Why do some employees ‘hoard’ vacation days?

If you’re an employer, or manage a team of people, one behavior you might find taxing is vacation day ‘hoarding.’ This is the practice of intentionally allowing unused vacation days to accumulate, rather than taking them as intended.  

In this issue of The Pulse, we’re looking at vacation day hoarding, why it happens, and proactive measures you can use to remedy it. 

Why does vacation day hoarding happen?  

Employees all have individual motivations behind letting their PTO collect. It comes down to a combination of individual personality and workplace environment. Some common reasons include: 

  • Overwhelming workloads – employees may believe they cannot take time off without falling behind or burdening their colleagues. 
  • Workplace culture – depending on the culture at your company, there might be a perceived attitude against taking vacation days and not being constantly available, which discourages employees from booking time off. 
  • Fear of competition – in competitive lines of work, taking time off can be seen as jeopardizing job security or giving others an advantage. 
  • Fear of future events – employees may prioritize saving vacation days for emergencies or for a future time when they might need them more, such as during a family crisis or illness. 
  • Creating a bank of days – employees may try to save them up for a longer break, if the company policy allows for it.  

Vacation day hoarding can have serious consequences. 

For both employee and employers, vacation day hoarding is a serious concern and should be addressed to prevent consequences. 

For employees, vacation day hoarding can lead to: 

  • Burnout due to lack of necessary downtime. 
  • Decreased productivity. 
  • Health issues. 
  • Strained workplace relationships, as well as relationships with family and friends outside of work. 
  • Missed personal opportunities. 

Employers can feel the effects as well, leading to: 

  • Increased employee turnover due to burnout. 
  • Decreased staff morale. 
  • Potentially reduced output and quality. 
  • Healthcare costs related to burnout. 
  • Legal compliance issues with PTO regulations.  

What can employers do to prevent vacation day hoarding? 

Employers who are noticing PTO hoarding behavior would be prudent to take several steps to remedy this. Or, even if it’s not an issue yet, and you simply wish to prevent it from becoming one, you can try the following: 

  • Emphasize the importance of work-life balance in the company culture. 
  • Lead by example and take regular vacation days yourself.  
  • Clearly communicate the company’s vacation policy and any rollover or expiration rules – if a policy like this doesn’t exist, it may need to.  
  • Remind and encourage employees to plan vacation time in advance, as much as possible. 
  • Provide flexibility in scheduling as much as possible. 
  • Respect employee time off – ensure they can separate from the job. 
  • Address and resolve concerns from employees who are hesitant to use their vacation days – sometimes, reassurance from a superior can go a long way.  

In conclusion… 

Despite it being a common practice, vacation day hoarding can have detrimental effects on both employees and employers. However, by fostering a company culture that respects time off and encourages a work-life balance, as well as implementing vacation day policies, employers can remedy these issues.