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Why Time Away from Work Matters

Hiking in the mountains, relaxing on a beach, or just taking time to spend at home, consider stepping away from work and using that time to relax. Time out of the office can help lower stress, help improve productivity and help reduce the risk for burnout. Yet nearly half of American employees report unused vacation time each year.

PTO note.

Why Employees Worry About Taking Time Of

Many American professionals want to take vacation time but worry about the consequences of doing so. The reluctance to actually take the time off can potentially impact overall employee health and job performance.

In addition to the productivity benefits of taking time off, simply planning a vacation can boost health up to eight weeks before the trip. Employees who plan vacations report greater job satisfaction, greater happiness with their employer, and greater happiness in their personal life compared with employees who do not plan to take time off.

Taking time off benefits everyone, yet employees continue to worry about doing so. Some employees worry that using their vacation time may make them seem less dedicated to their employer. Others worry about the workload they will face when they return, arguing there's no good time to step away from the office. Employees may feel guilty about the work coworkers will need to do in their absence, and worry about someone dropping the ball on an important assignment.

How Managers Can Create a Company Culture That Supports Paid Time Off

  1. Don't assume employees will use an unlimited vacation policy.
    Following trends set by tech companies and startups, more businesses have adopted unlimited vacation policies. While some companies worried that employees might abuse these policies, the opposite is true. Employees end up taking very little time off, usually less than the standard two weeks offered by other employers. One barrier: Employees still need to get their time off approved, and employees worry they will appear less loyal and dedicated to their job.
  2. Lead by example.
    When managers take time off, employees feel empowered to do the same. If you want your team to take two weeks off each year, be sure to do so yourself. Set an example by not sending emails or otherwise contacting your team during your vacation. The same goes for personal days or sick days — if you use these days yourself, employees will feel more comfortable doing the same.
  3. Mandate a fixed number of days that must be taken together.
    The benefits of time off are cumulative; taking sporadic days here and there can be nice, but a full week away from the office is an important mental reset. SHRM reports that some companies require that employees take a minimum of five consecutive business days off, ensuring everyone gets the opportunity for an extended break.
  4. Respect employee time off.
    Just because our smartphones make it possible for employees to be in touch anywhere, anytime doesn't mean they should be. Create a company culture where there is no expectation employees will check email during their time off. Additionally, consider giving employees a "re-entry" day where they can catch up on messages and get up to speed on projects, minimizing fears they will be overwhelmed by work once they return to the office.
Whether your company has an unlimited vacation policy or more traditional PTO accrual, creating a workplace culture where employees feel empowered to take their vacation days will benefit everyone.

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