Should Companies Force Employees to Use Their Vacation Days?
The Facts about Vacation Time
According to a Harris Poll, Americans left an average of 9.2 vacation days unused in 2012 — up from 6.2 days in 2011. This number is probably a little high due to the high levels of unemployment during 2012; however, these statistics illustrate how Americans are not taking the hours that their employers are giving them for vacation. Even when they do, many Americans remain “plugged in” and working during their off time.
As a result, employees are not getting the full benefits of vacation time. According to a Team Viewer 2013 Work Life Balance Survey of more than 1000 Americans, 61% of employees said they will, to some degree, work during their vacations this year.
This pattern is not beneficial for American companies or their employees. Research has proven that vacations are linked to:
- Increased productivity and better overall job performance.
- Improved health and happiness at and away from work, which makes employees better teammates and increases the likelihood of an employee to stay with a given job.
Having employees utilize their full vacation time is a win for both the employees and the companies. The problem is that many companies have created a culture that makes individuals reluctant, or even scared, to take this time off .
How Can Companies Best Encourage Employees to Use Their Vacation Days?
With the importance of relaxation time becoming more evident, some companies have implemented innovative policies that encourage employees to take time off. For example:
- FullContact, a Denver Software company, pays employees $7,500 to go on vacation, disconnect entirely and not work at all.
- Evernote gives employees a $1,000 to take off days in at least 1 week increments.
- Netflix offers an unlimited vacation policy as long as employees get their work done.
Companies could take this one step further and make a mandatory vacation policy. Some have attempted to do so by shutting down their offices during specific time periods or even offering company subsidized family vacations.
Enforcing Vacation Policy: A Personal Opinion
From my perspective, incentivizing employees to take days off is going to be the most effective approach; it shows that you truly want employees to utilize their vacation days. This tactic will also help to change employee perceptions about taking time off.
However, I don’t think that moving to an unlimited vacation policy has the same effect. Employees are already not utilizing the days that are being given to them. How is providing them with the ability to take more days off going to change their actions? In fact, unlimited vacation policies may lead to some using even lower percentages of their overall vacation times. Employees may feel as though they haven’t earned those vacation days.
The key is to show your employees that you truly want them to take these days off. In most company cultures, the best way to do so is by putting an incentive in place.
Do What Works For Your Company
On the other hand, if you already have a corporate culture that has established the importance of time off, the unlimited vacation policy may be the right way to go. On the whole, the best way to see which vacation policy suits your company is to keep track of the way your employees are utilizing their free time.
What are your thoughts on this issue? Share them in the comments section below!