Forty-one percent of American workers don’t take all of their vacation days, according to a study by the U.S. Travel Association, despite the fact that 96 percent of respondents recognized the value of taking time off. Without downtime, workers are less productive, less engaged, and just plain less happy at work. So why aren’t we taking all our PTO?
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PayScale recently spoke with Cheryl Rosner, CEO of boutique hotel booking site Stayful.com, via email to discuss the phenomenon of the always-on worker and what managers can do to help them recharge.
PayScale: Why don’t Americans take their Paid Time Off? Is it because they’re too busy at work, or because they fear that they’ll look less than dedicated to the job, or is there another reason at play?
Rosner: Culture plays a big part here. It is our culture to work hard and play later. Many Americans don’t take their time off by choice because they don’t want to miss out on “face-time” at the office. Thankfully this changing with the use of mobile devices and connectivity.
Nearly two-thirds of employees get mixed messages about taking time off (according to USTA) from negative to mixed to no messaging about PTO. While 40 percent of employees do not take all of their PTO, 45 percent of senior business leaders do not take their PTO, sending a message to their teams and companies.
PayScale: Why should managers encourage their reports to take their vacation time? (Other than just to be nice.)
Rosner: Taking time off is the best way to keep from burning out and good managers know that a well-rested team is a more productive team.
Even if workers don’t feel the need to get away, they can always use that time off to connect with their friends and family locally or work on a hobby at home. Breaking away from a routine is a great way for workers to come back with more clarity and a better mindset, which makes them more productive.
PayScale: What can managers do to make it easier for workers to take time off?
- Managers need to first set the example of taking time off and being disconnected for most of that time.
- Communicate PTO support and the reasons why. Make the “approval” for PTO easy.
- Managers and all members of the team need to support their absent teammate by preparing for their departure and anticipating any needs while away.
- Managers can also set expectations. For example, if the vacationing worker is off for a week, perhaps they agree to check in once or twice for a half hour while away to keep his/her projects moving smoothly.
- It takes a team to deliver success and the same team to ensure each other are taking time off without stress.
PayScale: What do you think about “unlimited” vacation policies? Do you think these help or hurt work-life balance and productivity?
Rosner: Unlimited vacation days are the way of the future. At Stayful we offer this as a benefit so the team does not need to stress about the formalities. What is great about this policy is that we trust each other to be mindful of the workload and take the time off when needed and/or wanted.
Work/life balance is crucial to supporting the successful growth of every worker. For some people that means taking several Fridays off in the summer; for others, a full week off the grid.
PayScale: What would you tell workers who are afraid to take their vacation?
Rosner: I don’t think anyone at Stayful is afraid of taking vacation. For anyone that is afraid to take their vacation:
- Remember you are investing in yourself, time off is time to rest and recharge.
- You are doing good by taking time off — if we all used our PTO it would add $160 billion in economic opportunity.
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