Even though US employers aren’t legally required to provide paid time off to their employees, it’s a benefit that many people take for granted and have come to expect. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70% of small private companies offer paid vacation time. For large companies with 500 or more employees, that percentage reaches 89%. Therefore, paid vacation time plays an important role in staying competitive when attracting potential new hires. It helps attract better talent as well as retain skilled and loyal employees.
Vacation provides employees time to disconnect from work and regain balance in other parts of their lives. This time away reduces stress, promoting mental and emotional well-being. While happiness remains subjective and immeasurable, it clearly affects an employee’s performance on the job, their relationship with their coworkers, and their interaction with clients. Without it, employees become more prone to burnout and vulnerable to resentment.
Not only does vacation boost morale but it also improves productivity and creativity. After a vacation, many employees return refreshed and ready to hit the ground running. Often the best ideas and solutions come after we’ve taken a step back. After vacation, employees have experienced a shift in perspective and may bring a fresh approach to a project and new ideas to the table.
A practical benefit is that you ensure that employees are cross-trained–no job is handled by one “indispensable” employee who can never take time off. This increases the skills and flexibility of your personnel and protects your company. Anything can happen at any time—sickness, death, termination—and you don’t want to be left without someone who can step in and take over the work of any of your employees.
And if an employee does quit? When you encourage the regular use of vacation time, you reduce the risk of an unexpected payout of accrued time when an individual leaves employment. Depending on how long the employee has been with the company and the exact details of your vacation policy, this can be costly.
But offering paid vacation time as part of an employee’s benefits package means little if the culture of your workplace does not support the actual use of that time. Unused vacation time has real costs for your employees, business, and the economy as a whole. Project: Time Off’s annual report, the State of the American Vacation, shows that more than half of Americans left vacation time unused in 2017. They estimate that this unused vacation time had a potential economic impact of $255 billion.
So, how can you create a workplace that encourages the use of vacation time? Having a clear policy in place helps. Make sure your employees know how much time is available to them and the procedures for requesting time off. Does unused vacation time carry over or is it “use it or lose it”? Make this clear. Also communicate your expectations, eliminate the fear that taking vacation will penalize the employee or signal that they’re not committed to their work.
Maintain a system of support that allows another employee to step in and cover for their coworker while they’re away. Monitoring email is a big one—in our constantly connected world, it can be tempting to constantly check-in. But you want to make sure your employees can “unplug” and truly reap the benefits of relaxation.
Finally, one of the most important things you can do is act as an example. Make sure you take vacation, too! Your staff take their cues from you. While it may be difficult to allow yourself time away, you deserve all the benefits we’ve discussed. Your business and well-being will benefit.