn’t mean you should be constantly checking what your employees are doing without you, but at the very least, they will have the incentive to act professionally and responsibly in your absence. 

They may even be more productive with you out of the office - just don’t take it personally. 

How Exactly Does Time Tracking Software Help?

Once you install an automatic time tracking software in your organization, it will record how much time each of your employees has spent on a particular task or activity. Hence, you will have at your disposal accurate and precise information about their attendance and productivity at work. 

Additionally, if you want to track the same thing about your remote workers, there is also a remote employee tracking software to help you out. 

Whether you’re far away from employees or in the same office, you can log into the tracking software of your choice and make sure the projects and individual tasks are on schedule. You can see it in real time or check daily and weekly reports. 

By checking both when you’re in the office and away, you can easily see if your staff’s behavior changes when you’re not around. This information will enable you to implement changes‍ if needed so that you can take time off and not stress about it. 

Finally, this will also lead to a more relaxed and trusting atmosphere in your organization. 

This article was originally written on June 20th, 2016 by Gina Ora. It was updated on June 9th, 2020 by Aleksandra Djordjevic.

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