The Telltale Signs of Quiet Vacationing

One in eight workers plan to vacation without telling their bosses this summer. But managers are starting to see the signs.

It’s a story that’s become a media sensation: This summer, workers are hitting the beaches (and the mountains and the woods) without informing their bosses. In fact, much to the chagrin of many managers, no fewer than one in eight are taking these “quiet vacations,” according to a Resume Builder survey.

But bosses have read the news stories too, and many are worried: Can they trust their employees anymore? Will workers still get their tasks done? Wouldn’t it be preferable for everyone to just take full PTO and return to work fully rested? Unfortunately for leaders, this is not on the agenda. “There are all these sneaky ways that people are quiet vacationing,” says Deepali Vyas, global head of the FinTech, Crypto and Payments practice at Korn Ferry, whose recent TikTok post on quiet vacationing garnered 1.5 million views and 11,800 comments—many revealing stealth summer plans.

To be sure, lots of employees work from breezy locales without announcing it to colleagues. “Sometimes I hear ocean in the background,” says David Vied, a senior client partner for Korn Ferry.  “They’re relaxed and effective.” But quiet vacationers fail to inform their bosses or to log appropriate PTO. Here are some of the telltale signs that more and more managers say they are noticing:

Virtual Meeting Backgrounds.

Some bosses are noticing videoconference backgrounds showing generic offices or rooms—often long in advance of the vacation. “It’s always a virtual screen, because the employee has to use it before they leave,” says Vyas. In extreme cases, a video can be used during large group meetings: One video making the rounds on TikTok shows an employee sitting in on a meeting and occasionally nodding—on a loop.

Pre-Scheduled Emails and Posts.

Are all emails suddenly arriving at exactly 9:00 AM? Is every LinkedIn post appearing at 1:00 PM? Savvy quiet vacationers use “schedule send” features to write emails and posts ahead of time. “People can post any kind of marketing or thought leadership, and not be in front of their computers,” says JP Sniffen, practice leader at the Military Center of Expertise at Korn Ferry.

Changes in Behavior.

Perhaps an employee stops seeking feedback, or doesn’t ask any casual questions for a few days, or no longer checks in as usual. “If you’re a strong manager, it should be obvious right away,” says organizational strategy expert Maria Amato, senior client partner at Korn Ferry.

Early or Late Activity.

Commenters on Vyas’s TikTok page have noted another tell: a lot of work activity early or late in the day, to make time for that beach trip or hike. “You can totally tell when someone is coming back and being productive, or proposing calls early or late,” says Vyas. A sudden surge before the trip is also common, to set up projects and nail down deadlines—for after the vacation, of course.

Avoiding Meetings.

If a video meeting is requested, many quiet vacationers will subtly request a phone call instead, or try to resolve the issue over Slack. That’s a particular tell if the worker is Gen Z, a group that’s notorious for avoiding the phone. “I’ve heard of people saying, ‘I want to do a walking meeting for exercise, so that’s why I prefer phone,’” says Vyas.

Of course there’s always the post-vacation tell: photos of happy beachgoers plastered all over Instagram and Facebook. “We call that a loud vacation,” jokes John Long, North America retail sector leader at Korn Ferry.   


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