Rethinking Your Vacation Policy

My last blog, "How to Maintain Business Momentum During Summer", got me thinking about business policies in general, especially a company's vacation policy. Many times, businesses go with the same-old-standard vacation policy without fully thinking through what works best for their overall growth, costs and employees. Is it time for them to rethink their vacation policy?

Working vacations Summer time — a perfect time to relax and catch up...on work? According to a recent study by Ricoh, about 54% of Americans say that their bosses expect them to work while on vacation. Many people would like to do anything other than work while on vacation. However, they still do since it's easier to do a little catch up here and there than a ton of catch up once they return to work. And with all of the mobile technology now at our fingertips, it's easier to work while away. But, is this the right decision for the business or the employee?


Time to recharge

Burnout is a real thing. In order to have a smart, creative, engaged and excited workforce, people need time to recharge their batteries. The problem is that many are not taking the time off to rest and recharge — either by working during their vacation or not even taking one to begin with. Hence, the re-evaluation.

As discussed in a recent article on, more than half of all employees in a Harris Interactive survey did not take all of their time off. Why? Well, you know why — people worry about not only how to get away, but how to catch up when they get back. Couple that with the state of the economy during the past few years and job insecurity, and you have a recipe for stressed out employees who conclude that it is smarter to keep on working.

Vacation incentives, eliminate obstacles Savvy employers know that a tired and stressed employee is, well, a tired and stressed employee who is less productive than a refreshed employee. That is why companies are now practically mandating that folks take time off – with pay.

Take Evernote for example, the Forbes article shares this fascinating tidbit; "Evernote began offering employees $1,000 spending money once a year to take at least a full week off at a time. Just like the company offers transportation, food and housecleaning services to help employees focus on the job, the vacation stipend is another method to ease employee stress and cultivate their best work. 'We’re not trying to be trendy or the most fun place to work,' says [the CEO]. 'We hire people who want to work and be productive, so our job is to eliminate obstacles that may limit that work.'”

That idea of incentivizing staff to get away is catching on, and increasingly, part of the incentive always includes the mandate that when the employee is away, they must play. No logging in to do email. No catching up on work while you are on vacation. This way, employees know that you expect them to be productive while at work and take time to recharge while not.

Giving employees choice

There are other ways to craft a vacation policy that may be different and even better than the standard ‘Christmas, New Years, one week off’ that most companies use. Instead, consider a time off bank. Say that you want to give people 18 days a year for sick leave and vacation (fairly standard), but instead of you deciding when they take the PTO, let them decide. If someone wants two days off for Yom Kippur, great. If they are having family troubles and need some time, so be it. Whatever the case, the employee has the power to decide what works best for them.



The upshot of employees having time off when they want it is that they appreciate you treating them like adults. Everyone is fully refreshed at work and your business is better for it.


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