This story is a guest contribution from Deputy, a global workforce management platform for employee scheduling, timesheets, and communication.
Hard-working and dedicated employees are important for any business. No one would argue with that. Yet, what happens when your best employees need time off? Do you encourage them or worry about whether the team can operate in their absence?
Placing the responsibility of your entire operation on these individuals creates unnecessary pressure for both parties. Instead, aim to build a self-running process and let employees take a vacation when they need it.
Why Vacations Are So Important
Every person needs a personal life outside of work. As a manager and HR leader, you should be well aware of that. By taking paid time off (PTO) regularly, your employees will enjoy:
- Greater productivity: Time off, even if it's not for a vacation but to dedicate some time to yourself, increases the productivity of your employees. Remember that long hours don't necessarily equal a well-done job.
- Better physical and mental health: Taking time off will reduce your employees' stress and prevent burnout. The health and well-being of employees are directly related to improving employee performance.
- Greater creativity: Companies like Google and 3M offer employees time off as “innovation time.” These policies have led to the invention of services like the Post-it Note and Gmail.
- Reduced stress and burnout: A study on mental health by FlexJobs and Mental Health America showed that 75% of people experienced work-related burnout. Regular time off decreases the chances of that happening.
- Feeling appreciated: Being allowed and encouraged to take some time off is an excellent employee retention strategy.
Why Employees Are Cautious About Using PTO
Taking time off promotes a healthier work-life balance and prevents burnout — plus, happy employees will always be more productive at their jobs. So, why aren't employees taking their well-deserved time off?
1. Fear of punishment.
Have you ever feared that someone will step up and do your job faster or better if you take time off? Do you feel like once you're away from your workplace, you no longer have control over what happens?
This mindset can lead to insecurities and ultimately dissuade people from taking time off altogether.
2. Work tasks piling up
Another common fear of employees is their work piling up if they leave the office for some time. Here, we return to the importance of having processes that run even when your key players take some time off.
A good HR manager has sharp absence management skills and trained backup staff each time the main guru leaves the office.
3. A judgmental culture.
When senior management doesn't not take any time off or has zero information about vacation policies, you have a company culture that discourages taking time off.
Instead of creating tension by overworking your employees and making them compete for the longest hours, try to build a company culture of trust. Encourage employees to take time for themselves, and you'll be rewarded with increased productivity and creativity.
4. Stockpiling vacation days.
Many employers allow for an unlimited rollover of paid vacation days, giving employees an excellent excuse to keep stockpiling. But, unfortunately, this practice can have adverse effects on your employees' mental health.
Additionally, it can prove costly for you as an employer as well. Imagine if an employee asked you for compensation for five years of unused PTO at once?
5. A desire to prove their worth
According to research by EY, two in five millennials who don't take regular time off say it's because they want to show their dedication.
That may seem like a good way of proving your worth, but it may have the opposite effect. According to EY’s research, for each ten vacation hours a person took, their average performance ratings were nearly 10% higher.
6. Waiting to “cash out” vacation days.
Many companies offer monetary compensation for unused vacation days. Due to this, some employees choose not to use any time off and instead exchange it for financial compensation.
How to Encourage Your Team to Take Vacation
Today, it's not enough to just let your employees take a vacation, but you need to encourage them to do so. Here’s how.
1. Reassure them they won’t be punished or judged.
The first step to dismissing any negative perceptions about taking time off is to reassure your employees that their jobs are safe. The fear of being replaced or overlooked for projects or promotions is a potential factor preventing your employees from taking time off.
2. Limit vacation day rollovers.
Limit the rollover of unused paid leave days. That helps send a clear message to your employees that taking time off is a must. If you don't do that, you may be encouraging employees to stockpile their paid leave.
3. Build a supportive company culture.
Instead of a judgmental culture, create a friendly and supportive culture where everyone cares for each other's personal and professional well-being. There are many employee engagement techniques you can use to do that. Taking time off shouldn't be frowned upon but encouraged.
4. Be an example to follow.
Lead by example. When HR leaders, managers, and the executive team never take time off, that influences how employees think about PTO. If you’re trying to encourage team members to disconnect, start by taking a break yourself and encouraging them to follow suit.
5. Offer a vacation when it's needed.
Pay attention to your employees. Are some of them overworked or coming across as burned out? If so, maybe they need some time off to recharge. Listen to your employees and learn what they need to perform well.
6. Don't contact employees on their days off
Once you've given your employees days off, don't keep on trying to reach them. Let them have a rest without any responsibilities. Only contact your employees if it's something urgent. Otherwise, respect their private lives.
7. Cover workloads.
Don’t let your employees refuse to take PTO for fear of work piling up. Reassure them that you’ve covered their workload and the company can run for a while without them. Just be careful — there’s a fine line between letting your employees know the company can manage without them and making them feel replaceable. Build a supportive company culture where the employees rotate, offering a replacement to each other.
By now, hopefully, you've realized how essential paid leave is. If you want a happy, healthy, and productive workforce, encouraging your staff to take a break when needed is crucial.
With work-from-home jobs on the rise, the line between a home office and just a home becomes blurry. That makes it even more challenging to disconnect from the workplace. Don't be afraid to encourage your employees to take their time off when they need it — it's beneficial for both parties in the long run.