Work-Life Imbalance: Half of Professionals Cannot Unplug During Paid Time Off

Pretty young woman sitting at table on sandy beach, enjoying fresh coconut cocktail and working on laptop.
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Achieving harmony between your work life and your personal life is a continuous process as the different facets of your life change. Getting to that sweet spot where you can leave work behind and concentrate fully on enjoying your personal life is never easy.

And with work and home blending together to form a more hybrid-type environment for employees over the past couple of years, it is even harder to distance oneself from the daily grind when you are on paid leave or vacation.

When asked “Do you believe you can fully unplug from work when you take paid time off (PTO)?” a recent Fishbowl by Glassdoor survey found that 54% of professionals admitted they were unable to disengage with work when on paid time off.

Fishbowl, Glassdoor’s social networking platform for professionals, asked 20,000 of its members the question and found interesting differences between age groups, industries worked and gender. In gathering its data, it also found growing support for the freedom that unlimited paid time off might bring to those struggling to find a work-life balance.

Poll Findings Across Age, Industry and Gender

Unsurprisingly, Fishbowl found that as one ages and gets more workforce years under their belt, the harder it is to fully unplug from work when they take paid time off.

Working offers the opportunity to grow the company, gain experience and tackle a greater level of responsibility. With those obligations in mind, veteran workers are harder to replace and their duties harder to accomplish when they take time off. Younger workers are perhaps just starting their careers and don’t feel as responsible to their job as they do non-work responsibilities and pursuits.

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Sixty-five percent of professionals cannot (or are unsure they can) disconnect fully from work when they are away, compared to 58% of those aged 36-40 and 47% of those between 21 and 25 years.

When it comes to industry type, according to the survey, teachers (73%) and lawyers (71%) had the most difficult time unplugging from work during their PTO, followed by accountants (59%), financiers (55%), consultants (51%), advertisers and marketers (50% for both), healthcare providers and tech workers (44% for both).  

Both lawyers and teachers spend many demanding hours at their workplace and outside of work (grading homework, preparing statements, etc.) making the lines between work and home for those working in these two professions blurred.   

Across gender, the differences between those who are able to unplug from work while away and those who cannot are small and, as Fishbowl suggests, an unhealthy company work-life balance doesn’t discriminate by gender. The poll found that 56% of males and 52% of females are unable to (or are unsure) dissociate their work life from their home life.

The Case for Unlimited Paid Time Off

Apprehension aside, there is a growing interest and practice among employers to grant employees unlimited paid time off and workers overwhelmingly approve, according to Glassdoor.

The job search and company review site has been looking at workplace discussions involving unlimited paid time off since 2017 and it has found employees want it and employers want to know more about it.

Mentions of unlimited PTO have steadily increased on the job since 2017, and it seems like the pandemic has prompted more people to consider the benefits of this “unassigned” time off structure.

As the survey mentions, 88% of Glassdoor review mentions of unlimited time off discussions have a positive sentiment attached, while 12% are negative in nature.

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If incorporated properly, with distinct work and non-work boundaries set, the advantages of a more flexible work schedule and/or unlimited paid time off may help the growing number of employees unable to truly disconnect from work while on vacation, argues the Glassdoor and Fishbowl study.

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