Vacations and productivity

Employees who are encouraged to take their time off are healthier, more loyal and work harder


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Remember that feeling of finishing up a work on a Friday with the knowledge that your much-anticipated vacation is about to start? Just thinking about it reduces your stress level and allows you to breathe easier.

Business leaders often struggle with the challenge of how the workload will be addressed while employees are away on their vacations. This can result in employers offering very limited number of vacation days as part of their employees’ benefits. Also, employers sometimes place undue pressure on employees regarding their time away from the office, which increases employee stress and guilt, resulting in reduced employee morale and loyalty.

Ironically, these negative consequences result in reduced productivity, which was the initial concern of the employer regarding vacation time.

In the United States, working tirelessly seems to be awarded by many employers through unspoken “attaboys,” to the point where employees hesitate to use their vacation days in fear of missing out on a raise or a promotion or even being fired. In fact, the United States is a leader in employees not utilizing all their vacation days. According to Bankrate.com, 52 percent of U.S. employees will give up a median of seven vacation days each year.

How do we change this seemingly lose/lose situation into a win/win?

When employees are asked what they love about their jobs, pay is not usually mentioned first, although pay is an important aspect of people living fulfilling lives and being able to meet their most pressing needs. Employees often cite benefits, including vacation time, especially if the amount of vacation time is consistent with, or greater than, that offered by comparable employers. The icing on the cake is when employers encourage employees to take — and enjoy — their vacation time, without leaving them feeling guilty for their time away from their duties.

While focusing on health and wellness, we all know that over time we become mentally and physically tired from not only working long hours, but repeating the same tasks over and over. Our brains crave a break from the usual routine and work schedule.

A healthy balance of changing the scenery, fun exercise, time alone and/or time with others and rest helps us to significantly recharge.

This is where the employer actually benefits. Employees who are allowed regular vacations, without the negative consequences associated with being made to feel guilty for taking care of themselves, results in employees who return to work with a positive attitude and ready to be more productive than they were prior to their vacation.

In addition to being more productive, employees who take regular vacations:

•          Are less stressed, which can
            significantly reduce heart disease and

            other health problems

•          Sleep better

•          Have stronger relationships with

            co-workers

•          Have more positive outlooks

•          Are sick less often

•          Are more focused

•          Display a more positive attitude

Some companies now go as far as to offer to pay for their employees to go on vacation, knowing that the return on investment will be significant.

For example, Mark Douglas, CEO of advertising firm SteelHouse, gives each of his employees $2,000 to go on vacation each year. The result? According to Douglas, increased productivity and a turnover rate close to zero.

In the Forbes article, “Take A Vacation To Boost Your Productivity At Work,” Elena Bajic compares the amount of vacation time and associated attitudes typically seen in the United States compared to other countries: “Europeans clearly know the value of a vacation; they average 25 to 30 days of vacation per year. France perhaps best epitomizes the vacation spirit, mandating 30 days of paid leave each year, while it surpasses the U.S. in terms of productivity.”

Healthy employees who feel appreciated work harder and are more likely to stay with their current employer. At the end of the year, companies will be more profitable due to dedicated, productive employees who are encouraged to focus on staying healthy and not made to feel guilty for enjoying their well-earned vacation time.

Carol Phillips, a Manchester-based health and wellness expert, can be reached through her website at HealthDesignNH.com.

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