Taking the Guilt Out of Taking Time Off

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Americans are notoriously bad at taking vacations. According to a study commissioned by Project: Time Off, 55 percent of workers had unused vacation days in 2015. This was equal to 658 million days, of which 222 million could not be rolled over or paid out in any way. While that might sound like good news for the employers who didn’t have to work around their employees’ time off or pay for the unused vacation days, constant work without adequate downtime can actually lead to higher stress and lower productivity. And a workforce suffering from either of those is not healthy for your bottom line.

How can you encourage your employees to use their hard-earned vacation time? You can start by reducing their guilt. An Alamo Rent A Car study found that 47 percent of workers feel shame or guilt when asking for vacation time. The percentage jumps to 59 percent among Millennial employees, 42 percent of which do not hesitate to shame their co-workers who do decided to take vacations.

In addition, consider implementing the following best practices at your workplace:

  • Formulate a solid vacation policy. Whether you choose to offer a set number of days off for all employees or enable them to earn more vacation days with additional years of service, put your terms in writing. This includes determining how many days—if any—employees can roll over to the next year or setting a cap on the total amount they can accrue, two policies that may help prevent employees from sitting on unused vacation time.
  • Communicate it frequently. Don’t just talk about vacation time when interviewing potential hires. Make sure your vacation benefit is spelled out in your employee handbook and periodically review the details at staff meetings. Keep an eye on vacation time accrued by each employee and encourage them to use it.
  • Help workers redistribute their workloads. The Project: Time Off study also found that 30 percent of employees don’t take time off because they don’t think anyone else can do their job. Thirty-seven percent are afraid they’ll return to a mountain of work. You can encourage your team to use their vacation time by offering to aid in the redistribution of their workload and cross training other employees to cover vital duties.

Set a good example. It’s important for your employees to see you—and your management team—take vacation time off.