The Do’s and Don’ts to a Great Summer Paid Time Off Policy

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Travel to the beach. Attend family reunion barbeques. Go camping in the mountains. Chain yourself to your desk at work.

When you think of summertime, one of these activities doesn’t fit. However, employees are increasingly nervous about taking paid time off for a summer vacation. They have qualms about whether or not their employer actually supports them taking time off.

In fact, the recently released 2018 State of the American Vacation report from Project: Time Off found that 62 percent of employees feel their company sends mixed messages about taking vacation time. Because getting out of the office isn’t expressly encouraged, 52 percent of employees report having unused vacation days at the end of the year.

Help employees this summer by changing the way your organization approaches time off. These are the do’s and don’ts of supporting employees during vacations:

Don’t assume employees feel comfortable taking time off.

Great employees are constantly striving to prove they are valuable to their company. As a result, many struggle with leaving for a week and letting others take over their responsibilities. In fact, the Project: Time Off survey found that 61 percent of employees are nervous about taking a vacation because they don’t want to look replaceable.

Give your team peace of mind by endorsing vacations and their benefits. Taking paid time off helps employees relax and come back to the office refreshed. Let employees know you understand the importance of vacations by checking in with those who have mounds of paid time off accumulated.

Ask them if they have plans for a trip anytime soon. Use phrases like “you deserve time off” or “you’ve earned a vacation.” This way, they’ll see you not only approve of taking a break but also that you encourage it.

Do host vacation awareness events.

Another great way to build work/life balance and time off into your company culture is hosting events that educate employees on their paid time off options. Discussing the policy as a group takes it from the pages of the employee handbook and makes it a reality.

Also, include a variety of other discussions and activities during vacation awareness events. For instance, employees can meet with their managers to discuss a plan for when an individual is out of the office. A financial advisor can also come in and give a talk about effectively saving for a vacation.

Don’t let work pile up.

The aforementioned survey found that 56 percent of employees list a lack of coverage for their workload as the reason they’re hesitant to take time off. They’re worried that after a relaxing trip, they’ll return to a mountain of responsibilities that will immediately stress them out.

Plan ahead. Use the weeks before one team member goes on vacation to train another skilled employee. This employee can shadow their co-worker to learn new responsibilities. When this employee fills in on that role for the week, they will gain valuable hands-on experience while ensuring everything runs smoothly.

Do allot time for catching up.

It’s not easy to jump back into the job after a long vacation. Employees need to re-acclimate to get back to normal. Offering a half day when an individual returns gives them a chance to slowly get back into the swing of things.

It’s also important for managers to sit down with returning employees and catch them up on what happened in their absence. This is especially important at fast-paced organizations. Being proactive and discussing the highs and lows of the employee’s time away will ensure they return to work with all the information they need.

Don’t encourage martyrdom.

While some people skip vacations to seem irreplaceable, others do it to show how much they’d sacrifice for their company. Dedication is important but when it turns into martyrdom, it leads to employee burnout.

For example, the Project: Time Off survey found that of employees who take more than 75 percent of their paid time off, 59 percent are happy with their organization. And 57 percent are happy with their job. In comparison, of those who take less than 25 percent of PTO, only 46 percent are happy with their company and/or their job.

Be on the lookout for signs of employee burnout. If an employee keeps volunteering for more and more responsibilities, sit down and talk with them. Let them know you’d rather have a happy employee than an overworked and stressed one.

Do make recognition a priority.

When employees feel valued, they feel less pressure to excessively prove themselves. They can be confident with their place in the organization, which removes the unnecessary pressure of sacrificing vacation time.

Find little ways to recognize employees on a daily basis. Thank them for their hard work. Ask for their opinions and ideas. Personally, congratulate them on their success. This will show them that you notice and appreciate all they do.

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Val Matta
Val Matta
Val Matta is the vice president of business development at CareerShift, a comprehensive job hunting and career management solution that gives job seekers complete control over their job search. It's available for individual users, university and military career services centers, libraries, and corporations seeking to offer outplacement assistance to former employees. Connect with Val and CareerShift on LinkedIn.