Unless your management style is modeled on Mr. Burns from The Simpsons, you probably want engaged, happy, and productive workers. Since studies show that a business can benefit when employees actually take their vacation time, it makes sense for organizations to reflect on what they can do to encourage their staff to take time off.
There are many reasons workers are reluctant to take time off work. Some of them are personal, but many are directly related to the work environment. When employees are asked why they don’t use up their vacation time, they often mention things like:
- Fear they won’t have a job to come back to if they take a break
- Worry that they’ll be too overwhelmed with work when they return
- Not having enough available vacation time
- Feeling no one else at their company can do their tasks
- Workplace pressure to prove they are irreplaceable, or to remain available even while they are out of office
Yet there are real advantages to your business if you support your employees taking a break from work. Project: Time Off research found employees rate paid vacation as the second most-important benefit, after health care. Yet people feel the work culture doesn’t encourage them to actually use that benefit.
“Two-thirds of employees say they hear very little about [using] vacation time from their companies,” Katie Denis, the project’s senior director told Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM). “That silence creates a vacuum, and we fill that vacuum with our anxieties and assumptions about what our bosses and colleagues could think about our vacation time.”
This leads directly to the first of our suggestions of ways to create a culture that demonstrates it really is OK to go relax and rejuvenate:
#1. Communicate expectations
Project: Time Off found that employees at companies that support vacation are happier at work and more likely to use their vacation time. You can achieve this by making vacation planning a priority. Encourage your managers to let people know not only how much vacation time they have available, but what steps would be taken to support that person’s workload in their absence.
#2. Model willingness to take time off
If your boss never takes a day off, how confident do you feel asking for your own time away from work? As with most areas of business, it’s more about what you do than what you say. Managers need to take time off and set (and follow) boundaries while they are away. This can show employees that the organization truly values time spent away from work.
A Harvard Business Review columnist noted, “Others are more likely to follow when company policies express — and your behaviors demonstrate — what you most value.”
#3. Review your vacation policies
Many businesses have moved more recently to general paid time off (PTO) policies. Moving away from differentiating between vacation and sick time makes time off easier to administer for both you and your employees. SHRM found that this approach to time off also resulted in fewer unscheduled absences, likely because it alleviates the burden on the employee to prove illness.
Offering floating holidays instead of giving people breaks on predetermined dates can also help. As your workforce grows more diverse, people may start to mark holidays that are not on the business’s calendar.
#4. Provide vacation stipends
Yes, really, we’re suggesting that you pay your people to take a break. Of course, this won’t work for every organization, but it can encourage those individuals who are worried about the financial impact of taking a break. A travel stipend program can also help attract talent. Plus, you may see:
- Fewer sick days and reduced use of healthcare benefits
- Greater employee job satisfaction and productivity
- Fewer workers’ compensation claims filed
#5. Revisit vacation duration
Many times people feel they can’t be away from work for an entire week (let alone two!) But if you encourage your people to think about taking shorter breaks more often, they will still get the benefits of rest and relaxation. And so will your business, as you’ll benefit from employees’ improved mood, greater cognitive capacity, and even increased reaction time.
#6. Hold a company-wide self-care day
Returning to the “actions speak louder than words” principle, what better way to demonstrate the value of disconnecting from work for a day than an organization-wide self-care day? Inviting everyone in the office to take the day off, without any pressure to attend training or complete work, can be a good way to model the importance of work-life balance.
You might also create a company holiday. For example, annually celebrating the day your business was founded. Or you can have some fun and give people Day After the Super Bowl off, or mark Food Coma Day the day after Thanksgiving.
#7. Don’t reward work martyrs
You want to reward the people who are stress-free and well-rested. They are more likely to be doing their best work. The work martyr is more likely to lack boundaries, work constantly, and always be wanting to do ‘more.’ This person can be frustrated when they don’t get that bonus or that promotion. Yet, they are more likely also to be irritable, angry, easily frustrated, and resent their colleagues.
Instead, identify your work martyrs and find ways to encourage (possibly even force) those employees to take time off.
Also, it can help to hold one-on-one meetings with your employees to talk about their vacation balance and provide ideas of when and how they could take a break.
Cultivate a culture that encourages employees to take time off by also being a workplace that listens. Understand your employees’ current perspective and what obstacles they face when it comes to taking a break. Want to get started? Request a free demo of our employee feedback solution, SogoEX, today.