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More Than 1 in 3 Government Employees Haven’t Taken a Vacation in Last Year, Survey Says

Public sector employees cite the cost of taking time off as a key reason why they aren’t vacationing.

About 36% of government employees say they haven’t taken a vacation in the last 12 months, according to a survey of 1,000 local, state and federal employees regarding workforce trends.

The survey, conducted in mid-August by Ipsos on behalf of Eagle Hill Consulting, found younger employees in their 20s and 30s (45%) and lower income employees (51%) were more likely to report skipping time off than older, more senior colleagues.

The survey results also suggest public sector employees aren’t fully unplugging even when they do take time off. Nearly one in three (31%) report checking work email and work messages while on vacation, and 7% report continuing to work during vacation. Both factors likely contribute to burnout rates that spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Public sector survey respondents listed three key reasons why they aren’t able to fully unplug—and enjoy—vacations. Nearly 44% cited the expense of taking a vacation as grounds for not taking one, while 34% identified a “self-imposed pressure” to stay on top of work. In addition, 32% cited a heavy workload and 27% reported nobody being available to cover their workload.

“The past several years have been a pressure cooker for many public sector workers, and burnout remains high across the government workforce,” said Melissa Jezior, president and chief executive officer of Eagle Hill Consulting. “It’s more important than ever to ensure public workers are taking time off to rest and recharge.”

Jezior said public sector employers and managers should be mindful of burnout among their employees. The federal government, in particular, already struggles recruiting and retaining young talent, especially in fields like information technology. With increased competition for talent in the private sector, burnout in the public sector ranks could result in losses that aren’t easily filled.

“Public sector employers also are seeing unprecedented challenges keeping their workers on the job amid a tight labor market and competition from private sector employers. Government leaders are wise to foster a workplace culture that encourages public workers to take time off and fully unplug to help alleviate the dual problems of burnout and retention,” Jezior added.