Hopefully the importance of vacation for employees is crystal clear to you at this point – when employees use their vacation time, they are happier, more productive, more creative, and more loyal to your business, and all of that is good for the bottom line.
What may be less clear is how to actually get your employees to use their vacation time. After all, when you hired them, you clearly laid out their benefits package, which included a precise number of days off. What more are you supposed to do?
Unfortunately, studies like one by Glassdoor show that about half of employees leave vacation days on the table every year out of fear, a sense of guilt, and because of workplace pressures. Sure, it may be in employee’s contracts that they can take X vacation days, but what message does the company culture send? Do people who take vacations miss out on opportunities for advancement while people who work exceptionally long hours are rewarded? A system like that may feel like it makes sense, but it ultimately leads to a high burnout rate and low morale.
Employees need to be actively encouraged to take vacations and shown that they won’t be punished for doing so. Here are three ways to make that message clear:
1. Consider rewarding employees with paid trips.
Research shows that after cold hard cash, the favorite bonus that employees like to receive is paid trips. Whether it’s a day-trip to a spa or a week-long cruise, making vacation a clear incentive that your employees should work toward shows them that you value breaks and see how important they are.
2. Add a personal travel expenses reimbursement to your benefits package.
Encourage your employees to not just take time off but to use that time to travel by making it less expensive for them to do so. Even a $250 personal travel reimbursement can defray the stress of taking a weekend away, and travel is shown to have great health benefits. It’s a way to refresh the spirit and mind, a way to learn and come up with new ideas, and it’s one of the best ways to get more joy out of life.
Plus, studies show that the biggest boost in happiness from traveling actually comes from planning the trip. Having a vacation to look forward to can have positive effects on a person’s behavior and mood up to eight weeks before actually traveling.
3. Make vacation mandatory.
This may feel like an absurd move, but making vacation mandatory helps immediately alleviate the three problems mentioned above – fear, guilt, and workplace pressures. If you don’t just encourage employee vacation time but literally make mandatory vacation your policy, you show that there is nothing to be fearful or guilty about.
An added benefit is that a mandatory vacation policy forces you to keep a closer eye on who is actually using their vacation time. If you have an employee who is resistant to using their vacation, you can hone in on why that might be and help that employee work through any workplace anxieties they might be bottling inside.