Mirror, mirror on the wall, who has the best annual leave plan of them all? 4 in 10 American professionals who receive paid vacation time do not use all of their allotted time, according to the U.S. Travel Association and Oxford Economics. Considering that 10 out of 10 employees probably enjoy time off, what prevents hardworking professionals in the U.S. and around the world from using their allotted days?
Company culture is the frequent culprit. Employees often feel that unspoken expectations to work harder and longer override the company’s stated vacation policy, or believe that they’ll leave their team short-handed and come back to a leaning tower of work after returning from the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
The result is overworked and fatigued employees with an unhealthy work-life balance—not ideal for your team members’ mental health or your company’s productivity and retention goals. Thankfully, there’s a way for employees to relax, rejuvenate, and reach your organization’s objectives. Consider this your travel guide to annual leave planning!
Vacation: Good for the Body, Good for the Bottom Line
We all feel better after time off… the birds chirp louder, the sky seems bluer, annoying emails seem, well, less annoying somehow. As the rock band Boston would say, it’s more than a feeling. Encouraging your employees to break out of the day-to-day routine and take some vacation time can buffer job stress and reduce chronic stress, which helps to:
Strengthen the immune system
Maintain heart health
Ensure better mental functionality (memory performance and decision-making)
Plus, sometimes pushing employees away from their desks is the fastest way to keep them coming back long-term; one study shows that team members who take vacation are more 6.5% more likely to be promoted and earn a raise compared to those who leave at least 11 days of unused vacation time on the table.
Other data demonstrates that employees who take vacation time are more engaged at work tend to take fewer sick days, and that happier team members drive 31% greater productivity and 37% more sales. Encouraging your team members to take vacation using the strategies below: so worth it.
1. Start with senior leadership
If employees see their managers working constantly, they may believe that long hours are required of everyone to get ahead (or simply not get fired). Managers and senior leaders, set the standard for taking vacation! Scheduling time off not only demonstrates that self-care should be a priority, but also that you trust your team members enough to step away and leave things in their capable hands.
2. Cross-train to retain
There’s no faster way to undo the positive effects of a stress-busting vacation than coming back to a mountain of work. Cross-training employees to cover for vacationing coworkersensures that all team members enjoy the benefits of time off even after their return to the real world. Not exactly a revolutionary idea but one that most companies overlook. If you want R&R to stand for “return and retain,” then it’s time to arrange a training day!
Tip: If you don’t have enough time to cross-train your team, take a look at your meeting schedule. The typical professional spends as much as 35% of their work week in meetings, many of which are unnecessary!
Don’t allow smartphone slavery to burn out your employees. Develop a culture that encourages healthy work-life balance every day! For instance, implement a no-email policy after 6 PM and during all weekends and holidays to enable employees to unwind, rejuvenate, and come back fresh.
Ensuring that your team members take advantage of vacation time starts with setting the right expectations during onboarding.