Time off is one of the most important employee benefits, both for workers and businesses. Learn why you should encourage using employee vacation benefits.
Vacation time, or paid time off (PTO), typically ranks highly on the list of benefits professionals demand from employers today. However, our survey of more than 1,000 small business employees found that 55% of employees don’t take time off.
We found more than 1/3 (39%) feel guilty about taking time off because of the work it creates for colleagues, or pressure from a boss. Others feel concerned about job security or about how taking time off could affect their opportunities for advancement.
Sometimes, workloads play a role. Our research found that 43% of employees admit their workload won’t allow time off. What’s more, only 21% of respondents said their company’s paid time off policy enables them to actually take time off when they need to.
But 72% of respondents say taking time off supports their work-life balance. Using vacation time makes these professionals feel healthier and more productive at work.
If you offer vacation time — or simply paid time off — as part of your employee benefits, you should work to make sure your workforce uses it. When employees use the time off available to them, it can boost your business retention and your results.
only 21% of respondents said their company’s paid time off policy enables them to actually take time off when they need to. But 72% of respondents say taking time off supports their work-life balance.
What is the typical vacation benefit?
While our research found that 25% of businesses don’t even have a formal PTO policy, Indeed reports the average vacation employee benefits in the United States are 11 paid vacation days for 1 year of full-time service. Full-time employees can typically increase the number of vacation days they’re allotted the longer the work: 15 days after 5 years, 18 days after 10 years, and 20 days after 20 years, for example. Many companies use increasing vacation days as a retention tool.
Some employers have a “use-it-or-lose-it” vacation policy, where workers must use their PTO within the calendar year or lose those days. Others allow for rolling days over.
Even if you enable this roll-over option, taking time off each year when it’s available can foster a work-life balance. There are lots of benefits when your employees take a break from the office. Most can positively impact your business.
Benefits of employees using vacation time
There’s ample research about the benefits using vacation time can provide for well-being and productivity. Here’s just a sampling.
- The “International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health” found just 4 days of vacation in an environment outside the home had immediate positive effects on perceived stress, well-being, and recovery.
- A study in the “Journal of Happiness Studies” found vacation experiences like pleasure, relaxation, control, and savoring can produce immediate and long-lasting positive effects.
- According to the journal “Anxiety, Stress, and Coping,” taking a vacation decreases job stress and prevents burnout.
For further proof of the positive effects of vacation, consider the European Union model of vacation time. Workers in Spain, France, and Germany, as well as the United Kingdom, typically take around 24 days of paid time off a year.
For years, European countries have dominated the rankings of the World Happiness Report. In 2021, 8 of the top 10 countries were in Europe, while the U.S. ranked 16th on the happiness scale. Job burnout and a lack of work-life balance negatively impact happiness levels.
A 2022 survey of around 1,000 people across the U.S. and Europe found:
- 92% of those who felt supported in using paid time off also experienced job satisfaction.
- Among workers who don’t feel supported in using PTO, only 59% feel job satisfaction.
Would you like to improve job satisfaction at your company by 30%+? Simply by encouraging the use of vacation days, you can improve morale and increase retention.
How do you encourage employees to use their vacation time?
There are many ways you can ensure your workers use the paid time off they’re entitled to.
First, promote paid time off benefits starting with recruitment and hiring. Clearly communicate what employees are entitled to. Explain why employees should take time off and how they can request their days away from the office.
You may want to implement an employee vacation benefits policy that gives flexible PTO. For example, instead of forcing employees to designate their time off as a “sick day” or “vacation day,” you could just offer a set amount of days the employee can take off.
Some employees rarely get sick. Taking time off can actually boost immune health, as Harvard Health Publishing reports decreased stress and adequate sleep support immunity. When you designate sick days but employees aren’t sick enough to use them, they may lose those days or feel forced to lie in order to get their time off.
Empower managers to spread the message to their employees about time-off reminders. Some companies send monthly reminders to all employees that show how much time off they have to use. This helps to ensure employees don’t all request their time off at once, toward the end of the year.
Include time-off discussions in performance reviews. This enables you to remind employees about the importance of PTO, as well as gather feedback about how time off positively impacts employee performance.
You can also bake time-off messaging into employee communications, like newsletters and your employee portal. When employees come back from vacation, managers should be welcoming and positive to show they support the time off.
And, finally, you should take time off, too. Leadership should set the example that using vacation days should be standard practice. If employees never see their leaders unplugging from the office, that can prevent creating a culture that supports using paid time off.
Vacations are good for business
If you don’t yet have a vacation policy for all your employees, consider the business benefits you can gain from implementing one.
Make sure to:
- Make the policy flexible and accommodating to all staff
- Clearly communicate the policy and how it works
- Remind employees about the policy and the time off they have to use
- Balance workloads and be positive about giving your employees vacation time
- Model work-life balance yourself, by using your paid time off days, too
A company culture that supports work-life balance can increase productivity and profitability, improve staff retention, and make employees more engaged at work. Paid time off matters to workers, so support it at your business for better outcomes.