How to Promote Happiness: Change the Clocks to Vacation Time

By Robert Half on June 8, 2016 at 12:57pm

We've all heard that money can't buy happiness, but can vacation time? And can knowing the answer to that question help you better manage your staff and your own performance, whether you’re a first-time or senior manager?

A 2015 study on vacation deprivation showed that Canadian workers received 17 vacation days last year, on average, but only used 15.5 of them. This translates to more than 10 million vacation days left on the table in 2015. Think that's a lot? In the thirteen years that has been doing their vacation deprivation study, we are looking at 350 million unused vacation days by Canadian workers... the equivalent of a whopping $53 billion CDN in returned wages to employers!

Worry about work not getting done

So why isn’t Canada taking more – and longer – vacations? According to a new Robert Half "Vacation Vexation" survey of more than 400 Canadian workers, they're worried about the work that doesn't get done when they're away. Here are some of their responses:

  • 36% said they were worried about their colleagues absorbing their workload.
  • 38% said they were concerned about the amount of work that would await them when they returned.
  • 36% of workers admitted to checking in with the office at least once or twice a week while on vacation.

Everyone agrees: Vacation time is important

While Canadian may not be taking vacations, they fully understand the importance of vacation time, the Expedia study reports. Seventy two per cent of polled workers declared that vacation time makes them happier, more relaxed, closer to their family and less stressed when they return home.

Although some workers are vetoing vacation in order to save for other obligations (e.g. house, tuition, paying off debt, etc.), the top reasons why Canadian workers leave vacation days unused are time management and workload issues. Many workers, for example, say they don't take all their allotted time off because they know that they'll return to a backlog of work.

Vacations have value in the workplace

All of this has implications for you in your position as a manager. There are many reasons that vacation time is necessary for staff members, including recharging their energy, boosting their productivity and increasing their general happiness. Recognize that vacation time can be a great staff reward. It can also play a key part in landing top talent for your team when it comes to making an offer. Taking vacations can both prevent burnout and lead to increased innovation in the workplace.

But vacation time has to be used

But additional vacation days aren't enough. You need to make sure employees use their vacation time. You can ease your employees' concerns about work piling up while they’re gone by engaging a temporary professional to pick up their basic duties during their time off. This will not only give them incentive to take vacation but will also help keep the pace of work moving in the office and allay any concerns you may have as a manager that certain tasks cannot be addressed in your employee’s absence.

Bosses need to show how to take time off, too

Finally, consider your own situation. The best way to encourage your staff to take vacations is by setting the example and taking time off yourself. While it's not always possible to disconnect from work while on vacation, encouraging staff to do so — and doing so yourself — can greatly increase the refresh effect that is arguably the biggest benefit of time away.

Are you setting an example by taking time off on a regular and lengthy-enough basis? If not, perhaps it's time to start taking vacation more seriously.

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