The survey results are telling: 59 percent of millennials reported feeling a sense of shame when taking or planning a vacation compared to 41 percent of those 35 or older.
Employed millennials aren’t just more likely to feel shame in taking a vacation; they’re significantly more likely than older generations to say they also shame their co-workers who take vacations (42 percent vs. 24 percent).
Businesses need to address this issue head on. That’s because scheduled time away from work is incredibly important to an employee’s overall wellbeing and their ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Many workplace experts and companies agree that time off from work can deliver countless benefits: stronger workplace morale, increased employee productivity, and even many health benefits.
In addition, we all know that offering paid vacation time demonstrates an organization’s commitment to its workforce, ultimately helping to attract and retain employees to stay competitive in the marketplace. Yet, if more than half of millennial employees do not believe it is “OK” to take their allotted time off, simply having a vacation policy no longer may be enough. Employers now need to take a more active role in encouraging employees to use this important benefit and take time off!
Here are four easy-to-implement suggestions:
1. Lead by example. Just encouraging employees to take time off isn’t enough. Take your own vacation days to help set expectations and let your employees see your support! It’s also important to talk openly in the office about vacation days and the expectation that employees will use them.
2. Monitor workloads. Many employees feel that they can’t take advantage of their vacation days because they have so much work to do. Keep an eye on your employees’ workloads and help to offset their responsibilities, when possible, so everyone feels empowered to use their hard-earned time off.
3. Adopt rules or guidelines that encourage use of vacation time. Consider putting a reasonable cap on how much vacation an employee can accrue before they have to use it; by doing so, employees will have to "use" some of their time in order to earn additional time. In states that permit use-it-or-lose-it policies, employers may encourage use by limiting the number of days that can be carried over into the next year.
4. Follow best practices: Developing a vacation policy that benefits both the employee and the organization is key. Following some best practices can help to ensure your policy is easy to follow and clearly communicated to all team members.
Determine how much time off you will offer. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average number of vacation days employers give to employees with one year of service is 10 days. This increases to 14 days for employees with five years of service. We’ve also seen a small number of employers begin to offer unlimited vacation time, trusting that employees will use their professional judgment when deciding when and how much time off to take. All of these, and many others, are great options. The important thing is to ensure you’ve structured your vacation program consistent with the needs of your business.
Plan for peak periods. Do you need extra staffers during the holidays? Is summer your busy season? If needed, consider establishing an early deadline for submitting vacation requests. Some employers even have blackout periods during which vacations are completely off limits, or brownout periods when time off is restricted. Whatever strategy you choose, give supervisors guidance on handling time-off requests and hold them accountable for ensuring adequate staffing levels at all times.
Determine who is eligible. Should I offer paid vacation to my part-time employees? Just because you already offer paid vacation time to full-time employees does not mean you’re obligated to offer it to part-time employees. In fact, only about a quarter of all private sector employers offer paid vacations to part-time employees, according to the BLS. However, if this is a policy that would work well for your business, many employers that offer vacation to part-time employees usually do so on a pro-rata basis.
Make it easy to track. Some employers choose to bundle employee leave into a single paid-time-off (PTO) bank, rather than have separate allotments for sick, vacation, and other personal-leave reasons. With a PTO bank, employees are typically able to use their accrued time off for any reason, making it easier for employers to track time off.
Communicate it clearly. Once you’ve decided on the key points of your vacation policy, it’s important to put it in writing and share it openly with team members. Hold a meeting to discuss it, answer any questions they may have – and, of course, encourage them to take this well-earned time off!
Remember, paid vacation doesn’t only benefit your employees, it benefits your business by helping to create a more productive and happy workforce. Eliminate the “shame” in taking some well-earned time off by making it clear to your team members that vacation is something you expect them to take.