'Quiet Vacations' Are The Latest Way Millennials Are Rebelling Against In-person Work | Old North State Wealth News
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‘Quiet vacations’ are the latest way millennials are rebelling against in-person work

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Employees better make sure their Zoom backgrounds are sufficiently blurred—the “quiet vacationing” secret is out. Employees, particularly millennials, are stretching the bounds of remote work, a new report found. Instead of telling their bosses they’re taking time off, workers are playing hooky or going on vacation under the guise of working remotely.

According to The Harris Poll’s Out of Office Culture Report from May surveying 1,170 employed U.S. adults, 37% of millennial workers said they took time off without telling their supervisors or managers.

“They will figure out how to get appropriate work-life balance, but it’s happening behind the scenes,” Libby Rodney, chief strategy officer at The Harris Poll, told CNBC. “It’s not exactly quiet quitting, but more like quiet vacationing.”

Millennials, who make up almost 40% of the workforce, have gone to absurd lengths to give their bosses the impression they’re still working, per Harris Poll’s report. Almost 40% reported jiggling their computer mouses to make it appear they’re active online, and just as many said they sent emails outside work hours to create the illusion they’re working overtime.

“Instead of going at it head-to-head and worrying about if you’ll rustle the feathers of your boss during a tight economic quarter, millennials are just kind of doing what they need to do to take their vacation,” Rodney told Fortune.

But the cost of no ruffled feathers is the baggage of guilt and stress for many of these workers. The Harris Poll’s report indicates that most employees are happy with the number of paid time off they’re allocated, suggesting the desire for quiet vacations aren’t a policy issue, but rather a cultural one. Almost half of the survey’s respondents, including 61% of millennials and 58% of Gen Z, said they feel nervous about requesting time off. Feeling pressure to always respond to work inquiries and guilt about leaving leftover work to colleagues were some of the biggest reasons why.

The desire for quiet vacations ultimately highlights a new form of worker anxiety that has emerged from the pandemic, Rodney noticed. There’s a chasm between the company culture young workers want, and the one their older managers continue to enforce.

“It’s definitely not a healthy system, but it’s a system that is happening with the American worker right now,” she said.

A workplace divided

Despite being four years removed from the pandemic’s onset, CEOs have been steadfast in their dissent over remote work, feeling a loss of control over employee oversight and subsequently, as loss of status as boss. Last October, 62% of CEOs were adamant about all workers returning to the office by 2026, a lofty goal which has since fallen flat. Meanwhile, 90% of office workers surveyed the same month said they weren’t interested in returning to a pre-COVID work culture, according to a Gallup poll.

Further sowing seeds of worker dissent are employees’ finding their bosses’ behavior toxic, with 46% of employees proclaiming their worst boss “incompetent” or “unsupportive,” according to a June 2023 survey from employee insight firm Perceptyx. The workplace divide has resulted in a mismatched culture of workers internalizing the value of work-life balance that the pandemic instilled, while companies tried to maintain the status quo.

“The in-office culture has not shifted, even though our values and the American worker values have shifted,” Rodney said. “The experience and the expectations are almost as if the pandemic never happened.”

Rodney is sympathetic to companies stuck in old ways. In times of economic stress, there’s an inclination to return to prior norms. For employers, this means CEOs enforcing old-guard company practices, like having employees work in-person and discouraging time off, because it’s a model that has worked in the past.

But changes to accommodate the next generation of workers demanding flexibility are happening: Most companies, even with traditional workplace values, have conceded to hybrid work, and employee attitudes are changing, too. For the first time since the pandemic, Americans prefer hybrid  over remote work, a change that isn’t the result of free company pizzas, but rather an adjustment to new norms.

There’s good incentives for companies to continue to adapt. Gen Z is set to surpass the number of its baby-boomer counterparts in the workforce this year, leaving companies with little choice but to yield to its changing demands.

“There’s probably going to be another talent war, where the companies that put Gen Z and millennial priorities on top, and put work-life balance on top—they’re going to be the signals of what attracts that next market talent,” Rodney said.

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