With temperatures heating up it is natural that we all start thinking of that ritual we all enjoyed as kids – the Summer Vacation. Unfortunately as adults we have many more responsibilities than we had in the past and fewer and fewer of us are taking advantage of not just a summer vacation, but ANY vacation. A whopping 75% of Americans fail to use all their vacation time, resulting in over $50 billion dollars in benefits being lost per year.
So what is behind this phenomenon? The U.S. is the only developed country with no minimum protected vacation time, yet the average private-sector U.S. worker receives 16 paid vacation days and holidays yearly. So it isn’t that the time off is not available. Is it that Americans just don’t need vacations or that employers don’t think time-off is valuable? Studies show the opposite to be true; using vacation time drives higher employee performance and productivity, boosts organizational morale, contributes to employee wellness and results in higher employee retention.
Communication and collaboration are the first steps
Both employees and employers have fears, doubts and anxieties regarding the topic; but many of these concerns could be resolved with some prior planning, flexibility and a clear, consistent vacation policy.
Address employee concerns, alleviate fears
Tamara Luzajic reports in her article for Humanity.com that, “The majority of American workers feel guilty about taking a break from work. This is mostly because they are afraid of being left out of important decisions and events during their time off. They are also afraid of the amount of work that will pile up in the meantime. Many are also afraid of being fired.” Even employees at companies which offer unlimited time-off had to ask for guidance in how to ask for vacation and were concerned about how their time-off would affect their fellow team members. A clear policy directly addresses these concerns. It should guide employees to be proactive in organizing their time-off to specific times, such as when others have not requested time-off already or to times of the year when the organization can more readily handle them being gone.
Employer encouragement is required
Employers attitudes, whether expressed or implied, towards time-off could be the largest reason employees feel taking vacation is frowned upon within their organization. “Some employers might feel that managing vacations can be a huge pain – one that they would rather not deal with. They might not have the right tools for managing employee leave requests, leaving them with a constant nagging fear that employee time off will inevitably lead to scheduling missteps, empty shifts and understaffing.”, Luzajic adds. Again, a clear, up-to-date policy (or perhaps implementing some scheduling software) can take away many of these challenges facing employers. “If you’re not encouraging your employees to take time off because you wrongfully assume that you’re saving time and money when your staff is always available, it’s time to realize that that’s simply not true.”
Benefits for both the Employee and Employer
The benefits of taking time-off are plentiful and well-documented. Here are just a few of them:
- Avoiding burnout
- Improved Mental and Physical Health
- Increased Productivity and Creativity
Go forth and vacation, America!
Whether you are just beginning to formulate your vacation policy or you need to evaluate and adjust your current procedures, this article provides a quick primer on how to do both.
“Is Your Company’s Vacation and Holiday Policy Working as Planned?” from PSNW’s July 2017 Newsletter
Why encouraging employees to use their vacation is essential to both their well-being and productivity at work.
“Why Your Company Needs a Vacation Policy” written by Tamara Luzajic for Humanity.com
Even when offering unlimited vacation, this company found employees needed more guidance on when and how it was OK to take time off.
“This Company Is Encouraging Its Employees To Take More Vacations”, from Fast Company
“Vacations Impact on the Workplace” Project: Time-Off