There are only four more months of this year. How are your vacation days looking? If you’re like most American employees, you probably haven’t taken a vacation yet this year. You may have so much unused paid time off (PTO) you can’t possibly take enough vacation before the end of the year.
Vacation days don’t come easy in America. We are a work culture that rarely sleeps, never unplugs, and struggles to not check emails. For these reasons and more, taking time off can be challenging. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
From your personal health to the health of your career and employer brand, there are many benefits to taking vacation days…and encouraging your employees to do the same. Here are five tips for helping you take your vacation days:
Vacation days should not be confused with sick days. While some company policies will combine all PTO days together, for the sake of this blog post, we are referring to days you voluntarily take off unrelated to illness. Planning ahead is the most effective way to guarantee you’ll take your vacation days.
Fifty-two percent of employees who set aside time each year to plan out their vacation days take all their time off. It’s easier to take time off when you’ve given plenty of notice to your manager and coworkers, and you have plenty of time to best prepare for being out of the office. Plus, planning your vacation will also give you something to look forward to --increasing your overall happiness.
Make it a Priority
It sounds simple, but making sure you take vacation days is really about prioritization. To help, think about vacation days as dollars. By not taking your vacation days, you are essentially giving money back to your employer.
It may sound counterintuitive, but your performance and advancing your career are improved by taking vacation days. According to The State of American Vacation 2017, employees who forfeit their vacation days do not perform as well as those who use all their time. They are also less likely to have been promoted within the last year or to have received a raise or bonus in the past three years.
Make it Your Own
Vacation means something different to everyone. Whether that’s traveling to an exotic destination or staying local for a stay-cation, vacations should be tailored to you and your needs. The easy vacation days to take are the ones set for you, like attending a wedding or summer family reunion. For the other times, use your vacation days the best way you see fit. That could be getting away on a trip or spending a day knocking out a personal to-do list.
Take a Mental Health Day
This blog post was not going to include sick days, but we’re making an exception for mental health days. Mental health days are talked about with the same ambivalent, discouraging tone as vacation days. A culture of silence around mental health -- combined with an always-on work culture -- is a breeding ground for anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, depression is the leading cause of disability in the workplace and significantly contributes to lost productivity through 2.5 absences per month.
These days are just as important as vacation days for improving your health and your ability to perform your best at work. Take a technology-free day, catch-up on sleep, or whatever it takes to feel refreshed and bring your whole self to work. Doing so could even prompt a viral response, like it did when this CEO responded to an employee’s mental health day out-of-office message.
Lead by Example
If you’re in a leadership role, it can feel even more difficult to step away from the job, which makes it even more impactful when you do. Your company’s vacation policy and how you promote it says a lot about your company’s culture and employer brand. Does your stance towards vacation days reflect your company’s culture towards taking time off?
If you’re encouraging your team to take vacation days, but aren’t taking any yourself, it could be sending mixed messages. Show your employees that you value your health and the health of the company by taking your vacation days. They will follow your example!
At exaqueo, in addition to unlimited PTO, we have two built-in weeks of vacation, when,as a company, we shut down, unplug, and everyone takes time off. We call this #exaqueoPTO and it’s a policy that mirrors our company culture and values.
And while vacation perks do not make a company culture, they do reflect and amplify that culture. Encouraging your employees to take their vacation days and taking them yourself will reinforce that your organization values the health of employees and their time spent outside of the office.
What does your vacation policy say about your organization’s culture and employer brand?
If you liked this post, check out this one: Explore The Upside of Downtime: The State of American Vacation and Employee Engagement
Emily Fritz (@social_em) is an Employer Brand Strategist at exaqueo, an employer brand experience firm building employer brands and the talent strategies that drive them through research, consulting and creative and digital execution. Contact exaqueo to learn more about our employer brand innovation, workforce research and recruiting strategy offerings.