Experts explain the reason your boss is desperate for you to take vacation right now

In normal times, the summer months would be the time to take some vacation to destinations far away from the office. Every week or so, someone returns from a far-away place with a fresh tan and the Monday morning meeting would be the time to sit and awkwardly listen to your coworker brag about how refreshing it was to escape to a tropical locale, or brag about a summer’s walk along the Seine.

But with travel banned outside of the US, workers aren’t using their vacation – and that has managers worried about burnout and a possible end-of-the-year PTO surge.

The Wall Street Journal reported companies are urging workers to use their paid time off now to help keep workload steady as remote working options continue due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Citing a poll conducted by software company Zenefits, the study found that only 63,000 vacation requests were logged between April and May. That number is nearly half of where it was during the same time a year ago, where around 120,000 requests were placed.

With most companies not rolling over vacation into the next year, it becomes a tricky situation work both workers and employers to navigate. What exactly is the purpose of a vacation when there’s nowhere to go, or really nowhere to escape? Places outside your state seemed like options until a recent surge in COVID-19 tests has placed travel limits and even mandatory quarantine if you travel to places deemed unsafe.

If stay-at-home orders are lifted, companies predict that it could spike PTO requests, the report said. Robby Kwok, an executive at Slack, told the Journal that he’s worried about a late-year surge in time-off, which could prove problematic when someone has to work during the holiday season.

“I think it’s possible later this year when shelter-in-place gets lifted, we might see a surge in people taking PTO,” Kwok said in the report. “The last thing I would want to do is say, ‘Hey everyone, I know you all want to go on vacation, but only 10% can go.’”

On the other side of the PTO-quarrel is for those who’ve used time during quarantine for family needs such as childcare or care for others, the Chicago Tribune reported. That creates a tough situation as the year continues where employees who’ve burned time in the unprecedented time no longer have days, well, to actually rest.

An interesting nugget from that report is how companies are offering alternatives to PTO:

Companies are trying to mitigate the impact by capping the amount of leave employees can take during certain periods, offering to cash out PTO and allowing more vacation days to roll over into next year. Some are setting up programs where employees with excess leave can donate it to those without enough.

Mostly, employers are encouraging workers to take breaks now, not only to fend off a deluge of requests at holiday time but also avoid burnout during a very stressful year.

Some ideas for managers to consider: cap off time-off requests in the fourth quarter so everyone gets a fair chance at taking some time off.