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Stress Management: When is it Time for an Employee to Take a Vacation?

Updated on October 27, 2012
ChrisMcDade8 profile image

Christine McDade is a Human Resources professional (PHR & SHRM-CP) with over 18 years in the public sector.

Saint Augustine Beach provides a great view for a getaway for employees needing a vacation.
Saint Augustine Beach provides a great view for a getaway for employees needing a vacation. | Source

Most employers offer full time employees vacation leave or a reasonable amount of personal leave to take a break from the workplace. Employees choose to take the time in many different ways. Some employees choose to take a day or two in order to bridge a long weekend. Others may choose to take an entire week or more to enjoy a long hiatus from their work life. However, there is a big difference in having the time and actually taking the time off from the job. Many employees who have the time just do not feel comfortable taking it. The hustle and bustle of balancing work and family life make employees feel they just cannot afford to slow down and take a break.

Unfortunately, the very people who need to take a break from the daily grind seldom taken the opportunity to get away. For some, there is a consideration of the cost that is involved to simply take a vacation and travel to a new place for a much needed change of pace. For others, it is more the idea that they just can not afford to get away because there is a fear of what piles of papers on their desks and work nightmares they will return to after the vacation. Everyone can relate to an inbox with hundreds of emails that can come during an employee's absence. Whatever the reason, many employees fail to take advantage of the leave benefit that they earn.

Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque, New Mexico | Source

Signs of Employee Burnout

From time to time, employees need to step away from the work to allow for a break on their nerves. Proper stress management requires recognizing common signs of worker burnout. The following signs are indicators that it is time for an employee to take a vacation:

  • Employee outbursts in the workplace - Employees who are weary or suffering from some sort of mental fatigue are likely to be short or snappy with coworkers. For example, this behavior may present itself in those employees who are usually easy going, and do not normally have a problem interacting with their coworkers. Managers will want to investigate the cause of these outbursts. Their findings may be related to some stress the employee is dealing with at home, work, etc.
  • Completion of a long-term, complex project - Many employees give their heart and soul, as well as their time, to see a project to completion. The effort that goes into the details that complete the project can be very taxing on the employee's psyche. The overall sigh of relief that is expressed can also be a zapping of one's energy and a clear indication of the need for a break from the workplace. Managers will be prudent to suggest to the employee that they may need to take a vacation after such efforts. The employee is likely to appreciate the manager's support in this gesture of suggesting some time off from work.
  • Employee has a personal issue - Personal issues should remain at home but everyone knows it is difficult to leave personal matters completely out of one's thoughts while at work. When there is a personal loss, for example, the employee can come to work faithfully but show signs that they truly are not giving the attention to the work that they know they can give. The death of a loved one, going through a divorce, financial challenges, etc., can place a lot of stress on employees. Leaving the emotions behind when the employee goes to work is nearly impossible at times. Supervisors should be mindful of employees who they know are experiencing a personal issue. These employees will often want to be at work as a distraction, but do not recognize that they are not really ready for that role at that time.
  • Disheveled appearance, general fatigue - Employees who demonstrate a level of fatigue show such mental stress through a lack of care for their appearance. Employees who might be stretched in all directions to meet the needs of family, work and friends might show little time for their own well-being. Some time off to relax might be a worthwhile remedy to recharge for these employees.
  • Vacation balance is unusually large - Some managers monitor paid leave time on the books and notice when a leave time balance is unusually large for a particular employee. For these employees, it is very obvious that they are in need of some time off from the work. A manager who notices these high balances might then also notice some of the others signs mentioned above that these employees are exhibiting.

Managers must be tuned in to understanding the levels of burnout that employees under their supervision are experiencing in their jobs. Whether it is the result of an unusually heavy workload, the participation in a big project, or some personal problems at home, employees reach their threshold for just how much stress they can truly endure each day. The organization's EAP (Employee Assistance Program) should be made available to all employees as a resource or a means to deal with the stress. Periodic wellness seminars presented for employees is another good way to assist the employees with ways to manage stress. Some much needed vacation time is an easy way to assist with employees who need a break.

Abraham Lincoln Home, Springfield, Illinois
Abraham Lincoln Home, Springfield, Illinois | Source

Vacation leave must be used by employees to truly be the benefit that it is meant to be. Policies usually dictate the amounts and how the time is to be taken. However, managers must regulate and regularly monitor its use to make sure employees are reaping the benefit vacation is supposed to provide them. Only superheroes can be all things to all people. For employees, they just need to take a break from time to time.

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A markerSaint Augustine Beach Florida -
St Augustine Beach, FL 32080, USA
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B markerOld Town Albuquerque, New Mexico -
Old Town, Albuquerque, NM 87104, USA
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C markerLincoln Home, Springfield, Illinois -
Lincoln Home, Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Springfield, IL 62703, USA
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    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      This is a helpful hub. Many employees just don't know when to get a rest. Likewise, many employers fail to recognize the time when employees need a break. Great job!