• Sunday Sanctuary

Managing Holiday Guilt

With holidays taking up a tiny portion of our working year, it seems strange that many of us suffer from huge doses of Guilty Holiday Syndrome. Hesitation around even discussing vacation time, taking paid leave, or nerves in the days leading up to time off itself seem to be a work-place norm, but making space for yourself should never be a source of negativity. We've collected some ways to begin banishing that guilt, so the next time you have a vaycay planned, you don't even blink when booking it in.



So, why do we feel guilty for something we're legally entitled to? Research shows that 67% of people in the UK feel guilty for taking PTO (Paid Time Off), and one in four Americans feel the same. The main reasons behind feelings of guilt are a nasty mix of:

  • Not wanting to burden others with your workload

  • Worrying that others will not do your work as competently as you

  • Not wishing to go away during potentially busy periods


Having KPIs or OKRs measured by time rather than quality can add additional pressure if you feel your goals need to be achieved sooner to meet expected targets.


We don't even need to say it, but time off is unbelievably healthy for both our mental as well as physical wellbeing. Whether it's getting vitamin D, spending time away from a desk, not sitting down for 8+ hours a day, and generally becoming more active, holidays are good for us - and those around us too. Vacation time means that we're able to spend time with loved ones, see and experience new places, and take time for our hobbies... there is no personal drawback from taking time off. Not to mention, well-rested employees are happy, productive employees too.


With a few tricks up our sleeve, we look to banish the emotional baggage that comes with packing actual baggage for your holiday:


Create a Water-tight Handover

Create a list of daily tasks, and write them out them in order of importance. For more complex jobs, one-off projects, or potential ad-hoc requests, make sure someone else is trained to use the software you use, or know their way around your shared files, so that they don't come knocking whilst you sip on a piña colada. Creating a handover sheet leaves both you and the people in the office with a sense of security in case a situation comes up, and the truth is, more often than not, it won't.


Plan Ahead: Work & Play

Don't leave everything until last minute. When it comes to your workload, take a look at your calendar two weeks in advance to prioritise any tasks that need doing before you leave, and make a game plan for those on hold; either pass them onto a colleague, or communicate to your boss that they'll be ready when you're back. Ditto if you feel bad about the time of year you're taking off; make sure to communicate this in advance, check your colleagues' holiday calendars, and make sure no huge projects begin/end during this time.


OOO means OOO

Make it clear that you won't be contactable when you're away. Leave your work phone behind, switch off your emails, create a polite but firm OOO message, and generally give off an aura that says 'leave me alone'.


If You're a Manager - Lead by Example

Your employees won't want to relax if you're not showing them that you can. Managers should behave compassionately, both towards themselves, and towards those they mentor. By taking time off, switching off, and making sure you rest too, you'll likely foster a healthy work environment where people can be honest, feel relaxed, and therefore work harder and better.


Final Note

If you're still feeling a little angsty about taking time off work, book some time in with your boss to get your feelings off your chest. Your managers are human too, and it's more than likely that they can't wait to get away for some R&R either. Be the first to burst the bubble of insecurity around paid time-off, then sit back and truly relax.