Richard Conn is the Senior Director, Search Marketing for RingCentral, a global leader in unified communications and contact center services. He is passionate about connecting businesses and customers and has experience working with Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Experian, Target, Nordstrom, Kayak, Hilton, and Kia. Richard has written for sites such as Right Inbox and Marketscale.
Work and career are an integral part of life. However, when work becomes the only thing in your life it can be unhealthy. It is essential for your employees to take time off from work for their sake, as much as yours. Overworked employees are unhappy, do not engage and do not contribute to a productive office environment. Employees who take time off come to work with a positive mindset and charged to take on challenges.
Giving your employees an occasional reprieve from the daily grind will help promote health, productivity, and happiness in the long run. You cannot expect the best from people without allowing time to rest and recharge. Employers need to create a change in mindset and build policies that encourage paid time off (PTO), even for contractual and contingent workers.
With virtual phone systems available, employees can be connected and on the job 24/7. This needs to be discouraged. Work needs to be left at the office, unless for an emergency. Employees who bring work home do not have time for family or themselves. They come home tired and go back to work frustrated, having no time to switch off from the daily hustle.
Overworked Britons wasted 163 million annual leave days in 2016. Employees are not willing to take time off from work due to heavy workload, uncooperative management and cultural pressures. 19% of people surveyed by a UK software firm reported having experienced pressure from management to stay at work.
The following reasons should be enough for you and your employees to change attitudes on taking a well-deserved break:
1. Better mental and physical health
What does all work and no play do to Jack? Burnout. Burnout is the result of mental exhaustion. A stressful workplace condition coupled with a lack of control leaves you overwhelmed and emotionally drained. This leads to low self-esteem, hopelessness and reduced performance. Mild burnout can take weeks or a few months to recover from. More severe conditions could even take years.
If you do not rest your brain, it will push back, and this will impact long term mental health. Avoid increased burnout by offering employees small breaks between the day and compulsory vacation time. If you don’t, expect more work hours to be lost as tired employees are forced to take sick leaves. Not to mention the insurance costs involved.
Everyone needs to take time off to be refreshed and clear-headed to give their best. Enforcing PTO will pay dividends for the employer in the form of the employees’ health and attitude towards work. It’s not enough to spend a day at home, while still checking in through online meeting solutions. Encourage employees to take a break from work entirely.
The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study that found that men who more frequently took a day off were 32% less likely to experience heart disease compared with those who didn’t.
2. Increased retention
Encouraging time off increases employee retention. It is the simplest of equations. Happier employees, who like coming to work, will likely stick around. Returning happier and well-rested from a vacation will bring in positive feelings for the employers. While that means a more productive employee, it also means a more loyal one.
A recent research by EY found out that for every 40 hours of free time, an employee’s stay at the company increased by eight months.
3. Increased productivity
Overwhelmed and exhausted by daily life, vacations give us a chance to catch our breath. We come back re-energised, to give our best to our work. Therefore increasing the organisation’s performance. Rested workers perform better as proven by research by EY. They found that for every 10 vacation hours a person took, average performance reviews were 8% higher.
The idleness vacations provide is necessary to get our creative juices flowing, not to mention enough time to look at everything from a new perspective. Expect your employees to be more productive and more in tune with managers and co-workers after some time off.
4. Boosted teamwork
It is important for organisations to not be dependent on any single person. Business continuity is of supreme importance. All the cogs in the machine need to be working seamlessly despite one cog being away for a while.
Vacations can be a very important opportunity to promote cross-functionality. When you delegate to others, you are forced to share your knowledge with colleagues, and they grow in your absence.
Is there a free VoIP service available that your employees use to discuss work? Do keep an eye out for that when you give anyone from the team some time off. They could be disturbing him or her on vacation. A complete disconnection from work is the spirit of a true vacation. And, necessary to encourage independence and collaboration amongst employees.
5. Better work and life balance
If you are spending late hours at the office, working weekends and never taking holidays, you will lose your sense of self. Chronically overworked employees also need time to work on their relationships.
Invest in some time off and focus on hobbies and interests that fell to the wayside as your career zapped your energy. Taking time away from being relentlessly busy gives you a chance to remember what the true meaning of life is. Being a corporate slave is not it.
If you are a workaholic, you need to take time off regularly to spend with your family. Success and money will eventually lose its charm, relationships will not. Unplug from your job for even a short vacation and spend quality time with your family.
Some people find it hard to switch off and can spend their vacations being anxious. If you have too much of a sense of responsibility and your organisation relies on you for major decisions, we suggest you stay in touch using video meeting software. Technology exists to make life simpler and your business should embrace any automation that makes work easier for your employees.
Automation reduces human error and increases human productivity. For instance, rather than teaching new employees how to account for inventory, you could invest in an inventory management system. This automates a mundane task, leaving more time for your employees to do something interesting. Employees who feel challenged at work and are not given monotonous tasks are less likely to burn out.
6. Happier workplace culture
Working for an organisation that prioritises wellness and efficiency rather than just hard work is the dream. When you show your employees you truly care about their health and well-being and not just your business, you instil in them a certain respect.
Having healthy happy employees who take time off will do wonders for your profits and your office environment. The opposite is static productivity and frantic employees who are exhausted to the point of being useless.
7. Save money
If your company has a policy for monetarily remunerating employees for not utilising PTO, everybody loses. If you pay employees for time off they did not take, it affects your bottom line. Unused vacations have cost U.S. businesses $224 billion a year, making them a financial liability for employers.
Additionally, by not utilising their days off, employees risk their mental and physical health. This can lead to unexpected medical expenses, further increasing the cost to both you and them. Medical expenses that will come out of the employers pocket mostly.
As well as the cost of vacation time, there’s long term costs to consider too. As mentioned above, employee retention increases when they take vacations. This means you’ll be spending less on hiring and training new employees, saving money in the long run.
How to Encourage Employees to Take Leave
This image of the ideal hard worker - one who works long hours, does not go on vacations and is available 24/7 - must change. The ideal worker is one who gives his best in the hours designated, disconnects from work occasionally and returns rejuvenated. Employers should introduce structural changes that encourage employees to take breaks from work, for instance:
- Management should set an example and unplug themselves to show employees that everyone needs a break.
- Improving communication is key to this. Tell your employees that they are valuable and so is their health. Talk to them about their emotional wellbeing and the importance of vacations.
- Create a clear vacation policy that practically forces employees to take a few days off every now and then. Reduce benefits on unused leaves, within reason.
- Invest in the best video conferencing software available. Employees can then spend a day at home with family while attending an urgent virtual meeting for an hour or so. A win-win situation, so business continuity does not suffer.
- Promote small breaks between work daily.
- Introduce novel employee recognition ideas that lead to time away from work.
- Have a backup system in place for every employee, so one can go on vacation with peace of mind.
You need a policy shift that is based on the mental health impact and the psychology of stress. You need to strive for a culture where an employee considers a break from work their fundamental right. Which it is. Everyone needs to refuel. Everyone deserves the occasional chance to disassociate from a work environment that is responsible for stress and anxiety.
Encourage your employees to take time off so they know that you care about them and not just your bottom line.
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