Give Them a Break: Why Vacation Days Are Good for Employees and the Bottom Line

Jul 05, 2016

Give Them a Break

Summer has officially arrived, bringing with it the many opportunities for seasonal fun outside of the office. However, fewer Americans are taking vacation days. In fact, 55 percent of Americans surveyed did not take all of their vacation days in 2015, according to a recent study released by the U.S. Travel Association's Project: Time Off. The survey of more than 5,600 workers, titled "State of American Vacation 2016," shows that employees gave up 658 million unused vacation days last year, and 222 million of those days cannot be rolled over, paid out, or used for any other benefit—that's $61.4 billion in forfeited employee benefits. Unused vacation days not only affect employees but also negatively impact employers and the economy.

Several workplace barriers are influencing employees to simply leave time on the table, according to findings in the Project: Time Off study. They are as follows.

  • Workers fear returning to a mountain of work and are concerned that no one else in the office knows how to do the job in their absence.
  • Other workers fear appearing replaceable and want to demonstrate complete dedication to their jobs.
  • An overwhelming 80 percent of employees surveyed in the study said they would take more time off if they felt supported and encouraged by their boss.
  • Employees are receiving mixed messages, or even no messages at all, from employers about the importance of time away from work.
  • Because most American businesses have created a culture that does not intentionally encourage breaks, most workers are simply not taking many.

According to an article titled Vacation Policy: Should You Require Employees to Take Vacations? written by Mark Henricks and published June 14, 2016, in the OPEN Forum on the American Express website, not only are overworked employees feeling stressed, it's affecting their jobs. When employees take time away from work, the article suggests, organizations see increased employee productivity, reduced costs (including lower turnover), and improved employee morale. The article points out that risk management is another reason for employers to encourage vacation, since criminals are more easily exposed when someone takes over their work.

Vacations allow employees needed time to rest, relax, and come back to the office feeling refreshed. Taking vacations also promotes a healthy economy by bolstering the hospitality industry. The "State of American Vacation 2016" research conducted by Project: Time Off suggests that an additional $223 billion could have been spent in the U.S. economy if Americans had used all of their vacation days in 2015—which potentially could have created 1.6 million jobs and generated $65 billion in income. If Americans took one more day of vacation, the researchers estimate the economy would see a $34 billion boost!

With so many negatives stemming from unused vacation days, what can employers do to reverse this trend? They can create a company culture that supports time away from work. A June 19, 2016, MarketWatch article by Quentin Fottrell, titled 55% of American workers don't take all their paid vacation, references the Fair Labor Standards Act and how the United States is one of very few developed countries that do not require employers to provide paid time off. The article further mentions that employees may not understand that paid vacation is built into their compensation package, despite Center for Economic and Policy Research data showing that 91 percent of full-time U.S. workers receive paid vacation.

Besides simply offering employees vacation and personal days, management should encourage and demonstrate that it's OK to take time off. Without a culture that visibly supports time away from work, employees feel uncertain about whether or not to even ask for it!

ZERORISK helps organizations build great cultures by identifying, developing, and retaining top talent. The ZERORISK Hiring System blends a revolutionary behavioral science with state-of-the-art technology to reduce unwanted turnover and improve employee performance. For more information contact us at (800) 827-5991.

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