As Labor Day fades from view, most HR teams typically breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy a respite from juggling vacation requests and staffing. But, just as everything about 2020 has been different, this year summer didn’t automatically mean “vacation.”
In fact, a vast majority of your team might have forgone any days off at all: One survey found that 44% of working Americans who get paid time off as a benefit used none of it this summer, with an additional 22% reporting fewer days off than usual.
While the use of vacation time is way down—and for obvious reasons since families either didn’t feel safe traveling or didn’t want to “waste” vacation days when very few things were open—this lack of vacation could spell difficulty down the line. Here’s what you need to know about why vacations should still happen.
Three Reasons HR Should Promote Vacations
There are three benefits to encouraging your team to take time off now, before the calendar year is over.
Ease mental health
Employee burn-out is real, as many employees work extra hours and juggle caretaking responsibilities. Add to that the toll that the pandemic and other world events have taken on us collectively: 40% of adults reported experiencing mental health challenges, including anxiety and depression, according to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
That’s why encouraging your team to take time away to recharge and reconnect with family, friends, the outdoors, or even the quiet, can pay dividends in a better outlook and likely increased productivity.
Prevent a costly payout.
As Joseph McCabe, vice chairman of Korn Ferry’s Global Human Resources Center of Expertise, says in a blog post, “A large quantity of accrued unused vacation days represents a financial challenge for organizations…companies don’t have the cash flow to pay out large numbers of unused vacation days.” And carrying them over can also create a financial burden.
Spread out requests.
When employees have banked their days, you can picture what’s going to happen: Everyone may want to make a withdrawal at the same time, which can put you in the unenviable position of having to deny requests, in order to make sure you’re adequately staffed. For example, employees who see a “use it or lose it” scenario on the horizon might all wish to take time off around the holidays, just when you may need them most.
By encouraging them to take time off throughout the next few months, you can avoid a crush of requests and a scheduling nightmare at the end of the year.
How To Move The Needle
Express why you want them to go.
Of course, there are many policy reasons that HR would want employees to take the days they are allotted, but there’s an overarching mental health picture, as well. As Jackie Reinberg, North America consulting leader, absence, disability management and life, at London-based Willis Towers Watson, shared in an article for Society of Human Resource Management, the message is “We care about you. We understand you can’t travel. But we know that unplugging from work is important.” That’s the main message you want your team to hear—that their mental health and productivity will be better served if they take a break to recharge.
While you don’t want to encourage unsafe travel, many people are finding that local visits can fulfill their wanderlust—even if they’re just wandering to a nearby state park or village. In most parts of the country, fall boasts superb weather, perfect for looking at leaves or picking apples—fantastic social distancing activities. You also could suggest they spend some time being a tourist in their own town, visiting landmarks and local shops or restaurants that are often overrun with visitors. These staycations are growing in popularity, with one survey finding nearly one-quarter of respondents saying they took one during the pandemic, and another 40% saying they are likely to plan one soon.
Many companies have a benefit plan that offers discounts at various attractions; make sure to tout that if so, as another way to remind your team of your robust benefits package that encompasses all aspects of their well-being.
Make changes to your policy if necessary.
In today’s uncertain times it might be wise to make some changes, something that 42% of companies are doing, according to Willis Towers Watson. The firm found that nearly one-quarter are planning to increase carryover limits; while about 16% are requiring employees to take vacation time, and another 22 percent are planning to take or considering that approach. While it might seem heavy-handed at first, chances are good your employees will thank you in the long run as they come back recharged and invigorated.