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WORKSPAN
REWARDING READS |

Let Your Workforce Fully Disconnect on Vacation


SergeRandall

“Rewarding Reads” is a space for articles and personal essays meant to be thought-provoking and informative for human resources professionals, from sharing the “human” perspectives on workplace issues to book reviews of business titles we find inspiring. Have an essay or blog post to share? Contact us at workspan@worldatwork.org.

A word to the wise: The way you treat employee vacation requests this summer might contribute to whether your employees stay in their jobs or go elsewhere. Rest assured, many people are rarin’ to go: According to recent research from Microsoft, a stunning 41% of the global workforce is considering leaving their current employer behind this year. 

 

Who can blame them? Unemployment numbers are trending back down, and people have generous options for employment. Quite simply, people will leave organizations that aren't highly flexible and highly attuned to what they need.

 

With cities across the globe reopening, this summer is a critical time for employers to show they care for their team members in a way that they probably haven’t felt was necessary before. If you still discourage disconnecting from work, it’s time for a radical rethink.

 

This summer, using vacation time strategically must be a priority, so you can be productive but also protective of employees after a uniquely trying year. Here's how.

Shut It Down and Step Away

Employers must draw the line between work and time off this summer. Pre-COVID, two out of every three U.S. employees were logging hours during their vacation. It was almost frowned upon to unplug completely. If you allow that trend to continue this summer, your reputation as an employer is likely to take a hit at a time you can’t afford to take one.

 

Truly disconnecting from work during time off must be a top-down commitment: If the boss doesn’t do it, everyone else will be hesitant. Leaders need to take time off and actually stop working. Have managers help individual employees prioritize their workloads to ensure genuine disconnection. Once employees have time to truly disengage from work, they'll return refreshed and grateful. 

 

Paid Vacation Time Is a Health Benefit


The pandemic put a significant strain on our collective mental health. Many workforces haven't had the chance to slow down since it began. In addition to the trauma of living (and working) through the pandemic, employees are experiencing exhaustion at extremely high levels. More than half (52%) of respondents to a recent Indeed survey reported feeling burnt out, and 67% believe the feeling has intensified throughout the pandemic.

 

The fact is your workforce is almost certainly worn down. We already encourage frequent participation in wellness programs because they improve employee productivity and retention. Vacations also enhance employee wellness. So, treat paid vacation time as a strategic health benefit of the same importance as your health plan.

 

Dedicated time off allows employees to put themselves and their families first. And after the year we’ve had, you need to show your workforce that it’s OK to step away.

Recovery Equals Retention

Do vacations pose challenges? Absolutely. Valued workers will be unavailable to you. If several employees take off at once or back-to-back, vacations this summer could affect your organization’s short-term needs. Which is why, before negotiating an employee's vacation request, think strategically about how that time will be used and how you can minimize any challenges.

 

But let them disconnect, nonetheless. A short-term inconvenience beats a long-term talent shortage. Some companies are even shutting down the business for a few extra days this summer, so employees can truly get away from the feelings of guilt that frequently accompany time off. 

 

Allowing employees to enjoy their vacations this summer demonstrates your flexibility and interest in your workforce's well-being at a time when frustrated workers have an increasing number of job options. So, if you insist that everyone needs to be on call all the time because that’s just how it’s always been, don’t be surprised when your top talent finds an employer willing to accommodate some new ideas.

 

About the Author

Amy Schabacker Dufrane, Ed.D., SPHR, CAE, is CEO of HRCI.


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