Back in December of 2019, the upcoming year seemed to be the luckiest. From Valentine’s Day landing on a Friday to Cinco de Mayo coinciding with Taco Tuesday, the 2020 holiday lineup was everyone’s dream. But almost immediately after the new year was rung in, 2020 took a turn for the worse. COVID-19 altered every aspect of our lives, and its impact on the holiday season is beginning to show.

With a surge in COVID-19 cases across the nation, states tightened restrictions in preparation for Thanksgiving. At the same time, the anticipation of Christmas and the new year has left many wondering whether they should celebrate or just wait until next year. While officials warn against traveling for the holidays, that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve a break from work. Are companies taking advantage of the lack of holiday celebrations and shortening time-off policies, or are businesses extending 2020 sympathy and increasing the allotted time off?

We surveyed over 1,000 full-time employees to see how time-off policies for Thanksgiving and Christmas have changed and how employees feel about it. Keep reading to see what we found.

Policies Through the Pandemic

The United States falls behind other countries when it comes to paid vacation for employees, and if anything could make it more obvious, it’s 2020. The year of staying inside has made people want to go out more than ever before, and in a dream world, companies would recognize the much-needed time off. Unfortunately, 54.1% of employees said their company policy on time off around the holidays hadn’t changed at all, with nearly 30% reporting policies actually became more restricted.

Holiday Time Off Policy During COVID 19

Unsurprisingly, those who worked for companies that increased time-off restrictions were the most likely to be unsatisfied with their job. On the flip-side, nearly half of employees facing fewer restrictions said they were satisfied. But it isn’t just restrictions playing a role – it may also be job level. Senior managers and executives planned on taking the most days off, with an average of 7.1. Senior-level employees followed with an average of 6.3 days, while entry-level or associate employees planned on taking just 3.9 days off, on average. Across all levels, though, employees were allotted more time off for Christmas than Thanksgiving.

No Time Off

Even if companies are generous with their time-off policies, a whopping 61% of employees had plans to work during the holidays this year – a trend likely fueled by an increase in remote work and the job market’s uncertainty during the pandemic. Across job levels and generations, entry-level associates and millennials were the most likely to take advantage of the break and say no to working through it. Nevertheless, millennials were also the most likely to plan on working a lot and not taking time off at all.

Working for the Holidays

Although this year should be easy to take a break from, 54% of employees said they were apprehensive of asking for additional time off. The reason? Nearly 40% of employees said it was hard to take off during the holidays because they don’t want to fall behind on work, while 36.6% were worried about taking too much time off. Other common reasons for apprehension were having the available time due to not seeing family this holiday season, worrying about getting fired, and increasing chances of a raise. As if COVID-19’s impact on the workforce wasn’t evident enough already, it’s clearly seeped into personal lives, making employees let work-life balance fall to the wayside.

Not So Merry Morale

Given the plethora of side effects, there is also a lack of high morale across the workforce this holiday season, no matter the number of days off. Compared to employees working for companies that gave one to two days off for Thanksgiving, employees given more than five days off were only 1.6 percentage points more likely to report high morale. Similarly, more than five days off for Thanksgiving resulted in only a 3.6 percentage point difference than those given one to two days off, among those more likely to report somewhat high morale.

How Company Days Off Translate Into Employee Morale

Days off for Christmas meant significantly more to employees: While 7.6% of employees receiving one to two days off reported high morale, nearly 16% of those receiving more than five days off for Christmas reported high morale. But more than five days off just isn’t enough for many employees. When asked about the ideal length of time off needed to recharge, 42.5% of Gen Xers and 37.6% of millennials said they needed at least a week. Baby boomers, on the other hand, were fine with just a few days, with 5.8% not needing any time at all. The older generation may need less time to recoup due to experiencing less stress throughout the pandemic. Despite being at an increased risk of severe cases of COVID-19, baby boomers seemed the least worried about the pandemic.

Much-Needed Break

The 2020 holidays were supposed to be a once-in-a-blue-moon season, but COVID-19 has left most employees apprehensive of taking time to enjoy them. While some companies are increasing restrictions on time-off policies, more generous ones are being met with employees who feel too guilty to take the time allotted or ask for any extra. With the pandemic’s uncertainty, the apprehension and dedication to working through the holidays makes sense, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that we all could use a break. All we have to do is take it.

About Skynova, Inc.

Skynova provides online software that makes it easy for businesses to produce and keep track of necessary documents like invoices, accounting, and time sheets. Besides our services, we also produce in-depth articles about various topics to help our customers stay informed. While we mostly cover business or workplace topics, our articles often include intersections of technology, politics, sports, and health. Our projects are based on statistical, research-backed surveys conducted by ourselves to ensure readers get the right information from a potentially new perspective.

Methodology and Limitations

We surveyed 1,005 full-time employees ranging in age from 18 to 71 with a mean age of 38 and standard deviation of 11 years. Around 2.5% of our respondents identified as Generation Z, but were not included in generational analysis due to insufficient sample size. 58.5% were millennials, 28.7% were Generation X, and 10.3% were baby boomers. Outliers were removed from days-off data, which were numeric write-ins that differentiated between company days off and additional days employees requested off.

Survey data has certain limitations related to self-reporting. These limitations include telescoping, exaggeration, and selective memory. We didn’t weight our data or statistically test our hypotheses. This was a purely exploratory project analyzing employee time off during the holidays.

Fair Use Statement

The holidays are fast approaching, and we could all use a reminder to take a much-needed break. If you know someone who could benefit from this study’s findings, feel free to share it with them for noncommercial purposes. All we ask is that you include a link back to this page so that our contributors receive proper credit.