Quiet vacationing: What’s this summer work trend?

Quiet quitting was a term on the tip of everyone’s tongue over summer 2022 and early 2023, but conversations about the phrase have since lulled. Instead, another “quiet” term is making noise in the corporate world. Enter “quiet vacationing”: the term that describes “hush trips” or secret vacation time workers take without using PTO. 

According to a report from Resume Builder, about 1 in 10 workers have taken a quiet vacation in the past year. The company surveyed over 1,000 corporate workers in May for its analysis.

About 6 in 10 workers said they maintain the facade that they are working a full day by doing things like answering emails, responding to messages, taking phone calls and attending virtual meetings. Nearly 4 in 10, meanwhile, said they didn’t bother.

Why are workers quiet vacationing?

Even though many workers either definitely (68%) or probably (24%) believe their manager supports them taking time off, not all workers use PTO for their time off. Only a little over one-third of workers “always” use their allotted PTO; about 1 in 5 only “sometimes” use their PTO, with 6% rarely and 2% never using PTO. 

Their rationale? Many workers worry that taking time off will impact their job security.

“Workers often fear that utilizing their PTO might project them as less committed to their roles,” Karolina Dacheva, an executive at software company Businessmap told Resume Builder about the report. 

Dacheva also underscored the prevalence of “vacation guilt” or “the fear of leaving colleagues shouldering their responsibilities.” Workers also worry about missing opportunities in their absence, she said.

Anxiety is at the root of this practice

Along with vacation guilt, the report also underscored other forms of anxiety:

  • More than 30% of workers said they were “too anxious” to ask for time off
  • About 30% of workers reported concerns about being laid off
  • More than a third were worried about the time off itself: About 30% said they didn’t want to use that PTO and about a quarter said they didn’t have any PTO to take

Perhaps, now, power has shifted back into the hands of employers: Many workers who changed jobs during the pandemic say they regret doing so. And while filled with regret, workers are staying at jobs past their mutually beneficial expiration date. It may seem as if now, employers call all the shots.

But just like with quiet quitting, workers may be finding ways to recover their time as the scramble for talent relents and the return-to-office tug-of-war continues.

Regarding HR’s role, Resume Builder’s Chief Career Advisor Stacie Haller said that it’s crucial for employers to address these concerns. “When companies extend PTO benefits without addressing these underlying anxieties, it not only fails to motivate but can also erode retention of their most valued employees.”