At the end of 2016, over half of all full-time American employees had seven unused vacation days. When most workers only get ten days to begin with, that means that a huge part of the workforce is working way too hard. Overwork leads to health problems, disengaged workers, and high turnover rates.
On the other hand, regular breaks are associated with being more productive at work. When employers encourage their employees to use their vacation days, the quality of work improves, as does morale and dedication to the company.
This is because productivity and rest are intrinsically linked. People who work day in and day out without any chance for rest quickly lose motivation, energy, and stamina. The hours that they work become less and less productive, because they lose all passion for what they do as well as the physical capacity to do it well.
Even people who push themselves to work long, hard hours aren’t as tough as they think they are. The long hours generate undue stress, an unbalanced life, and higher incidences of major medical problems like depression, alcoholism, and heart disease.
So what can you do as an employer to encourage your employees to get some rest?
First, you can make it easy for them to use their vacation days. Your team is already entitled to their vacation time, but they may feel like you would look down on them for taking time off, or like they would fall too far behind. It’s your responsibility to set a good example by using your own vacation time.
You should also set up systems of support so that work gets covered when people take time off. Try to create an environment where vacation is seen as a natural part of the work cycle, not something to be ashamed of.
Next, you can help create a work environment where your employees don’t feel like they need to take their work home with them at night or on weekends. Of course, there will be times when big deadlines loom that everyone will have to push a bit harder, but that shouldn’t be the norm. When people are able to leave work at work, they come back to their jobs each morning more energized and happier, which leads to better results.