The United States has a bad reputation related to vacation time. Dubbed the “No Vacation Nation” by The Center for Economic and Policy Research, the average U.S. paid time off (PTO) policy pales in comparison to other countries. Furthermore, U.S. employees take less vacation, often leaving paid time off on the table at year-end. A 2018 research study conducted by Northstar Research reported that U.S. employees leave an average of four days uncollected at year-end. And the travel restrictions related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have not helped the situation!
Employers and HR professionals can play an active role in promoting time off usage by utilizing these three strategies.
Walk the talk. Managers set the tone for healthy vacation habits. That means not only using their vacation time but also disconnecting when out of the office. A manager who emails their way through a trip to Disneyland sends a message to their team that staying connected with work is expected at all costs. Managers can model what a solid vacation preparation plan looks like by assigning open projects to teammates and trusting them to take the lead in their absence.
Add vacation planning to onboarding and regular meetings. Day one is the perfect time to start vacation conversations. Tell your new hire how to request time off, set expectations for communications (minimal) while away and how they should prepare others on their team. Let them know how important time off is on your team to boost creativity and avoid burnout. Add vacation planning to your team’s regularly scheduled meetings and check-in conversations. Encouraging open communication on this topic sets the tone that paid time off is a part of normal business.
Reward time off. Yes, you read that right. Don’t just encourage your team to take time off, reward them for using their PTO. Make it easy for them to step away from a busy job. Applaud those employees who are not just taking time off but also doing a stellar job of setting up their out of office coverage. How? Offer a travel voucher or gift certificate to incentivize a vacation. Add employees who use their PTO to a prize drawing. Look for ways to make it a valued activity.
The benefits of vacation are numerous. Time away from work to rest and relax contributes to heart health, engagement at work and decreased stress levels to name a few. Don’t let travel restrictions and health concerns deter you from giving yourself a time out. Time off doesn’t have to be used solely for a trip that requires a hotel room or a passport. Decompressing from work can be done from home – the key is to disconnect from your work responsibilities and reconnect with activities that fill you with joy.
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