Quiet Vacationing: The Silent Retreats that Pave Way to Quiet Quitting

Posted by Mai Hoai Thu on

You may be familiar with the phenomena of the Great Resignation and quiet quitting, but now a new trend dubbed "quiet vacationing" is making waves in the corporate world. Is this just a passing trend, or does it signal a deeper issue that HR professionals and managers need to address together? 

Read more: The Future of Work from Gen Z & Millennials' POV: What Numbers Tell Us 

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Quiet Vacationing: The Silent Retreats that Pave Way to Quiet Quitting

What is "quiet vacationing"? 

Imagine going on a vacation, but discreetly and without informing your employers. You still appear to be working remotely, but in reality, you are taking time off work. This is essentially "quiet vacationing." 

The term was coined by Harris Poll as a result of their recent survey about "out-of-office culture." The survey reveals that 4 in 10 people were taking time off without telling their bosses. 

To maintain their online presence, quiet vacationers would: 

  • Deliberately move their mouse or use tools like mouse jigglers and fake message software. 
  • Schedule messages, answer emails, or complete tasks outside of normal working hours, giving the illusion that they are working overtime or during non-traditional hours. 
  • Take paid time off without submitting a formal vacation request or informing their superiors. 

Read more: Diversity and inclusion in the world of remote work 

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The rationale behind quiet vacationing 

According to another report by Resume Builder: 

  • 1 in 10 workers admitted to engaging in quiet vacationing practices within the past year. 
  • 6 in 10 participants consciously upheld the appearance of working a complete day by responding to emails, joining virtual meetings, and engaging in phone calls. 
  • 1 in 5 quiet vacationers used a virtual office background to hide their actual location. 

This raises the question: What motivates individuals to engage in such behaviours? 

While the motivations behind quiet vacationing may vary among individuals, several underlying factors have been identified as potential catalysts for this emerging trend. 

In the same Resume Builder report, these factors stem from concerns/ fears about: 

  • Taking a vacation day could impact their perceived work ethic (38%) 
  • PTO requests are being rejected (35%) 
  • Reluctance to use their allotted PTO (35%) 
  • Job security (33%) 
  • Not having any available PTO (30%) 

Another 33% also admitted to secretly taking time off due to anxiety about requesting leave. 

Additionally, the prevalent issue of "vacation guilt" adds to the reluctance to take time off, as individuals feel uneasy about burdening their colleagues with their absence. This unease stems from the fear of missing out on opportunities or falling behind in their professional pursuits while away from work. 

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A symptom of a changing workplace? 

The rise of quiet vacationing can be attributed to the changing dynamics of the modern workplace and the evolving expectations of employees. 

One of the primary drivers of this trend is the increasing emphasis on work-life balance and the desire for greater flexibility in the workplace. As the boundaries between work and personal life continue to blur, employees are seeking ways to manage their schedules and prioritise their well-being without compromising their professional responsibilities. 

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has played a significant role in shaping the way we perceive and approach work. With the widespread adoption of remote work and the normalisation of flexible schedules, employees have gained a newfound sense of autonomy and control over their time. 

This shift in mindset has contributed to the rise of quiet vacationing, as employees feel empowered to take breaks without necessarily adhering to traditional protocols. 

Moreover, the prevalence of burnout and workplace stress has further fueled the desire for respite and self-care. Quiet vacationing offers employees a covert means of taking a break from the demands of their jobs without the need to navigate the formal processes or potential stigma associated with requesting time off. 

Read more: Fatigue, Exhaustion, Disengagement in A World of Working From Anywhere

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Quiet Vacationing: The Silent Retreats that Pave Way to Quiet Quitting

Will quiet vacationing eventually lead to quiet quitting? 

While quiet vacationing and quiet quitting are distinct phenomena, there is a potential risk that prolonged or excessive engagement in quiet vacationing could lead to a gradual disengagement from one's work, ultimately paving the way for quiet quitting. 

Quiet quitting, a term that gained significant traction during the COVID-19 pandemic, refers to the practice of employees intentionally limiting their efforts to the bare minimum required by their job descriptions, effectively disengaging from their work, and refusing to go above and beyond their prescribed duties. This behaviour is often a response to burnout, a lack of recognition, or dissatisfaction with job conditions. 

Read more: Why Your Employees Are Leaving You (Besides Salary) 

The connection between quiet vacationing and quiet quitting is rooted in the underlying sentiment of disengagement and the erosion of commitment to one's job. When employees consistently take unrequested time off through quiet vacationing, it can gradually diminish their sense of investment and dedication to their work, potentially leading to a more profound form of disengagement—quiet quitting. 

Both trends, while distinct, share a common thread: they involve employees setting boundaries and prioritising their well-being over the demands of their jobs. However, quiet quitting represents a more severe and sustained form of disengagement, with potentially significant consequences for both the employee and the organisation. 

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How should employers react to the trend to pave the path forward? 

As the trend of quiet vacationing continues to gain traction, employers face the challenge of addressing the underlying issues that may be driving this behaviour while simultaneously maintaining productivity, trust, and a positive organisational culture. 

Addressing the root causes 

One of the most effective strategies for employers is to proactively address the root causes of employee dissatisfaction and burnout, which may contribute to the desire for quiet vacationing. This can involve: 

  • Encourage open and honest dialogue between employees and managers, fostering an environment where concerns and needs can be expressed without fear of repercussions. 
  • Regularly assess workloads and ensure that employees are not overwhelmed or overburdened, which can lead to burnout and the need for covert breaks. 
  • Implement systems to acknowledge, recognise, and reward employees who consistently go above and beyond to foster a sense of appreciation and motivation. 
  • Promote and support initiatives that prioritise work-life balance, such as flexible schedules, condensed workweeks, remote work options, and generous time-off policies. 
  • Provide access to mental health resources and promote a culture that destigmatises discussions around stress, burnout, and self-care. 

Find out why the Great Resignation Requires a Great Reflection

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Monitoring and feedback 

In addition to addressing root causes, employers can employ various strategies to monitor and gather feedback on employee engagement and satisfaction levels, allowing them to identify potential issues before they escalate. 

  • 360-degree feedback: Comprehensive feedback systems that gather input from multiple sources, including peers, subordinates, and supervisors, can provide valuable insights into employee engagement and potential areas of concern. 
  • Engagement surveys: Conducting regular, anonymous employee engagement surveys can help employers gauge the overall sentiment within their workforce and identify areas that may require attention. 
  • Open-door policy: Fostering an environment where employees feel comfortable approaching management with concerns or suggestions, without fear of retribution, can help identify potential issues before they become entrenched. 
  • Data analysis: Leveraging data analytics tools to monitor employee productivity, attendance, and performance metrics can provide valuable insights into potential disengagement or burnout patterns. 

Read more: Selecting Raters for a 360-degree Feedback Process 

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Fostering a supportive culture 

Ultimately, cultivating a supportive and positive organisational culture is crucial in mitigating potential risks. Some strategies include: 

  • Leading by example from the leadership and management teams model the desired behaviours and values, promoting a culture of accountability and respect. 
  • Establishing employee resource groups or affinity groups to provide a supportive community for employees to connect, share experiences, and advocate for their needs. 

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The emergence of quiet vacationing and its potential connection to quiet quitting serves as a wake-up call for companies to reevaluate their approach to employee engagement, work-life balance, and organisational culture. While these phenomena may seem like temporary challenges, they highlight deeper issues that must be addressed to create a sustainable and thriving work environment. 

Ultimately, the path forward lies in a collaborative effort between employers and employees, where open communication, mutual understanding, and a shared commitment to creating a supportive and engaging work environment are prioritised.  

By addressing the underlying issues that contribute to quiet vacationing and quiet quitting, organisations can cultivate a motivating, engaging, and dedicated workforce to achieve collective success. 

Are you an employer or HR professional seeking to stay ahead of the HR curve? Subscribe to our blog for regular insights, strategies, and best practices to take your talent management game to the next level.

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 Rick Yvanovich
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