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Not Totally Suspension… Vacations are good for employers

July 27, 2016


I’m a very hard worker.  In fact, I find it a little hard to take time off from work and I have to remind myself that everyone does or should, take a break from the job.  Vacation time, sick time, personal time are critical to a balanced work and personal life.

Some people think I’m uncomfortable taking time off because I’m the owner of the business.  But that’s not the reason.  Even before I owned and operated a business, when I worked for other companies, I didn’t usually take all my available time off.  I was young and ambitious and, for most of that time, I didn’t have a family.  And guess what…I wasn’t any different than most American workers.

We Americans work more hours each year than most other industrialized nations.  Yet we take fewer days off per year.  In fact, a recent study estimated that in 2015, 658 million vacation days were not used.  In other words, employees were entitled to take those vacation days but didn’t.  The previous estimate of unused vacation days was significantly lower than this.  Previously the estimate was 429 million days.

So why don’t people use all their vacation time?  The reasons for this are pretty basic.  Many people feel their workload is too heavy or that their workload will pile up while they’re away.  Some are concerned their absence will be a hardship to their boss and/or coworkers.  Others worry that they’ll be seen as a slacker or, worse yet, that they are not really needed at all.  And the economic downturn know as the Great Recession is still fresh in the minds of many; a time when job security was tenuous and most of us were happy just to have a job to go to.  Whatever the reasons, allowing employees not to take all available vacation time may not be the best practice for your company.

There have been quite a few studies to show that vacations are important and I could quote many facts and figures to support that theory.  But as a business owner or a manager here is what you really need to know:

  1.  Vacations lead to higher employee moral.  Not sure why this matters?  Well consider this, happiness is contagious;  employees with higher moral tend to spread it around.
  2. Higher morale leads to better employee engagement and happiness which can help cut down on employee turnover; for employers, turnover is costly in terms of both dollars, time, and lost productivity.
  3. Employees who take vacation are more productive, exhibit greater creativity and have measurably higher sales.  All of which are a direct benefit to your bottom line.
  4. It’s no secret that vacations can reduce employee stress which may help control or improve common ailments including sleep disorders, mood disorders such as depression, cardiovascular disease and musculoskeletal complaints.  A recent estimate claims that stress and its resulting health issues may cost American businesses up to $300 billion due to things such as higher absenteesim and reduced productivity.
  5. And speaking of cost to employers, if your company carries over vacation time from one year to the next, you could pay for this year’s vacation at next years salary; a pay rate that might be higher.
  6. Finally, vacations add to the economy in general.  Remember those 658 million unused vacation days from 2015 I mentioned before?  The study estimates that if all those vacation days were used it could have added $223 billion in spending to the economy.  Let’s take that a step further, that additional spending could have created 1.6 million jobs resulting in an additional $65 billion in income for Americans.  Let’s face it, everyone benefits when the economy grows.

Ascent to the Prince Albert Refuge, Mont Blanc, Le Tour Chamonix France

So as a business owner or manager what should you do about this?  Most experts agree that as “the boss” you should strongly encourage your employees to take their vacation time and to feel comfortable about it.  After all, it’s not much of a vacation if you feel guilty about being away, right?

Here are some tips to help you achieve full vacation:

  1.  Set a clear policy on the amount of vacation time to which employees are entitled.  In recent years it has become somewhat popular for companies to have an unlimited or “open” vacation policy, leaving it up to each employee to decide how much vacation they will take.  This may sound generous but it could backfire; trying to decide on the appropriate amount of time off can be stressful for employees.
  2. Business owners and managers should lead by example and take a vacation every year.  If employees see the boss get away,they will be more inclined to get away too.
  3. Openly discuss vacations and the importance of taking time off from work to relax and recharge.  Some managers are so proactive that they will question their employees  who don’t take a vacation.  In some companies the employees are offered a cash bonus as an incentive to take time off.  And some companies give a stipend to help employees afford to “go on a vacation”.
  4. Be supportive when employees request/take a vacation.  Make the scheduling as easy as possible, ask about their vacation plans, and ask how the vacation was when he/she returns to work.

To recap, we all need time to relax and “recharge our batteries”.  Though encouraging employees to take vacation may seem counter intuitive, as a business owner or manager you will reap benefits from a fair and firm vacation policy.



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