In America, vacations are often viewed as a luxury rather than a necessity. While workers in every country in the European Union receive at least four weeks of paid vacation each year, paid time off is not legally required in the United States. Among U.S. employees who receive PTO, many days often go unused. In fact, according to one 2014 survey, 59 percent of full-time employees reported they had at least one day of paid time off unused at the end of the previous year. Thirty-five percent reported leaving five or more days unused.
Unfortunately, this tendency to forgo vacation time can actually have damaging consequences. Paid time off—both vacation days and personal time—allow workers to physically and mentally recharge. It helps to reduce stress, prevent job burnout and promote work-life balance. When it isn’t taken, workers don’t reap these benefits—and their productivity and job satisfaction suffers. Ultimately, these results can reduce their employer’s profitability.
Fortunately, there are tactics you can take to encourage your staff to take the time off included in their benefits package. Consider the following suggestions:
- Offer an employer-sponsored vacation purchase program. Lack of cash is a common reason employees cite for not taking a vacation. While some put trips on their credit cards, high interest rates can result in a decade or more of payments if they’re only able to afford the minimum. Most find voluntary payroll deductions made towards discounted vacation options—such as hotels, cruises and all-inclusive resorts—a much more attractive option.
- Set a good vacation example. If management never takes paid time off, employees may believe they’ll be frowned upon if they use their own vacation time. You may want to consider a policy requiring management—from mid-level to the c-suite—to take periodic time away from the office. Additionally, you should prohibit managers and supervisors from discouraging employee PTO and vacation requests or showing favoritism to workers who don’t time off.
- Give extra vacation days as rewards. Whether you choose to award extra vacation days to top performers as part of your employee recognition program or hold an occasional interdepartmental contest with additional PTO as the prize, treating paid time off as a desirable honor can encourage employees to value—and use it—accordingly.
- Change your policies. If you’ve been allowing employees to carry over PTO from one year to the next, or even cash it out when they leave the company, your policies may inadvertently be encouraging them not to take vacation or personal time. A use-it-or-lose-it approach may be more effective if you want workers to get the stress-relieving and recharging benefits of paid time off.
If you’re interested in adding an employer-sponsored vacation purchase program to you benefits package or would like a simple review of your current paid time off policies, we’re here to help. Please contact us with any employee benefit program needs.