Noun | va·ca·tion | vāˈkāSH(ə)n
an extended period of recreation, especially one spent away from home or in traveling
Americans don’t truly embrace the definition of vacation or taking any extended periods of recreation. In fact, when they do take time off it’s a tethered vacation, remaining connected the entire time. Or only take time off when there’s a national holiday and forced out of the office. But whether you are American or not, vacations don’t always fall top of the list when starting a new year. Why is that?
In the 2017 State of American Vacation report, researchers identify the top reasons employees list as barriers to taking time off. While most of these can be overcome with pre-vacation planning, we’ve addressed the excuses below and refuted them -- one by one -- using the data in the report. So whether you’re an HR manager, executive or customer-facing employee, if you aren’t taking a vacation because:
A large portion (43 percent) of American workers said they feared returning to a mountain of work after a vacation. It’s true, there’s nothing worse than coming back from a relaxing vacation to find your inbox overflowing. However, the most effective solution for this is better planning and communication. First, plan to vacation when you anticipate things being slow at work or at least avoid any key deliverable dates or internal events. (<-- Click to tweet!)
Once you’ve planned your time off, start communicating the date to your coworkers, clients, and other stakeholders. Bring it up in conversations, block the time on your calendar, and include it in your email signature once the date gets closer. Set inbox rules to filter your messages while your away to lessen the blow or consider deleting them entirely like Arianna Huffington does for her employees.
If no one else can do your job, you better be getting really paid well and have excellent health benefits. The 34 percent of American workers who cite this as a reason likely feel strapped with the responsibility of doing their job alone and the pressure of never feeling like they can get away. That all leads to stress and, we all know stress leads to countless health problems. Worse still, these employees are likely to stay connected when on vacation, leading to even more stress. (<-- Click to tweet!)
More than half (51 percent) of employees who check on work frequently report stress in their home life, compared to 48 percent of those who check in occasionally and 36 percent who unplug on vacation. Overcome this by first talking to your manager and letting them know you have no backup. This person doesn’t have to know everything you do, but should be able to cover a majority of tasks should you get hit by a bus, or more likely, leave the company or want an unplugged vacation.
Once you’ve trained someone on your job, plan ahead to ease your stress while away. Complete any work ahead of time and use technology to your advantage so things like social media posts or blog articles can publish while you’re away.
Being an executive certainly has its pros (parking space, corner office, compensation to name a few), but life at the top is certainly not perfect. Research finds the higher you climb, the harder it is to take time off with 61 percent of senior leaders having unused vacation time, compared to 52 percent of non-managers. But just because something is hard, doesn’t mean you don’t do it.
You certainly wouldn’t have made it to the top with an attitude like that! Removing barriers to taking time off and establishing a company culture that encourages vacation starts at the top. Plan your vacation when most convenient for your schedule, when things are slow and you can afford to step away. Be transparent about your time off and set boundaries for contacting you (no emails or texts, phone calls if urgent). Depending on your seniority or the age of your organization, review your company’s vacation policy and make any updates like launching an unlimited vacation policy.
Regardless of your seniority, as someone’s boss, you can help encourage a culture of time off by leading by example. Take the time to recharge and encourage your employees to do the same. 76 percent of employees said if they felt fully supported and encouraged by their boss, they would be likely to take more time off.
According to the research, 32 percent of employees give finances as a barrier to taking a vacation. While the definition of vacation does typically include time spent away from home or traveling, it doesn’t have to. Stay-cations and mental health days are perfectly good uses of your PTO. And if you think sacrificing your time off will lead to a bonus or raise, which leading to more financial flexibility to vacation, think again.
When comparing employees who forfeit their PTO to those who don’t, forfeiters are less likely to receive a raise or bonus in the last three years (78 percent to 84 percent). If a vacation to you needs travel, plan ahead just like you would any large expense and start saving now. Travel for your job? Take some time off before or after your planned business trip and make it a vacation.
Taking time off doesn’t have to be expensive, it just has to leave you relaxed and recharged. (<-- Click to tweet!)
All of these reasons, and especially this one, contribute to the rationale of an employee persona Project: Time Off refer to as “work martyrs”. Work martyrs believe that the time you spend in the office is more important than your actual productivity. They also believe that not taking breaks will ultimately lead to greater career success. However flawed this thinking, many American employees believe it to be true and it’s constantly reinforced by company cultures that lack communication around vacation time and by executive behaviors.
It may sound funny, but taking a vacation is actually a better way to show your complete dedication to an organization. Time off helps you relax, recharge and enjoy things that make you happy. Nearly two-thirds of employees indicate taking time off leads to improved concentration and productivity when returning to work. Taking vacation also helps to lower stress and is good for your overall health, which means less sick days and fewer benefit claims for your employer. When it comes time for promotions, the research found work martyrs are less likely to receive a promotion within the last year compared to their coworkers who do take PTO (23 percent to 27 percent). (<-- Click to tweet!)
The data is unmistakably clear: taking vacation benefits your well-being and career, as well as your organization as a whole. Here at exaqueo, we take time off and this data seriously. Our company culture includes flexible schedules, unlimited PTO and two annual week-long company shutdowns. From our CEO to our newest employer brand strategist, vacation is how we ensure we stay at the top of our game. (Check out #exaqueoPTO to see how we enjoy our company shutdowns).
We don't succumb to the work martyr mantra and neither should you! Take back your calendar, fill it with your “bucket list” and not your “to-do list.” Celebrate National Plan for Vacation Day properly -- and start planning your next vacation today! Otherwise, tell us: what’s your excuse?