During the first summer of the pandemic, in 2020, almost two thirds of US workers canceled or postponed their vacations. The next year, 2021, was not much better, with Americans averaging about one week’s worth of unclaimed PTO, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
Now, American workers are feeling eager to resume or re-start their vacation plans that had been put on hold, and many workers are rushing to make up for lost time.
More than 87% of Americans have vacation plans in 2022 according to a Destination Analysts survey. AirBnb is reporting summer reservations are a record 30% above pre-pandemic times, and airline flights are absolutely packed. Which is leading to absolute chaos in airports and with baggage, but that is another story.
This has led to employers being placed in an awkward position. If they deny employees well-deserved vacations, they’ll alienate and potentially lose staff. But if they approve too much vacation time, their business could grind to a halt.
In order to accommodate the increase and concentration of employee vacation requests, some employers have had to extend project deadlines and defer some client work and other opportunities until after the busy summer vacation season. In smaller organizations, owners and executives have had to step in to cover for vacationing employees, who after two long years of deferring holidays are taking a well-deserved break.
Travel analysts expect that what’s happening this summer is likely temporary. The volume in employee vacation requests that organizations are seeing isn’t normal—summers weren’t always this hectic—and once people have got those travel urges out of their system, everything will even out again. It may not be until summer 2023 when we see a return to more predictable and normal employee vacation plans.
Until then, it is important for HR and business leaders to remember that their employees are the lifeblood of the organization, and their long-delayed desire to truly take a break and disconnect from the workplace should be honored if possible. These are the people who kept business operating through the worst days of 2020 and 2021, they deserve to be recognized and supported now.
To listen to the recent Workplace Minute, that covered this topic in audio form, please visit hrhappyhour.net.