For those of us in Human Resources, especially in the United States, vacation days can be a complex benefit. Many employers don’t offer paid vacation time, and many others have vacation policies that are uneven. It is not uncommon for employees not to use their vacation days for a variety of reasons, including:
A workload that prevents it
A paid time off policy that makes taking time away a hassle
Challenges in getting PTO approved
And often, when employers have a robust policy in place to ensure that employees use their vacation days, employees simply don’t understand the value of the benefit.
We hope that this might inspire you to share with your employees these 5 benefits of using their vacation days wisely.
1. It’s good for your health
There is no shortage of studies that indicate that vacation time is good for your physical and mental health. A study published by the American Psychological Association found conclusive evidence that vacations “improve our mental health by reducing depression and anxiety. Vacations can improve mood and reduce stress by removing people from the activities and environments that they associate with stress and anxiety.”
2. It’s good for your family
If an employee’s life is just work-work-work, as is the case for many Americans in the workforce, time off from work can help their family to come together and make memories. If even a short day trip can make a difference in family bonds and togetherness, imagine what maximizing your vacation time can do.
3. It’s good for your team
A refreshed brain is an innovative brain. Getting away not only helps with your work-life balance, but it can make you more productive and innovative as well as help prevent burnout. Even taking limited vacation time can give you room to breathe and think.
4. It’s good for the economy
If you use all your vacation days before quitting or retiring from a job, it helps the greater economy in two distinct ways. First, when we travel, the money we spend goes back into the hands of companies and workers in the places we visit.
Secondly, you may be surprised to learn that unused vacation time actually hurts companies that offer it as a benefit. According to Human Resource Director magazine, “Unused vacation days are costing US businesses at least $220 billion a year.”
5. Use it or lose it
Because there is no law that requires employers to offer paid vacation, many do not offer a payout of unused PTO in an employee's final paycheck. Many other companies don’t allow unused time to roll over year to year. This can cause confusion and irritation. It may even lead to some who are on the way out wondering if it is legal to use your vacation days before quitting.
The best way around this confusion is to use your vacation time wisely throughout your employment. That time is there for a reason. Don’t wait until you’ve given two weeks' notice to think about that unused PTO, because it may be too late.
HR managers, maybe it’s time to help employees use their vacation days — and to help them understand why you offer the benefit in the first place.