In Europe, the summer break is sacred. There is an unspoken rule that August is holiday season, and most things can wait until September. But while their European counterparts are enjoying rest and relaxation, many American workers are still at their desks. According ExpediaAmericans took the fewest vacation days in the world in 2021, leaving on average more than four days or 29% of their unused paid time off (PTO). However, with more than two-thirds of American workers feeling at least moderately exhausted, it’s more important than ever that people disconnect from work. And it’s in employers’ interests to make sure they do.
WFH = Never turn off
With the rise of remote and hybrid working, the lines between family life and work life have become increasingly blurred, making it difficult for people to completely disconnect. Although hybrid is the preferred way of working for employees and associated with improved well-being and work-life balance, the data suggests it can be more emotionally draining than fully remote or full-time office work. “A predictable and consistent routine can help people deal with feelings of stress and uncertainty – especially during a pandemic,” said Elora Voyles, Industrial Organizational Psychologist and People Specialist at TINYpulse. “Hybrid, however, requires frequent changes to these daily habits: workers have to constantly change things up, so it’s hard to find a routine when your schedule is always in and out of the office.”
Even when people take time, half admit take their work laptop on vacation, and 41% frequently join video calls, further draining them.
Whatever the cause of this failure to unplug, it is not sustainable for employees or for businesses. When staff are unable to completely disconnect, they often struggle to perform at their best and are more prone to burnout.
This is a serious problem for employers, Asana Search find that anyone suffering from burnout at work is more at risk of having low morale, being less engaged, making more mistakes and leaving the company.
That’s why employers who value their employees should do everything they can to encourage them to take a restorative break. When people are able to fully recharge, they return to work with a “renewed sense of energy and purpose, which improves their productivity and drive”, says Kevin Cashmanauthor of The principle of the pause: Step back to lean forward. Furthermore, it is far better for companies to nurture, nurture, and retain existing talent than to spend time, cost, and effort hiring and training new blood.
Recognizing the importance of giving their staff time to relax, some large employers, including LinkedIn and Hootsuite, have introduced company-wide vacations (where everyone gets the same week off). Others, like PwC and Grant Thornton, operate during summer hours, giving employees a shorter workweek to take advantage of the best weather. However, there are other ways for companies to establish healthy paid time off practices.
Begin by communicating the benefits of daily PTO use so employees are confident that taking time is good for their work and their well-being and is perceived positively by the company. The involvement of line managers helps amplify the message and they can also encourage their teams to use their full PTO allowance.
People sometimes resist taking a vacation because they dread the idea of the mountain of work they will return to. Leaders can help reduce stress by arranging coverage for urgent tasks and helping employees prioritize their work before their vacation and upon their return.
lead by example
Company founders and CEOs should not only promote the virtues of vacations, but also “follow the example”. With more responsibilities, it’s harder to take time off, but it sets a healthy example for staff, and everyone benefits from a break. As Arianna Huffington said to a CHRO who felt that taking annual leave seemed like a luxury she could no longer afford: “I told her that she should consider taking time for herself as an investment in her leadership, not like a luxury. She has seen results just by making this small investment in herself. His decision making was better. His leadership was more empathetic and more creative.
Leaders setting the standard for the rest of the organization, they must resist the urge to respond to non-urgent emails or take calls while on vacation. Similarly, contacting employees on annual leave should be avoided. This reinforces respect for their personal time and encourages them to take full advantage of their break.
Limit vacation turnover
If employees can defer their vacation days or are paid for the PTO they have accumulated, they often have less incentive to take time off. By introducing a “use it or lose it” policy or limiting the number of days employees can carry over, employers can help ensure people use their days off and take the breaks they need.
Encourage regular breaks
Of course, summer vacation isn’t a magical solution to employee burnout, nor can it keep employees healthy, happy, and productive throughout the year – but it makes a difference. Stress management specialist Elizabeth Scott, Ph.D., echoes many studies when she says taking a break promotes clearer thinking and can improve job performance.
To prolong the holiday effect and help teams perform at their best consistently, the key is to make self-care part of business as usual. This means encouraging employees to use their evenings, weekends and paid time off as a chance to leave their stress behind and focus on the things that matter most. If people are well rested, their work-life balance improvesthey are more energetic and engaged, and your business will be better for it.