Mandatory vacation might curb costly absenteeism among employees
- Employees still aren't taking their allotted vacation time off from work, reports the Harvard Business Review (HBR). HBR cites a study by the U.S. Travel Association and GfK, a market research firm, showing that only slightly more than 40% of Americans don't expect to use all their vacation time. The U.S. is the only nation among the world's 21 wealthiest that doesn't require employers to offer paid vacation time.
- Among the best solutions for getting workers to take sufficient vacation time is apparently making it mandatory. When SimpliFlying, a 10-person global aviation strategy firm, experimented with mandatory vacation every seven weeks, it found that creativity rose by 33%, happiness increased by 25% and productivity went up 13%.
- Workers who don't take enough of their vacation time are often out on sick leave. The dollar cost of absenteeism for employers is staggering, says HBR. A Workforce Institute white paper published by workforce solutions company, Circadian, shows that absenteeism costs employers $3,600 and $2,650 per hourly and salaried worker, respectively, a year.
A CareerBuilder study by Harris Poll released in May showed that 61% of 3,215 full-time, non-government employees are burned out on the job, and at least one-third don't take enough time away from work to decompress. Other studies show similar results. Employers must consider whether their workplace culture subtly encourages employees to be workaholics — something unfortunately easy to do.
Some workers don't want to seem like slackers by their peers, so they not only forgo their allotted time off, but they also stay tied to the workplace via email, text or apps when they are away. And while some companies seek to attract employees by offering "unlimited vacation," studies have shown that those with unlimited plans actually take less vacation time, as there is no set "acceptable" vacation period or countable days to lose.
Employers might not want to take such unprecedented steps as holding back pay as SimpliFlying did for fear of backlash — legal or otherwise. But the costs in absenteeism are too high to ignore. The CareerBuilder study identified the top five stress symptoms causing missed work days to be constant fatigue (29%); sleeplessness (26%); aches and pains (24%); high anxiety (23%) and weight gain (18%).
If anything, company leaders should consider ways to signal that vacation time is a priority of theirs. Making vacation mandatory — or enforcing a two-week minimum vacation policy rather than two-week maximum — are just some of the experiments in process.