Forcing the Issue: Should Time Off Be Required?

With vacation season now in full throttle, here are some surprising statistics:  American workers left a stunning 658 million vacation days unused in 2015.  That’s according to U.S. Travel Association’s Project Time Off.  A similar study last year by career website Glassdoor found that only 54% of employees who receive paid vacation used that time.

As someone who plots and plans another vacation often while currently on vacation, my question is why??!  And I certainly thought, “Not at ECHOtape.”

Turns out, I was wrong.  I didn’t have to go very deep into my contacts to find ECHOtape staffers who have not taken vacations in several years.  Some say it’s just too expensive to take a family of three or four or five on an week’s adventure.  Scheduling was problematic for several staffers whose spouse, partner and/or significant also works. Teenage children with social lives, athletics and part time jobs can be difficult to wrangle.

All valid reasons. But another reason lurking out there? Good old fashioned fear. Employees fear getting behind on their work (34%), believe no one else at their company can do the work while they’re out (30%), they are completely dedicated to their company (22%), and they feel they can never be disconnected (21%).  Smartphones are partly to blame there.

Here’s the thing:  No matter what your reason,  not taking a vacation hurts employees and hurts the company. Skipping vacation time as a way to climb the corporate ladder faster has been found to be ineffective; indeed, a new study has found that employees who take a vacation are more likely to get promoted and get a raise!

Bestselling author Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness and founder of consulting firm GoodThink, writes in Harvard Business Review that vacation isn’t about “you”.  Vacation actually helps the entire company thrive, from the employee’s mental state and productivity, to coworkers ability to get along and problem solve together, to the company’s bottom line.

Achor even cites research that found when “the brain can think positively, productivity improves by 31 percent, sales increase by 37 percent, and creativity and revenues can triple.”

So what’s an employer to do??  Here are some innovative ideas I thought could be great food for thought for us at ECHOtape:

  • At Kik, it’s mandatory for employees to take at least one week off every four months. Its offices also close for two weeks around the holidays.
  • FullContact pays a whopping bonus of $7,500 to employees who take a vacation.
  • HubSpot makes all employees take at least two weeks of vacation every year.
  • Rather than force vacation, Boston Consulting Group  started mandating that team members take time off during the week, whether it was to head to the gym or spend time with family.

All great ideas, but I’m curious… how does your company encourage employees to take time off? Share it with us via Facebook or LinkedIn.