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How to supercharge your workforce by encouraging vacations

icon5 min read


To many people, summertime means cookouts, lemonade stands, baseball games, fireworks, and family vacations. But for employees in the modern American workplace, the concept of a relaxing week off to unplug from work and spend time with family has become a distant and unreachable ideal.

In fact, according to a 2017 study by Glassdoor:

  • The average U.S. employee takes only about half of their eligible vacation days every year.
  • Even when they’re using vacation days, about 27% of employees report feeling obligated to stay aware of work issues or to step in and complete tasks that come up while they’re away.
  • About 12% of respondents said they’re expected to be reachable, deliver work, and participate in conference calls while on vacation.

Clearly, even when they’re using time off, some employees feel like they can’t take their minds off their jobs. While the reasons for these statistics likely vary depending on each respondent’s personal life and career goals, many experts believe that workplace culture is to blame.

There have been countless articles written about the American tendency to glorify overwork. As a result of this unique cultural trait, the average workplace in the United States has become increasingly demanding over the last several decades, making employees feel the pressure to be available at all times.

But taking time off work to rest and recharge is associated with so many positive outcomes— and not just for the person taking the vacation. Employers who encourage workers to take advantage of their days off also reap numerous benefits, including:

Increased productivity

It may seem counterintuitive that anyone could get more done by working fewer days, but research shows that employees who take more time off are able to complete more and better-quality work. According to a study by Project Time Off, employees who took fewer than 10 of their allotted vacation days per year had a 34.6% likelihood of earning a raise or bonus in a three-year window. For the employees who took more than 10 days off, the odds jumped to 65.4%.  


Less risk of burnout

Overworked, exhausted employees are highly susceptible to burnout, which can be contagious and detrimental to a company’s goals. By encouraging and normalizing a few days of truly disconnecting from the office, managers can demonstrate their commitment to employees’ personal well-being— a key to improving engagement company-wide.


Job satisfaction

Several studies (and plenty of anecdotal evidence) show that employees who get time away from the workplace to have fun and relax are more creative, productive, and happy with their jobs when they return. One company that experimented with mandatory vacations found that managers reported a 33% boost in creativity, a 13% increase in productivity, and a 25% jump in happiness from employees after they’d taken a week off.


More well-rounded employees

When employees are on vacation and truly checked-out from their job duties, their coworkers that are still in the office naturally have to pick up some of the slack. This may sound like a hassle, but some experts think it’s actually good for everyone involved. While some employees get to rest and recharge, others get to sharpen skills they normally don’t use in their day-to-day tasks and get visibility into the work their colleagues in other roles and departments perform. This cross-pollination is good for problem-solving innovation. It can also illuminate any organizational weaknesses that might cause problems if any one employee resigns.

How company leaders can encourage more vacation usage

Limit rollover days

When employees can roll over an unlimited number of their vacation to the following year, it’s easy and tempting to hoard days in anticipation of an extra-long vacation in the future. In the meantime, they’ll show up to work burned out and frazzled. By implementing a partial “use it or lose it” policy, company leaders can encourage their reports to take advantage of their vacation days within a calendar year.


Establish and enforce a zero-contact policy

The benefits of a good vacation are dampened when employees are unable to completely check out from their work. In their experiment with mandatory vacations, the company referenced above created an incentive to keep employees from doing work on their time off: vacation days were paid unless the employee contacted anyone about work during their week away. While this method may not be right for every workplace, company leaders should establish that disconnecting from work while on vacation is a company expectation.


Lead by example

As with any cultural aspect in the workplace, employees look to the leaders above them to determine what’s normal and expected. Managers and executives across departments need to set a good example for the people that report to them, and taking a vacation is no exception. When employees see their supervisors prioritizing their own personal well-being by taking time off to relax and reconnect with loved ones, they’ll be far more likely to do the same.  

Employee vacations are an investment in your company

It’s natural to worry that encouraging employees to take more time off will deal a blow to the company’s overall productivity, but research does not support this assumption. By intentionally taking steps to normalize and encourage the use of vacation days, company leaders can expect to reap benefits in employee productivity, creativity, engagement, and morale.

Tracking employee time off doesn’t have to be a chore. See how Fuse Workforce’s all-in-one HR platform can simplify your time and attendance process, saving you time and effort so you can get back to doing what you do best: supporting your team.