According to a report from the U.S. Travel Association, Americans are taking less vacation time than at any point in the last four decades. In 2013, employees took an average of 16 vacation days, compared to 20.3 days in 2000. This equals a loss of 169 MILLION days of Paid Time Off (PTO) across the workforce in 2013.
Experts say there are lots of reasons why employees are using fewer and fewer vacation days:
- Worried about work pileup after vacation is over
- Fear of being viewed as a slacker or uncommitted employee
- Leaner staffing due to employee cutbacks, which leads to bigger workloads
- ‘Device addiction’ – having the need to always be in work mode because of technology (mobile phones, tablets, video chat conferencing)
The reality is that more time working and less time vacationing doesn’t result in more raises and more bonuses. In fact, the U.S. Travel Association reported that employees who left 11-15 vaca days on the table were less likely to receive a raise or bonus than those who used all their vacation days.
The other reality is there are big benefits to using vacation days. Researcher Mark Rosekind of Alertness Solutions shares that employee performance can increase by 80% after taking a vacation. And according to one of his studies, the reaction times of returning vacationers increased 40%.
So what can managers do to encourage employees to turn out their office lights and venture to vacationland?
- Start a “use it or lose it” vacation policy. Don’t let employees accrue vacation days by rolling them over from one year to the next.
- Give bonuses. It’s true – some companies are starting to dole out bonuses to employees who use up all of their paid time off.
- Encourage mini vacation breaks. Some employees find it tough to take a whole week away from work, for the reasons mentioned earlier. But they might be agreeable to taking a ‘mini’ vacation break, like a long three or four-day weekend. Encourage employees to take time off in smaller bits, as they might find that pill a bit easier to swallow.
How else can you encourage employees to use their vacation time and find a better work-life balance? Comment below.