The Business Value of Taking Time Off

As summer approaches, we think about firing up the barbecue, hanging in the park, or otherwise enjoying time under the sun. Some of us dream of that upcoming vacation planned far in advance while others scramble to squeeze in some down time. I confess to having experienced both.

Everyone needs a break now and then to recharge, refresh, and reset their minds and bodies to perform at the highest level. However, studies tell us that many U.S. employees underuse their paid time off (PTO). This is especially disheartening considering that taking vacation has been linked with better health, well-being, and work productivity.

More and more, businesses recognize the value of employees spending time away from work because it’s a win-win for both parties. Employees work hard to ensure lose ends are tied up before they leave and they return to the workplace with a renewed energy and outlook. Some employers have been trying innovative ways to fix the problem of employees using too little or no vacation time. Here are some of the more inventive and recent takes on paid leave.

Mandatory vacations
Imagine your employer telling you that you must take leave.  Believe it or not, some employers have instituted a mandatory minimum of vacation time for each employee per year. Excuses of being “too busy” or feeling guilty about taking time off don’t work because the company culture sets the expectation of time away from the office. While mandatory vacation may feel a little like “Big Brother,” I think it shows that the employer really cares about the employees’ well-being, which in turn increases employee engagement.

Unlimited paid time off
With unlimited PTO, people can take off for as long as they want, whenever they want (typically in consultation with their managers). This policy has one major advantage in that it offers employees the flexibility to balance the needs of their personal and professional lives. Surprisingly, most employers find that employees don’t abuse this policy and that many still don’t use their full vacation allowance.  I can personally attest to that! Nevertheless, the concept that you can do what you need to restore your well-being sends a strong, positive message to employees about the employer’s commitment to well-being.

These arrangements allow employees to, as the saying goes, mix business with pleasure while traveling for work-related obligations. For example, an employee flies to Denver for a work conference, and then she lingers a few extra days to see her son. And, yes, I will admit to combining work and pleasure, and it’s great. As with any vacation, the line between work and personal time can become blurred, so employees need to be careful about setting expectations and boundaries.

How to fix the vacation deficit
While not every organization can implement these types of leave, there are a few good practices to keep in mind to ensure your employees can catch a break and stay healthy and productive:

Do encourage employees to take advantage of their PTO policies. Use communications to reiterate their importance – how they can improve an employee’s well-being and how it contributes to an organization’s bottom line.
Implement softer pressures to get people to use leave, such as “use it or lose it” policies. With these in place, employees can carry over only a limited number of PTO hours into the next calendar year. Hopefully, this policy can serve as a reminder to some employees that they are overdue for a break.
Remember that not everyone has time, money, and freedom to travel far for vacation. Use internal communications to promote “staycations” and perhaps even spotlight local attractions for each worksite to get people interested in taking time off on their own turf.
If someone is on vacation, let that person be! Save the emails in the draft box and release upon your employee’s return. Many people periodically check emails while on vacation, so refrain from sending them mundane or non-urgent emails so they can truly take a break.

No single leave policy is going to work for everyone. The most important thing you can do when reviewing PTO policies is to ask yourself, “Are we doing all that we can to support the well-being of our employees and reaching our goals as an organization?” For more ideas on how to do just this, visit

These non-insurance services are provided by Humana Wellness.
July 11th, 2017 9:27am