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How (and Why) to Push Your Employees to Take Vacations

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According to the State of the American Vacation Report, 52% of employees don’t use all of their paid time off. And, among professionals who do go on vacation, 70% report working while out of the office.

If your employees fit these stats, your company is suffering from a significant loss of productivity. People who don’t take work-free vacations have:

  • Heightened stress levels which increase the frequency and likelihood of making mistakes.
  • Limited ability to be creative (including in problem-solving)
  • Increased likelihood of burning out.

These are detrimental to workplace productivity and performance and have a simple solution: persuade your team to use their PTO. Here’s how.

Photo of a pole with many wooden signs pointing to vacation spots like Rio De Janeiro, Prague, and Toronto.
1) Cross-Train Your Employees

One of the biggest roadblocks to work-life balance at the professional level is that most people are working on projects that only they have the knowledge and/or skills to do effectively. 

A LinkedIn study found that 56% of professionals work while on vacation because they’re afraid of falling behind.

To persuade employees to take vacations and come back refreshed, you need to cross-train your team so that people can leave without worrying about how much work is going to pile up.

Cross-training may seem too difficult since people are constantly shifting projects; however, your goal shouldn’t be to make your team members capable of replacing one another; they only need to be cover the kinds of urgent, time-sensitive issues that make people feel like they can’t fully disconnect.

Teaching people how to cover for one another is easier than you’d think. To start, have your employees create the following documentation for their urgent, time-sensitive tasks:

  • Descriptions of what those tasks are, when they come, who they involve etc.
  • Several examples of problems, steps for solving, and solutions.
  • Screen shares of them completing each issue and while explaining why actions are taken.

 Then, have everyone give their document to the two colleagues whose skillset is most similar to theirs. Encourage them to review the instructions and reach out for clarification. Before taking vacations, people should give their backups any other process updates. It’s that simple.

 

2) Create a Company-Sponsored Vacation Program

If you’re concerned that encouraging employees to go on vacations will create instability since you’re unable to control when everyone takes off, consider creating a company-sponsored vacation program. 

The easiest option for this is to identify the slowest times of year for each team, pick two to three non-consecutive weeks from those times and encourage your employees to use their PTO during that time. Employees like it since they don’t feel guilty about taking time off and it minimizes the impact that their absence has.

Alternatively, you offer extra PTO as a reward when employees reach predictable, but challenging milestones.

At Prialto, we do this through our “Amplivacation” program. When our frontline workers reach their two-year anniversary, we give them an opportunity to take an additional five consecutive business days off and receive a cash bonus to help them go on a vacation that amplifies their well-being. We work with them to ensure their coworkers are equipped to take over all of their responsibilities so they enjoy their time off and fully disconnect from work.

Here’s how one of our employees in Guatemala, Alex, spent his amplivacation:

“For my Amplivacation, I went to a resort called Grand Sirenis which is located along the coastline of the Riviera Maya in Mexico, an hour and a half away from Cancun.

During my stay there, I did several activities such as snorkeling and a lot of swimming, attended some night shows within the resort, saw some wild animals like monkeys and iguanas, went to the spa, and, since it was all-inclusive, ate a lot!

I also visited an attraction park around 30 minutes from the resort called Xenses. As the name suggests, the park is centered on the senses and features some attractions designed to stimulate them. One of those is Xensatorium, a 10 min walk inside a pitch black tunnel where eight ecosystems are simulated. During the walk, you hear and feel the flora and fauna, the hot and cold, of a dessert, a jungle, a mountain, a swamp, among others.

Photo of our employee, Alex, standing in the Xensatorium while enjoying his PTO vacation.

This trip helped me to get away from the chaos of the city for a few days and to get in touch with nature a bit. It allowed to disconnect myself mentally from the daily stresses in a positive and refreshing way. I’m grateful for the opportunity Prialto gave me with this perk to do this.”

 

3) Prevent Vacations from Impacting Performance Reviews

25% of employees under the age of 35 and 17% of those 35+ say that they will forgo taking vacations because they think it will increase their likelihood of getting promoted. 

Though working long hours shows dedication, it’s often not an indication of performance since people make more mistakes when they’re tired and stressed out.

To prevent employees from burning themselves out in their efforts to get a promotion, make it a clear policy that taking time off does not affect perceptions of performance. Inform your team that you will only assess them on their results and so, if they’re doing well, they should feel free to enjoy their time off.

Remember: though it can be difficult when employees are out of the office, vacations refresh their mental well-being and dramatically boost their productivity.

About the Author: Emily leads Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.

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