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4 Ways to Make Sure People Are Using Their Vacation Time This Summer

June 7th, 2019

Paid vacation time isn’t a frivolous perk. It isn’t a luxury or a gesture of generosity from a benevolent company manager. It isn’t a gift. It isn’t something that benefits the employee at the expense of the company’s bottom line. And it isn’t optional … for either party.

Vacation time may have become part of the workplace landscape after hard-won union victories in the 19th and 20th centuries, but since that time, research and empirical evidence have revealed an additional truth: Vacation time isn’t just necessary for the health and safety of employees, it’s also essential to the health and growth of a business. When employees live balanced and sustainable lives, companies live balanced and sustainable lives as well. When people are granted the minimum necessary for their well-being, including manageable schedules, clean conditions, safe tools, fair wages, and yes, vacation time, they’re better able to make smart decisions and productive contributions on the job.

So, employees need to take their vacation time.

But some employees need to be pushed out the door, mainly because they believe they’ll be scolded or judged for leaving. Here’s how to improve compliance and overcome those obstacles.

Monitor schedules and provide notice.

Your employee won’t take her vacation time and she seems to think nobody will notice, so what does it matter? She appears to believe that her schedule isn’t being monitored and HR won’t recognize if she lets a year slip by without taking her break. Let her know that she isn’t correct. Have HR send notices and warnings to employees who haven’t taken any vacation time in the last six-month period, and make sure the notice is phrased as a warning and censure, not a form of back-handed praise.

Use monetary incentives.

Just as you might use monetary incentives and gift rewards for employees with exemplary attendance records, do the same for those who use their vacation days regularly and fully. Everyone who finishes the year with an empty tank of vacation days should receive a bonus or gift card.

Disparage attempts at heroism.

Develop a culture that actively discourages employees from coming to the workplace with contagious illnesses and do this by withholding approval from those who soldier in with fever and chills. Meet these flu-ridden heroes with an eye-roll and a dismissal home, not a pat on the back. Do the same for those who boast about skipping vacations or who mock and belittle peers who use their time. Culture shaping starts with management; pay attention to your subtle messages of approval and disapproval.

Set an example.

The best way to encourage vacations and make employees feel safe from judgment is to start with yourself. Use every one of your days each year—no excuses—they’ll be more likely to do the same.

For more on how to shape behavior and culture in your workplace, turn to the team at Merritt.

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