Many Canadians working extra hours to offset vacation time: survey

Canadians are spending more time in the office to make up for the time they take off, according to a survey by ADP Canada Co.

The survey found employees work three extra days to compensate for one week of vacation. More than three in five (63 per cent) respondents said they put in extra time before they go on vacation and 64 per cent said they log the extra hours after they’ve been away from the office.

Survey respondents also said they expect to work 23 hours to make up for vacation time in 2019 compared to 11 hours in 2017 and 21 hours in 2016. Workers aged 18 to 41 said they expect to work even longer hours, putting in 32 hours before and after a one-week vacation. Employees in Atlantic Canada and Ontario work the most overall extra hours compared to those in other provinces.

Read: How can employers encourage employees to take vacation?

“While it’s encouraging to see fewer working Canadians feeling the need to put in those extra hours to make up for their time away, it’s concerning that, for many, vacation time can be as much a curse as it is a blessing,” said Hendrik Steenkamp, director of human resource advisory at ADP Canada, in a news release. 

“Employees should not be penalized with late nights and early mornings for taking their earned vacation. It’s the responsibility of managers to ensure their teams are able to make the best use of their downtime, which means not only providing coverage for when they’re away, but additional workload support before and after their holidays.”

While a little more than half (53 per cent) of Canadians said they’re entitled to four weeks or less of vacation time each year, 51 per cent said they don’t use all of their earned annual vacation time. Also, women (six per cent) were twice as likely as men (three per cent) to say they take none of their allotted vacation time during the year.

Read: Employers advised to discourage staff from taking workcations

What’s more, employees reported having a difficult time disconnecting during their time off. Almost half (44 per cent) said they check work emails or connect with the office while on vacation, while 14 per cent said they’re ready to help out if an issue arises. Workers in the 18 to 41 age range are more likely to stay connected, with 56 per cent noting they always check in and 47 per cent checking in multiple times. Women (46 per cent) were more likely than their male counterparts (33 per cent) to completely disconnect while away from the office.

Read: The benefits of taking vacation days

“The calendar change represents the perfect opportunity for both employees and managers to recommit making the most of their valuable time off,” said Steenkamp. “Organizations can look to update vacation policies, like adopting unlimited or flex vacation, and give managers the tools they need to help make it easier for their staff to get away, without paying for it elsewhere. Fostering a culture that proactively supports its employees’ well-being not only helps increase on-the-job productivity and engagement, but improves retention and helps keep top talent.”

The survey also found 47 per cent of Canadians would switch employers if they received more vacation time, even if all other considerations were the same.