As with everything now, there’s a new term that describes what I am: a foodie traveler – someone who travels for food. As such, I value (and take) every one of my vacation days. I have used my vacation days to taste crawfish in New Orleans, crab cakes in Maryland, smoked ribs in Texas, and pasta in Italy, with time for sight-seeing. Even at this moment, I’m researching top BBQ restaurants in North Carolina for an upcoming trip. But, I appear to be in the minority.
According to a study from Project: Time Off, 54 percent of Americans did not use all their vacation days in 2016. That left a total of 662 million unused days. Reasons employees gave related to concerns about their employer’s perception of them, including:
- Fear that taking vacation could make them appear less dedicated at work (26%)
- Do not want to be seen as replaceable (23%)
- Worried that they would lose consideration for a raise of promotion (21%)
However, the managers surveyed in this study agreed:
- Improves health and well-being (82%)
- Boosts morale (82%)
- Alleviates burnout (81%)
- Improves employees’ focus upon return (78%)
- Renews employees’ commitment to their job (70%)
Where’s the Disconnect?
The same study discovered that two-thirds (2/3) of American employees receive none, negative, or mixed messages from their company about taking time off. A majority of managers recognize the benefits of taking time off, but many do not engage with their employees about vacations. This lack of communication creates an unintentional “vacuum where negative perceptions thrive”. In fact, 76 percent of employees said if they felt fully supported and encouraged by their boss, they would be likely to take more time off.
Why Should This Matter to Employers?
“Why should I care if my employees don’t want to take any time off? It’s their decision.”
There are many reasons why employers should care that their employees take time off. There are benefits to both the well-being of the employee and the company’s bottom-line.
- Improved Productivity: Logic says employees are more productive when they’re in the office working and not on vacation. Yet working for long periods without time off hurts concentration, creativity and productivity
- Improved Health and Well-being: Taking a break lets employees recharge, reduce stress and lower the chance of developing depression or heart disease. This can help cut down on sick days and employee burnout
- Increased Job Satisfaction: Project: Time Off’s State of American Vacation 2016 found employees whose bosses supported vacation were more happy with their jobs.
- Reduced Liability on Company’s Balance Sheet: In 2016, there was a $272 billion vacation liability sitting on the balance sheets of American companies. With employees not taking vacation and rolling their unused paid time off to the following year(s), this liability continues to grow.
What Can Employers Do?
Employers and managers have a significant role to play in ensuring that their team members take time off. Here are some things you can do:
- Engage Your Employees About Vacation: Talk to your team. Ask them about upcoming vacations or plans. Discuss the value of taking some time off. Let them know that you are supportive of it.
- Take Time Off: There’s no better way to lead than by example. Start taking time off and your employees will follow.
- Limit Carry-Over of Paid Time Off: A hard deadline for using vacation days may encourage more employees to take vacation now instead of continuing to push it off.
- Reward Employees with a Day Off: After the completion of a huge project or a busy season, reward your hard-working employees with a day off so that they can recharge.
Go Big or Go Home
Some companies have implemented company-wide policies to ensure that their employees take time off. Here are examples of what some companies are doing:
- TED closes for two weeks every summer.
- Salesforce offers seven paid volunteer days a year to employees.
- HubSpot enforces a minimum two-week vacation for all employees. Salespeople are allowed to reduced their quotas twice a year so that they feel comfortable using their two-week vacations.
- SteelHouse offers $2,000 a year for their employees to use for travel expenses for vacation.
If you’re still eyeing that cruise to Bermuda, now might be the time to take it. For me at least, I know there are definitely some Las Vegas buffets in my future.