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Employee Paid Time Off – A Right or a Privilege?

Mar 23, 2022

With Spring Break season in full-swing, a change in scenery is at the forefront of many people’s minds—especially working professionals. Requesting time off from work can be intimidating and stressful for many people due to workplace expectations and personal fears of falling behind. As working professionals ourselves at GroupSolver, we were curious to see how a variety of employees feel about taking time off from work and how their personal opinions and attributes intersect with their decisions to utilize their vacation days.

We distributed a study to 200 professionals to discover their attitudes towards their allotted Paid Time Off (PTO), as well as their feelings towards their workload and maintenance of their work-life balance. Here is what we found.

Maintaining a good work-life balance is essential to most working professionals, but many are unable to achieve it

Finding time for activities outside of work is essential when trying to avoid burnout and general exhaustion, and our respondents seem to recognize this. When asked how important a good work-life balance is to them, 92% identified it as being important.

Importance of work-life balance chart

Even though most agree that there is value in allocating enough time for things outside of their career, our findings show that some are not able to achieve it. When asked for their level of agreement with the statement “I have the time to do all of the things I want to do in my personal life while in my current job position”, 35% of users disagreed. This disconnect between recognizing the importance of work-life balance and not being able to fulfill it exists for many employees and has the potential to lead to further workplace dissatisfaction and burnout.

When asked what thoughts or feelings come to mind when thinking of their personal work-life balance, digital users said things such as “Overwhelmed” and “It’s important to take time away from work”. Additional responses can be seen in the IdeaCloud™ below.

What thoughts or feelings come to mind when you think of your work-life balance?

Employee work life balance thoughts and feelings ideacloud

There is an even split between those who feel guilty asking for time off work and those who do not

It can be difficult to overcome feelings of guilt when asking for time off work, especially when starting at a new company. This can stem from a variety of things, but some common concerns are that taking this time off will make you fall behind in your responsibilities or cause an inconvenience for the people you work with.

When asked their level of agreement with the statement “I feel guilty asking for time off of work”, It was a fairly even split between users who said they do and do not agree (45% disagree, 43% agree). When asked what word or phrase describes how they feel when they make a request for time off, most had positive things to say such as “Deserving” (62% total support strength), but a few said things along the lines of “I feel guilty because we are short-staffed” (42% total support strength).

Level of guilt taking time off work chart

Women are more likely to experience feelings of uncertainty when requesting time off work

Let’s dive deeper into this issue of guilt. It has been found that generally, women experience higher levels of stress in the workplace than men. This finding is reflected in our study when we asked the question, “What word or phrase describes how you feel when you submit a request for time off?”. Males were more likely to agree with more positive statements such as “I am usually confident that my request will be approved” (83% male expected support). On the other hand, women were more likely to agree with more negative sentiments such as “Like it’s a burden” (53% female expected support). These statements are highlighted in the IntelliSegment™ graphic below.

What word or phrase describes how you feel when you submit a request for time off?

Requesting time off feelings Intellisegment

These answers indicate that many respondents are torn between feeling a sense of entitlement towards their allotted PTO and feelings of guilt, and this disparity is associated with gender in our study.

Working professionals reveal that requesting time off is not as easy as it seems

Taking time for yourself is important no matter what industry you work in, but our study found that a lot more goes into the decision of whether to use your PTO hours than just simply requesting it. Factors such as workplace etiquette, gender norms, and moral battles are all obstacles that working professionals often need to overcome when making a request to go on vacation. Utilizing PTO hours is well within the rights of most workers, so creating an environment that encourages employees to take time for themselves may help to make de-stressing feel less like a privilege and more like a necessity.

Check out the rest of our findings in the graphics below!

  • feelings of burnout graph

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