Sidestepping Rest: U.S. Employees Working on Time Off


It shouldn’t be like this. 

Americans are working themselves to the point of burnout.  The stress caused by overworking  affects our mental state with elevated levels of cortisol. Effects can come in the form of feeling overwhelmed, lack of concentration, difficulty making decisions, and even depression or aggressive behavior. 

The main culprit: working during time off. 

We’re checking work emails while on vacation, finishing projects during sick leave, and sadly even attending to work tasks on parental leave. The data team at MyPerfectResume wanted to get to the bottom of how prevalent these behaviors are with a study of 1000+ U.S. employees. 

The study unearthed details regarding: 

  • How often respondents worked on vacation
  • The negative effects of working while on time off
  • Why employees felt the compulsion to work rather than relax
  • Who worked on vacation the most 
  • The health risks experienced due to working on sick leave

Read on to find out the unsettling nuggets which came out.

Not Switching Off Means Burning Out

Time to unwind is necessary for our wellbeing.  Not unplugging equals poor health and lack of connection with family and friends. 

Our obsession with “hustle” and “putting our nose to the grindstone” means a workforce that’s overburdened and will most likely need sick time to recover from stress-related illnesses. 

On Vacation

The study uncovered that a shocking 82% of respondents worked on vacation. Out of those who worked on vacation, 87% answered questions from coworkers while on vacation and checked work messages.

About 8 out of 10 answered a phone call from their boss during vacation. 

A shocking 91% of women said they check work messages, while 83% of males did. 

Working while on vacation has negative effects on the workers. The respondents were asked, “What was the main negative impact?”  

Nearly 40% selected, “missing time to relax/have fun” and there was a near even split between respondents citing “missing time with family” (25%) and “added stress” (26%).  

There was also a significant gender difference in the stress caused by working on vacation—29% of the women in our study felt that working on vacation caused added stress vs. 23% of men.  

On Sick Leave

Being sick means your body and mind need to focus on getting better, not worry about the unfinished report or sales targets. Whatever your job, it’s important to use sick leave for its purpose: to rest and take care of yourself. 

Unfortunately, many Americans are working even when their bodies are asking for a break. In the study, 40% had worked when on sick leave.  The study found that younger employees worked while on sick leave less often than older colleagues. 

Working while on sick leave has the unwanted result of undoing the very purpose of sick leave. 

Not surprisingly, 56% said they felt that working while on sick leave had a negative effect on their health. 

Most reported that stress was the main negative effect. 

Unfortunately, 21% reported that their condition had become worse. This means more sick leave and lost productive hours, which is a financial loss as well for the employer. 

On Parental Leave

Workers are often at the mercy of their bosses.  Nothing exemplifies the dark side of this more than the fact that three quarters of parents reported that their boss had contacted them to do work while on parental leave. 

A stunning revelation was that almost half (45%) felt “glad that their boss wanted their help. 

It’s nice they wanted to help their boss, but the picture painted by the stats sadly is that babies’ milestones were missed by 37% of parents attending to work while they should be bonding with their new bundles of joy. 

Wrapping Up 

U.S. employees need more rest. 

The study uncovered just how much work was taking place during what should have been a time of rest and rejuvenation.  

The study wanted to determine what the motivation was for working during time off. 

Pressure from bosses and colleagues? A strong work ethic? Striving to get ahead?  

What could possibly motivate workers to work when they should be resting?  

The study asked the survey takers why (on Earth!) they’d want to work on vacation, sick leave, and parental leave. The most common answer (37%) was, “I just like being on top of things.”

Unfortunately, “being on top of things” means not being on top of your own mental and physical health.  Putting work before one’s right to relax will only backfire into more sick time and burnt-out employees who cannot deal with the stress. 


Jen Pieniazek is a digital writer and career expert at MyPerfectResume. Her passion for helping others achieve their career goals is what inspires her advice pieces. With extensive experience in educational management and intercultural communication, Jen aims to help people from every background to find their perfect job

Leave a ReplyCancel reply