Remote workers are using less vacation time than non-remote workers

Tom BowenEconomist

We continue to learn about the ways in which remote workers and non-remote workers and work differ. One key question over the summer – the prime time for time off – is do remote workers differ in their vacation habits? Anecdotally, some companies worry that remote workers are more disconnected and less engaged than non-remote workers. One might expect them to be more free in taking time off than their non-remote counterparts. 

We dug into the data from Gusto’s 300,000 businesses and found the opposite; remote workers are more checked into work than non-remote workers. In fact, remote workers are less likely to take vacation time than non-remote workers. And when they do go on vacation, they tend to take less time overall. 

Over the last year, among all workers on Gusto with an active paid time off policy, and across all industries, remote workers took 5.5% less vacation time than non-remote workers. On average, remote workers took 86 hours of vacation time compared to 91 hours for non-remote workers. 

When we account for the differences in industries and company sizes, we find that the effect is driven primarily by two factors. Specifically, remote workers are 22% less likely to take any vacation time at all over the course of the last year. And when remote workers do take vacation time, they tend to take slightly less time off than their non-remote counterparts. On average, remote workers take 2.2 hours less each month when they take vacation time compared to non-remote workers.

Remote workers took 5.5% less vacation time on average last year

Remote workers may take less time because they need it less, or because they are afraid to

Remote workers may be less likely to face burnout and therefore, need less vacation time to stay productive and motivated. Remote workers typically have more flexible schedules, and it’s this additional flexibility that may decrease the need for formal vacation time. For example, remote workers may be more likely to take a workcation, where they travel for fun while working. So instead of working from their home office or couch, their backdrop it’s a beach or the mountains. At the same time, remote workers may prefer the comforts of home, and are able to rest and recharge there without taking vacation from work.

There’s another side to this as well. Remote workers may feel less entitled to taking vacation time compared to in-person workers because they don’t have to be physically present in an office.

Employers can benefit, but be careful

One of the major benefits of remote work is that the flexibility employees receive helps them to better integrate their work and life needs, which helps reduce burnout and increase commitment. Based on this analysis, this benefit accrues not only to employees, but also to employers when remote workers take less vacation time than non-remote workers. If they are doing so because they feel more refreshed and better able to balance work and non-work priorities, this is a benefit on both the worker and employer side. 

But employers should watch out that their remote employees aren’t simply refusing to take vacation because they don’t feel entitled to, or they are worried about the perception that they aren’t as committed or hard-working. Employers should check-in with their remote employees to ensure that they feel empowered to take the vacation time they truly need to recharge, or risk long-term burnout. 


To determine how being a remote worker affects the use of vacation time, we analyzed the vacation hours reported on employee paychecks over the past year and controlled for the worker’s industry, company size, workers’ annual salary, and whether or not the worker is a salaried or hourly employee. 

Tom Bowen is an Economist at Gusto, researching work and business trends in the modern economy. He received his Master’s of Economics from UC Santa Cruz. Tom currently lives in San Francisco, CA.
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