Message to Millennials: Stop Being Afraid to Use Your Vacation Time

Contrary to stale claims about being an “entitled generation,” millennials aren’t taking advantage of their hard-earned vacation days.

According to Project: Time Off, a movement to help people understand that taking time off is essential to personal wellbeing, millennials have become a culture of Work Martyrs.

In its latest report — The Work Martyr’s Cautionary Tale: How the Millennial Experience Will Define America’s Vacation Culture — it defines a work martyr as someone who skips out on vacation in order to show dedication to his or her job.

Compared to other generations, millennials are the biggest culprits.

I use the term ‘culprit’ because it’s not a good thing – in fact, Project: Time Off calls the mindset “poisonous.”


Despite this, 48 per cent of millennials do indeed think it’s a good thing to be seen as a work martyr by their boss.

“Millennial workers also want to be seen that way by their colleagues in greater numbers. Thirty-five percent of millennials agree it is good to be seen as a work martyr by their colleagues, compared to 26 percent of Generation X, and 20 percent of Boomers,” reads the report.


While one may question why our wanderlust-filled, “entitled” generation isn’t clocking in those vacation days, it also isn’t too surprising given our ever competitive post-recession work culture in which we’re struggling to stay financially afloat.

The theme of the report is simply that we’re too afraid to put those Air Miles to use and escape the grind for a week or two.

According to the report, a work martyr will go without vacation and downtime because they are worried about being seen as disposable and replaceable, to ease their own guilt, and because they believe that nobody else would be able to efficiently get the job done.

All good reasons, no doubt. But there are also many good reasons for margaritas and palm trees, least of which is to reward yourself for all of your pavement-pounding in the first place.


Yet, taking a vacation or personal days is often associated with a sense of shame.

The Project: Time Off study points to another by Alamo Rent A Car that revealed 42 per cent of millennials are likely to shame their colleagues for taking a vacation (compared to 24 per cent among older generations) – and not in a joking way, either.

If millennials do take a vacation, it seems to be increasingly rare that no work is involved (even if it’s done poolside). And that’s not a good thing, either.

“Too many American workers have subscribed to a philosophy that prizes hours worked over true productivity and a belief that not taking a break will reap greater professional success,” write the Project: Time Off authors. The organization has stressed that not using earned time off can lead to lower productivity and lower work engagement.


Tellingly, millennials are the most likely generation to forfeit time off despite earning the least amount of vacation days (the majority have 10 days or less).

By “forfeited,” I mean days that cannot be rolled over, banked for later use, or cashed out; a total waste of vacation days that could have been spent anywhere but your desk.

At the same time, however, it’s interesting to note that we simultaneously live in a freelance culture with an accompanying “digital nomad” lifestyle. Now more than ever, many millennials who find the prospect of 10 vacation days a year a suffocating can make their own jobs and work whenever – or wherever – they want.

We heard the South of Spain is wonderful in early September…

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