Knowing how to motivate workers in a way that increases their engagement, performance and productivity is a critical aspect of managing a workforce. Many people working in the United States decide not to take the vacation time they are offered for a variety of reasons. Studies show that taking time off work and disconnecting from the workplace causes an increase in productivity and a greater work-life balance. This showcases the importance of promoting the use of vacation time to managers as it can benefit the employee and the organization simultaneously.
Current Usage of Vacation Time in America
Not all American employees receive paid vacation time. Those who are offered paid time off work often decide against taking advantage of it.
Among employees with average- to high-paying jobs, 80 percent receive paid vacation time. In contrast, only 53 percent of employees with low-paying jobs are offered paid time off.
Paid vacation time usage varies based on age as well. Among different generations in the workforce, Generation X uses the most paid vacation time, with 53 percent taking advantage of paid time off work. Approximately 44 percent of millennials and 43 percent of baby boomers also use paid vacation time, compared to only 16 percent of traditionalists.
There is also a disparity in the percentage of paid vacations taken by employees in different U.S geographical regions. The highest percentage of people with compensated time off work live in the Northeast, with 60 percent taking paid vacations. However, only 39 percent of people living in the Southern United States utilize paid vacation time.
According to the U.S. Travel Association’s Project (2015), the average worker in the United States took 16.2 vacation days. However, 55 percent of Americans didn’t use all of their vacation days and a total of 658 million vacation days were unused. Workers forfeited a total of $61.4 billion in benefits due to not using all of their allotted vacation time.
Why Don’t American Workers Take More Time Off?
According to Bankrate.com, many workers try to get ahead by attempting to maintain extreme schedules. Employees tend to avoid taking vacations even when they’re offered paid time off work. This is due to fears that taking vacations may harm their career.
Employees decide against taking vacations for various reasons. While 35 percent of workers plan to roll vacation days over to plan for a big vacation and 16 percent genuinely enjoy working, 13 percent of workers cannot afford to go anywhere and four percent fear that they may lose their job if they take time off work.
Many employees are discouraged from taking vacations as they are unable to disconnect from their jobs. Approximately 23 percent of U.S. workers choose not to use all their vacation days because they have too much work to do. According to Harris Interactive, 60 percent of workers continue working while on vacation, 25 percent are contacted by a colleague for work-related reasons and 20 percent are contacted by their boss.
Benefits of Promoting the Use of Vacation Time
Approximately 80 percent of employees would take more time off work if they felt supported and encouraged by their employers. Using vacation time has the potential to increase job satisfaction and productivity, which benefits employees, organizations and the economy.
When employees take vacations, it increases their productivity, provides greater job satisfaction, reduces their stress levels, leads to a better night’s sleep and benefits cardiovascular health by aiding in the prevention of heart disease.
As employees are less stressed when they are able to take vacations, organizations can benefit from lower health care costs. They also benefit from an increase in employee engagement, loyalty and productivity.
Employees taking vacations even benefits the economy as a whole. Workers taking all of their vacation time can lead to a $160 billion boost in total business sales and a $21 billion increase in tax revenues. It is also projected to cause $1.2 million in job growth in the manufacturing, retail and transportation industries.
Managers can encourage employees to use their vacation time by discussing the benefits of taking time off work, increasing employee awareness of the risks of stress and emphasizing the importance of a work-life balance. Managers can also allow employees to disconnect when taking vacations and lead by example by taking vacation days themselves.
Companies with Policies Encouraging the Use of Vacation Time
Some companies are realizing the benefits of promoting vacation time usage, including Evernote, FullContact and Kik.
Evernote has no vacation time limits, and each employee is given $1,000 for taking a vacation lasting one week or longer. FullContact offers every employee $7,500 annually to pay for a vacation. Kik requires employees to take a one-week vacation every four months, and its offices are closed for two weeks near the Christmas and holiday season.
Due to pressures at work, employees in the United States avoid taking time off for themselves as they fear falling behind on their assignments or losing their jobs altogether. However, the mental and physical health of employees may suffer, and the profitability of organizations could be negatively affected when employees decide against using their vacation time. Employers should be aware of this trend and encourage their employees to disconnect from work on occasion.
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