Why people feel guilty taking time off work

  • Kat Ciesielska
  • January 27, 2023
  • 6 min read

Most of the people feel guilty about taking time off work. No matter their position in company, seniority, or sex. This problem is also familiar to those who are self-employed. Weird, hard to stand feeling of being unproductive, doing something wrong. Are you one of those people? Or maybe you feel that your employees feel exhausted but don’t agree to take a longer break? Let’s think about it for a while.

Why do I feel guilty taking time off work?

If you feel guilty before taking sick days, unfortunately you’re not alone. When it’s all about being physically sick, you can explain it to yourself, but when it’s about mental illness… you just feel guilty about taking time off so much that you simply don’t. Which may and will affect your personal life very soon.

So, what are possible reasons for feeling guilty about using your vacation days or asking for sick leave?

No one can replace you

Some people – like office manager – are unique at every organization. There is just one person responsible for certain tasks – you. And you have a feeling that if you take a time off work, your co-workers will be in trouble.

One day without you will be possible to stand, but more? How about a week? Probably you’ve got a point, but actually, it can’t concern you. There should be procedures to make it possible for you to take a longer break without guilt.

And how to do this in case of self-employment? You have only one option: to plan things ahead. Including possible sick day.

Undone tasks

Your mental health is crying for help. You have stomach bug. Or you just feel dizzy. But you feel guilty about taking sick day because you have some important undone tasks.

woman sits at a white desk and gestures with her hands

You need to realize that no task is more important than a living person. Including you. If your manager doesn’t want to give you vacation days because of tasks… rethink if this is the work culture you feel okay with.

They will think you’re lazy

First, let’s define who are “they”. Are they just work-related personas, or maybe some particular family member who always pushes you hard? Many of us have someone like that in their life. It’s good because it motivates us to self-improvement, but it can also be dangerous.

Don’t cross the line. Time off work is not a reason to create guilt. Taking time for yourself, to heal your body or mind, is not putting you in a bad light. You can be the most productive person alive – you still deserve a break when you feel bad.

👉 Check also our article: What Is Productivity And How To Measure It With Time Tracking

You had too many breaks already

Your physical health isn’t superb? You’ve already taken a few sick days recently, but you feel bad again? Or maybe stress is so high that anxiety hits you over and over again? Guilt is growing in your stomach, and you feel horrible.

You deserve breaks. As many as you really need. Trying to ignore stress and staying productive despite struggle is not healthy for you. It will hit you back, trust me. And it will affect your job anyway because it’s simply not possible to focus when everything inside you screams to stop working.

If you honestly feel bad – mentally or physically – don’t push yourself. Kill that guilt because it’s irrelevant.

The real reason of your guilt while taking time off

All these reasons are pretty work-related, aren’t they? They even sound reasonable when you look at them for the first time. They seem familiar to almost everyone working in full-time job and freelancing.

But there need to be something more about it. Why so many of us struggle that way? Why thinking about taking time off wakes up our guilt?

Because we all were raised this way.

Time spent at work is still seen as more valuable than this spent on you or your family. Poor people are considered just lazy, your job defines your status, much stress is just a norm and money is a sense of being. Friends and family don’t ask about your happiness; when they ask about your job, they ask about your position and salary.

Sounds familiar? 

Life shouldn’t be about job only, though. Life is much more than money, status, and productivity. Time spent with yourself, your beloved ones should be a priority. The job is important, but it’s just a half of you. Not whole.

That’s why we all should from educating ourselves about stress, healthy break and self-respect.

Simply to live a happy life. Not just exist.

What is a mental health day?

brain full of ideas

Mental health is still underestimated, by self-employed, bosses, managers, and employees. Everyone tend to forget that feeling drained can be just a beginning of serious mental illnesses. Too much stress, forgetting about your feelings, chasing money… all these can drive you crazy.  That’s why I decided to give it a whole paragraph. To address these challenges, online therapy platforms like Calmerry offer accessible support to help individuals manage stress effectively.

According to Thriveworks research, over 40% of Americans are affected by post-traumatic job stress. 25% of these people needed a break from career to overcome their mental issues.

Mental health day is not a joke, neither some millennial silly idea. It’s needed as a part of self-care.

Taking time off work to avoid burnout, anxiety, and depression should be a norm. Let’s normalize it. Vacation or physical health shouldn’t be the only reason to ask for some time off work.

How to take care of mental and physical health

Are you still thinking,Why do I feel guilty taking time off work? I guess, it’s not a mystery anymore. We have also found out already that vacation days are needed.

So, what should you do to take care of yourself properly and stay successful at job?

Let’s start from the beginning. Which is… collecting data, of course! You knew that we would come to this point, didn’t you? 😉

Collecting data with TimeCamp

Stress at work doesn’t come from nowhere. Besides micromanaging manager, not integrated team or pathological behaviors like sexism or homophobia, we need to focus on number of tasks and hours you’ve got in work.

Using TimeCamp you will be able to understand how much time do you really spent on every task and if you simply don’t take too much on your shoulders. Sometimes the plan looks easy on paper, but later on… life shows that certain tasks need more focus, are harder to achieve and no matter how you try… it’s impossible to deliver everything on time.

timecamp screenshot

TimeCamp automatically tracks your progress. Simply turn on the desktop app and wait for the data to analyze. You will see how much time do you spent on every activity – including distractions – how many breaks do you really take and how much do you work in general.

You will be surprised how does it look like in reality. Thanks to complex reports, you will be able to plan your work better, and you will have a solid proof of the amount of work you have done already.

Less guilt – more time to rest and maintain your mental health. Sounds like a great deal, doesn’t it?

Wise Planning

If you often feel guilty before taking some time off work, try to plan it. Before scheduling your tasks, estimate how much time you may need for rest. When you think about your month this way, you will be able to plan resting ahead.

TimeCamp will help you with estimations.Learn how to keep track of time and work hours with us and change your life!

Getting the most from your day off

Going on vacation is one thing. Using all free hours in the best way is another. Remember that watching TV or staying in a house full of toxic people won’t recharge your batteries. Even resting, when badly planned, doesn’t work. Also, you can feel growing guilt as you know that this time is used badly.

While having your time off work, relax in a smart way. Go for a walk with family, make some time for writing this novel you’ve been working on so long, talk to your best friends, take care of your feelings, arrange a SPA day, watch a new movie in cinema, visit a theater, walk out your dog, play with your volleyball team… do things that make you happy. For real.

And don’t forget about taking care of your body. After all, it is a temple for your soul.


Now, you know that taking care of your mental health is a part of fair self-care. No matter if you’re your own boss or an employee in a big corporation – always remember about your own needs. End old thought patterns, take a break and rest when you feel low, and stop feeling guilty about it. Focus on your health. Using time tracking software like TimeCamp will help you with monitoring though patterns and prevent too much stress.

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