While I was trying to think of a topic for this blog, my thoughts kept drifting to my upcoming vacation. I’m taking time off to be with my family and to get away from work. I began daydreaming about splashing and laughing in the ocean with my kids. What fun! But slowly those thoughts turned nightmarish as I began to wonder, “How much time will I really spend with them, and how much time will I check emails or take calls from work?
That’s a dilemma that workers around the world share now that technology has tethered us to work 24/7. And in our drive to be #1, Americans are the least likely (49%) to detach while on vacation:
- 68% reported checking both work and personal emails while on vacation.
- 55% who planned on disconnecting were not able to do so.
- 39% of millennials would leave their smartphones behind, but only 37% of adults aged 40-50 would (Intel Security).
Many Americans Don’t Use All Their Vacation Time
News from the American Psychological Association’s 2018 Work and Well-Being survey doesn’t paint a much better picture. While 90% of working Americans enjoyed vacation time in the past year:
- 27% haven’t taken a vacation in the past 6 months.
- 36% did not use all their paid vacation time last year.
We do like vacations, at least in theory; 76% of Americans say they’re important. So why aren’t US workers taking advantage of their vacation benefits?
- Corporate culture doesn’t encourage employees to take time off: 50%
- Supervisor doesn’t encourage it: 62%
- Workload makes it difficult to take time off: 33%
- Don’t want to miss important information or opportunities: 25%
- Feel guilt and fear that they will be viewed as less committed to their jobs: 20%.
No wonder stress is the #1 health issue in the US (CDC).
It’s Important for Employees to Detach from Work
Workplace stress adversely impacts employee health and can also lead to increased absenteeism, both of which impact your overall benefit costs and bottom line.
Benefits of Detachment
Workers from companies that encourage time off get more benefits out of their vacations (see figure to the right).
Post Vacation Let Down
The survey also showed that 38% of employees had the positive effects from vacations wear off more quickly in companies that don’t have a culture that supports vacations, compared to 14% in a supportive culture.
Promote a Culture that Supports Vacations
To help employees relieve stress and the health and productivity issues costing your company, your culture should encourage employees to use their vacation time. Make sure all levels of management understand and support this through their verbal and nonverbal behaviors.
- If leadership stays connected even while off, do they have an unwritten rule that other levels of leadership do the same?
- Do managers at any level call or email employees while they’re off and expect a response?
- Upon return from vacation, is a manager commenting about what the employee missed because he/she wasn’t connected?
- Are workers who don’t take vacation or work through vacation rewarded or thought of more favorably?
If these behaviors are present, then you don’t have a culture that supports vacations. And you are adversely impacting your bottom line without even realizing it.
Encouraging employees to use their vacations is good for business.