Encourage Employee Wellbeing: Promote Taking Time Off for a Healthier Work-Life Balance

Encourage Employee Wellbeing: Promote Taking Time Off for a Healthier Work-Life Balance

Encourage Employee Wellbeing: Promote Taking Time Off for a Healthier Work-Life Balance

by Kim Keene

Research shows that many employees are thinking about skipping or at least shortening their vacation plans this year out of fear of being laid off or falling behind in their work. Others simply want to conserve their cash, given the uncertain economy.

Research also finds that workers at all levels benefit by taking time away from their jobs. They often become more engaged and productive when they return, prompting more companies to encourage employees to embrace vacations.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that in 2016 (the latest year for which data is available), 745,000 people died in 2016 from heart disease and stroke related to working long hours.  

Some of the physical, mental and business benefits of taking time off include:

  • Increased employee productivity and creativity upon return.
  • Better worker retention, since vacation time, especially paid time off, is considered a prized perk.
  • Lower health insurance costs.
  • Opportunities for employees to explore new cultures and learning experiences.

There is no federally mandated vacation time in the U.S., so each employer must decide what is best for its employees. The average annual amount of paid vacation time for U.S. workers is 10 to 14 days, according to the jobs site Indeed. However, 25 percent of U.S. workers don’t even receive that amount, CBS MoneyWatch reports. 

Vacation time in other countries varies greatly; Austria ranks first with the most government-mandated paid time off at 38 days per year: 25 days of paid vacation time, plus 13 public holidays. Next are France and Spain at 36 days of paid time off each, followed by South Korea with 31 days, Germany with 30 days and the U.K. with 28. Japan requires 26 paid days off each year but karoshi, or death from overwork, is still a problem because many employees are reluctant to take vacation time.

A recent Pew Research Center study, “How Americans View Their Jobs,” found that nearly half of U.S. workers with paid time off (PTO) indicated they typically take less time than their employers provide. They gave the following reasons: not feeling a need for more time off (52 percent), being worried about falling behind (49 percent), feeling bad about co-workers taking on additional work (43 percent), being concerned about job advancement (19 percent), fearing losing their job (16 percent) and having a manager or supervisor who discourages them from taking time off (12 percent ).

Employers with a “use it or lose it” vacation policy should prioritize reminding employees who have not taken their allotted vacation days to do so. If your company offers open leave or allows employees to roll over unused vacation days, emphasizing the benefits of regular annual vacations can help promote the practice. “Use it or lose it” regulations vary by state, be sure to check your requirements.  This is illegal in Montana.

Ways to encourage employees to take time off include:

  • Provide employee discounts for travel, restaurants, hotels, and museum and amusement park admissions to help make vacations more affordable.
  • Offer unique PTO opportunities, such as for a birthday or work anniversary.
  • Suggest that employees begin a vacation fund and offer to match their contributions up to a certain level.
  • To facilitate sufficient coverage of the employee’s work, create communication to encourage colleagues to step up and provide support for one another.
  • For employees who use up their paid vacation days, consider letting them take unpaid vacation days. 

To read the full article, SHRM:  Vacation!!

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