As summer starts to wind down, you may have glanced up from your computer only to come to a startlingly sad realization: you haven’t gone anywhere or done anything cool. All you’ve been doing is working. You took zero vacation days and went to zero beaches. In fact, you don’t even remember the last time you were in a body of water that wasn’t your bathtub.
If this sounds like you, then chances are you’re a work martyr. Our supposedly “entitled” generation may be called a lot of things, but martyr is definitely a new term. According to a new report by Project Time Off, the vast majority of Americans, especially millennials, are not using their hard-earned vacation. The report shows that more than four in 10 – about 43 percent – of all work martyrs are millennials, compared with just 29 percent of all workers identified as such.
What is a Work Martyr?
A work martyr is someone who skips out on vacation in order to show dedication to her job. But this work martyr turns down downtime not necessarily for altruistic reasons.
According to the Project Time Off report, work martyrs don’t take their vacation because: a) no one else at the organization can do the work while they’re away; b) they want to show complete dedication to the job; c) they don’t want to be replaceable; or d) they feel guilty for using paid time off.
Surprisingly, work martyrs actually pride themselves on hoarding their time off. At least 39 percent of employees actually want to be seen as work martyrs by their bosses. And while it seems like a sudden new trend, this self-sacrificing mentality didn’t just occur overnight.
The phenomenon of the work martyr may be attributed to a pervasivepredominant American cultural trend in the workplace: vacation shaming. This is where employees are made to feel a sense of shame or guilt from co-workers for taking a vacation. The 2016 Annual Alamo Rent A Car Study shows that more employed millennials – 59 percent – report feeling a sense of shame for taking or planning a vacation compared to those 35 or older (41 percent).
As if that’s not enough working against us taking a little R&R, employed millennials aren’t just more likely to feel vacation-shamed – they’re significantly more likely than older generations to say they also shame their co-workers (42 percent vs. 24 percent). So how do we stop the vicious cycle of guilt that comes with taking vacations? The answer is simple: we need to stop being martyrs.
Martyring the Work Martyr
We know that being a work martyr and vacation shaming in the end are more harmful than helpful. After all, millennials are the generation that wants work-life balance more than any. That’s why it’s important to shape a healthy work-life culture. It’s time to take more down time and take down the work martyr.
There are countless benefits to having time off including stronger workplace morale, increased employee productivity, and even health benefits. It’s important that millennials and older employers alike take a more active role in encouraging employees to use time off.
Here are three easy-to-implement suggestions to make your workplace more PTO friendly. It takes two to take time off, though, so managers and millennials alike need to work together using these tips:
- Lead by example.
Manager: Encouraging employees to take time off isn’t enough. Take your own vacation days to help set expectations and let your employees see your support when they take their own vacations.
Millennials: Talk openly in the office about vacation days and help set the expectation for everyone to use them.
- Monitor workloads.
Manager: Many employees feel that they can’t take advantage of their vacation days because they have so much work to do. Keep an eye on your employee workloads and help to offset the responsibilities whenever possible. That way, everyone can feel empowered to take time off.
Millennials: Be communicative with your managers and supervisors about your workload. If you’re feeling you’re having to stay late at work and/or increasingly stressed, it’s time to talk to your boss. Talk about some time off, and if you feel nervous about leaving work undone, just be sure to have the vacation conversation in advance. Your managers will see you as mature and responsible when you plan ahead and get your work done so you can enjoy your time off and come back refreshed.
- Adopt rules or guidelines that encourage use of vacation time.
Manager: Consider putting a reasonable cap on how much vacation an employee can accrue before they have to use it. By doing so, employees will have to “use” some of their time in order to earn additional time.
Millennials: Be proactive and ask your supervisors about paid time policies and vacation days. Some states that permit use-it-or-lose-it policies may limit the number of days you can carry vacation days over into the next year, so make sure you know in advance what’s available and plan accordingly.
The millennial work martyr is the obvious result of an overworked, underpaid generation that is drowning in student debt. But in order to be a more productive workforce, it’s critical that we get time away from the office. So, for the first time, First 5 is advising fellow millennials to be a little more selfish. Take your vacation days: you’d be surprised at how much you’re helping yourself and others.