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Most Americans check in at work even while on vacation, LinkedIn survey shows

Many Americans admit they work on vacation
  • Most U.S. professionals say they check in with work by phone or email while on vacation, a LinkedIn survey reports.
  • They cite not wanting to fall behind as the primary reason for engaging with work while away.
  • Experts say this always-on-the-job attitude can be detrimental to workers' physical and mental health.

In the United States, for the gainfully employed, work knows no bounds, even during supposed vacations. Office tasks aren't confined to the office, either: Nearly 60% of workers surveyed by LinkedIn said they engaged in work duties while taking time off, amid mounting pressure to always be on the job.

A striking 59% of workers admitted to checking in with their bosses or coworkers at least once a day while on vacation, despite their placing a premium on time away from work, according to LinkedIn, which used Censuswide to survey more than 1,000 working professionals ages 18 to 74 across the U.S. Nearly one quarter (23%) of those surveyed said they actively engaged with work more than three times per day while on vacation.

There's a generational divide, too: Members of Generation Z, born between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s, had the hardest time disconnecting, with 86% of Gen Z workers said they actively engaged with work while on vacation, according to the LinkedIn survey.

Their reasons for fielding those calls and emails? "Forty-two percent of employees are checking work emails or taking work phone calls mostly because they don't want to fall behind," said LinkedIn career expert Blair Decembrele. A smaller share — 20% — said they feel that no one else is able to complete their work, and 13% said they don't want to miss any opportunities.

Take Friday off

Experts weren't rattled by the findings. "It's higher than it ought to be, but doesn't strike me as inaccurate given what we know about work in America today," said Jeffrey Pfeffer, professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University. "We have a lot of data that shows many workers don't even take vacation, even when they do get paid time off."

Pfeffer cites competition and peer pressure for the daily check-ins, even when workers are entitled to out-of-office time: "You are comparing yourself to your colleagues, so if your colleagues are doing it, you think you have to do it also. There is this norm that has evolved around this," he said.

It's hard to square the fact that more than half of Americans were tethered to their phones while away with how important they said vacation is to them. The same LinkedIn survey found that 73% of workers insist they would turn down a job offer if their annual vacation time didn't meet their expectations. On average, most of the employees surveyed received 16 days of vacation.

The World Health Organization in May classified "burnout" as an occupational phenomenon, describing it as a syndrome resulting from "chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed."

"We need to choose to disconnect and our office culture needs to encourage that as well, and respect it," LinkedIn's Decembrele said. The onus is also on employers to let their employees disconnect: 73% of the professionals polled have been contacted by a colleague while they were on vacation at least once and 49% of them have been contacted on more than one occasion.

1 in 4 U.S. workers don't get paid vacation days or paid holidays

"And unfortunately this is likely contributing to burnout. This type of public conversation is helping to raise awareness of the importance of vacation, and is a step in the right direction,"  Decembrele said.

Pfeffer, the organizational psychologist, highlighted the importance of rest and relaxation. "We would be much better off if we had healthier people, mentally and physically," he said. "You need time off to disengage. You need to refresh, you need to relax. It's not really a vacation if you are checking in with the office every day."

The survey underscored some of the pressures of earning a higher salary. Perhaps it's no coincidence that a larger share of better-paid workers said they stayed at least somewhat connected to work while on vacation, compared to those earning smaller salaries.

Indeed, 93% of those who make $180,000 to $200,000 per year engaged with work at least once a day during vacation, the LinkedIn data show.

"That's one of the reasons why they are higher earners," Pfeffer observed.

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