By now I’m sure that you’ve seen the MasterCard commercial loaded with cute kids chanting “One more day!” These adorable kids are bringing to our attention that an estimated 400 million vacation days go unused in America every year. This is an astounding and disturbing number that is certain to have a negative impact on the work/life balance of many American workers.
Not only are Americans not taking advantage of their paid vacation time, according to a survey done by TeamViewer, a leading provider of remote control and online meeting software, 61 percent of Americans planning a vacation intend to work during their vacation time.
Some of you may be thinking what a benefit these dedicated employees are to your organization. Unfortunately, studies have proven that this is not the case. In fact, in 2009 the National Academy of Sciences found that chronic stress may actually shrink your brain, as well as contribute to overall feelings of irritability, depression and continually feeling unfocused. However, annual vacations have been found to cut the risk of heart attack by 30% in men and 50% in women, while also benefiting sleep patterns and connectivity to loved ones. It has also been proven that employees who are well rested are more productive in the workplace.
While the importance of vacation seems clear, many organizations only allow employees to carry over a specified number of vacation days per year. They also limit the number of days that an employee can keep in a vacation bank. It then becomes a “use it or lose it situation.”
In one extreme example, a client of ours found themselves with an employee who had reached his limit of “bankable” vacation time. In October, he was informed that he had approximately 30 vacation days that he needed to use before the end of the year or he would lose them. Because of his workload and responsibilities, he took a combination of a long vacation and a few days off a week. Unfortunately, his frequent and extended absences during such a short period of time caused a level of undue stress on both the organization and his coworkers.
As an employer, do you need to encourage (or perhaps even insist) that employees take advantage of their unused vacation time?
Here are a few ideas that may help you to encourage your non-vacationing employees to take time off to recharge and improve productivity.
- Help your employees understand that you are concerned for their well-being. Share with them studies that show the benefits, both personal and professional of employees taking vacation.
- Institute an Employee Purchase Program that offers payroll deductions for vacation destinations so that employees can plan and save for a vacation throughout the year.
- Encourage employees to share their vacation experiences on the company intranet or bulletin board so that others can see the advantages of taking time off.
- Research and share local “get-away” opportunities on the company intranet or bulletin board that may include coupons or special rates for the organization.
- Model the importance of utilizing vacation by management or leadership taking their own vacations and disconnecting from work while they are gone.
Productive employees are one of the greatest assets of any organization. Ensuring that your employees take advantage of the opportunity to relax and recharge makes not only compassionate sense for your employees, but also good business sense for the success of the organization.