It’s time for Millennials to become Generation Unwind 

Jamie Kusack // Contributor 

Abby Aries // Illustrator

Burnout. Most people have experienced it in one form or another. Feeling overworked is a modern epidemic and despite what your Instagram feed may suggest, not everyone is having a fantastic time backpacking through Europe or lounging on the beach in the Caribbean.  

It’s actually quite the opposite: a recent press release from travel site Skyscanner suggests that only 66 per cent of Canadians take all of their allotted vacation time. It’s not that they believe they don’t deserve it; the press release also indicated that 96 per cent of Canadians are of the opinion that taking a break is important to prevent burnout.  

 The culprit seems to be a trend called “vacation shaming”. While the catchy name is new, vacation shaming is not and young people seem to be feeling the effects of it more now than ever. While the last of the Millennial generation is finishing college and entering the workforce and the Baby Boomers are retiring, young people have the expectation that they will continue to work harder—and get less benefits—than the previous generations.  

Vacation shaming occurs when employers or coworkers use guilt and peer pressure to discourage employees using their full vacation time. It’s not an uncommon occurrence, with 50 per cent of Canadians reporting to have felt shamed for taking time off, according to the Skyscanner press release. That number increases for 18-35 year-olds, with 62 per cent of millennials reporting that they have been a victim of vacation shaming. While many of us may feel we’ve outgrown peer pressure, social guilt is still an effective tool to decrease employees vacation time, with only 60 per cent of millennials reporting that they took all of their allotted time off.  

This seems ridiculous for a number of reasons. Life is not about work. No one regrets working less on their deathbed. You should not be made to feel bad about taking time off—especially if it’s time written into your job description. It may sound like the stereotypical “entitled Millennial”, but if people are happier and more productive when they’re given regular breaks and days off, maybe employees should be sanctioned more of both.  

The most pervasive Millennial stereotype is that they are self-centered and expect everything to be handed to them on a silver platter. From personal experience, this could not be less true. Due to this stereotype, many young people feel increased pressure to work through lunch breaks, coffee breaks, past the end of the work day and to not take as much time off as they should. I, myself, have worked through lunch too many times to count. I’ve taken maybe one coffee break in my six years in the workforce. This is a product of working with people who are all over the age of 40. They perceive me as less hardworking, despite taking less breaks and having some of the highest product output. I don’t think this is a rare experience.  

There are reasons to be optimistic though. Life doesn’t begin at retirement, and younger generations seem to be realizing that they don’t need to be done with work for the rest of their lives in order to enjoy it. Happiness and work are not mutually exclusive, as long as you take the time you need to relax and recuperate.  

The work culture itself is not likely to change. Employees are likely to continue feeling guilt and shame and embarrassment for taking time off. What can change is how we respond to this “vacation shaming”. Start taking time off when you need it. If you’re allotted a certain number of days in the year to go on vacation, take them all. If you start doing it, others will likely start too. Be a trendsetter. Productivity should not be valued over people, and I think it’s time to start remembering that. Millennials, though not responsible for the beginning of this trend, need to kill vacation shaming. Isn’t that what Millennials are good at?

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