December 9, 2016

How to Get Employees to Use Their Time Off


“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

Too many hours at the office can make Jack (and Jill) depressed, anxious, exhausted and grumpy as well.

Burnout is hard to come back from, and will cost you dedicated, skilled people. Every employer has a “crunch time” during the year when all hands really need to be on deck. However, making sure that all of your employees get a chance to take personal time off is of equal importance.

Believe it or not, there is a large percentage of American workers that refuses to use their vacation time. According to Market Watch, more than half of U.S. workers don’t use all of their vacation days.

There are many reasons why this happens. Some are afraid that they will lose their jobs, others don’t want to fall behind at work while on vacation. Some believe that if they work more, there will be a better chance that they will be rewarded with a pay raise.

Whatever the reason, the fact is that many workers do not use the time off that they are allotted, even if studies have shown that taking time off really does result in happier and more productive workers.

That’s why your job as a responsible business owner should be to encourage your staff to use their vacation days in order to keep them happy, healthy and motivated. Not sure how to go about it? Here are some tips.


No More Rollovers

A great way to encourage people to at least take their paid time off is to stop allowing them to roll all of it over. Many workers who have rollover options operate under the premise that they are going to one day need all those free days, so it’s best to save them up.

In most cases, however, they never end up taking them. One way to encourage employees to use all of their days is to let them know that rollovers are no longer an option.

Give them plenty of lead time on this arrangement so nobody is blind-sided; for folks with a lot of stored time, it will be hard to use it all and losing it can be very frustrating.

Another option is to give those with more hours than a certain threshold the chance to arrange a one time payout. After that, they have to use it or lose it, and this deadline will turn taking that time into one of their critical goals.

If you offer sick or personal leave, you can give your workers the chance to cash out a portion of that time, but their vacation must be used. This can be a nice incentive for those workers that  you basically have to push out of the office to get them to take a break.

Relax the Rules

Workers need flexibility when arranging time off. Not everyone’s partner or family members have a lot of say when they can take time off, so forcing people to arrange things weeks or even months in advance can be off-putting.

If you are using an automated scheduling solution like ours, you could even let people put in requests for the next day. As long as they are able to find people to trade their shifts with on short notice, it really shouldn’t affect your business in any way.

Why not offer partial day leave possibilities as well? If two hours is all they need to take care of projects or personal errands, they should be able to take that time off paid without restrictions. Not everyone needs two weeks to refuel, a simple afternoon off every now and then can really do wonders for morale.


Promote Travel

If you offer a cash bonus during the holidays or a retirement account bonus, consider investing in your people in other ways. Travel incentives need not be expensive; an overnight trip to a nearby city with a gift card for a great dinner or tickets to a local concert or sporting event won’t break your bonus budget.

Travel gifts are also a great way to celebrate meeting professional and personal goals. For example, if a full-time hire has been working to finish his or her degree, help them celebrate with a weekend getaway.

Do you have an co-worker who’s a big fan of live music? A weekend away and a couple of tickets to see their favorite artist could be a great way to reward excellent work, encourage workers to use up paid time off and and build loyalty.

Offer Flex Time

Another option to promote free time is to allow flex time. Most workers put in a standard 40 hours per week, and this usually averages out to 8 hours per day. However, if you have the staffing flexibility, consider allowing people to mix it up to better suit their needs.

Maybe someone needs Friday afternoon off, but would rather not take a full vacation day. Why not let them work four 10-hour days so that they can earn all their hours and have a day off at the end of the week?

Of course, it’s hard to balance those types of schedule requests all the time, but once in a while shouldn’t be difficult.

How to Manage Requests

A great way to encourage people to plan their paid time off is to discuss their scheduling needs. This can be done one on one, or with a simple ranking exercise. Encourage all of your workers to rank the following:

1) Favorite time of year to take a week off. While you may not be able to honor all of these requests, once you have this information you can begin the discussion process. If two people have the same birthday or anniversary weekend that they’d like to celebrate with a weekend getaway, they may collaborate and fix the conflict before you even see it!

2) Favorite day of the week to flex. Some people want to leave early Friday and start the weekend early. Others may want Thursday afternoon off to run errands so they don’t have to do them on Saturday. People need free time to address issues like child care, helping aging parents to the doctor or just keeping their household running. A simple questionnaire can help you determine their scheduling needs and make plans to keep your organization fully staffed.

Figuring out staff availability is a big part of the picture. By asking your employees about their preferences, you are showing that you care. And by getting those preferences recorded, you’re making your life a lot easier as well – especially when it comes to scheduling staff and always knowing who will be off and when.