How much paid time off does your company offer? If you fall within the average, your employees have seven or eight paid holidays, eight floating vacation days and eight PTO or sick days per year. That adds up to a measly three weeks a year to recover from illnesses, take trips and attend to personal projects and responsibilities.
Now that the new 40-hour work week is 50 hours long, the average just isn’t enough. Read on to discover six compelling reasons to give your employees more breaks. Then be sure to lead by example and take a vacation yourself.
It may seem counterintuitive, but a generous vacation package can actually boost productivity. For today’s white-collar workforce, the day rarely ends at 5:00. Most weeks call for at least one day of overtime, if not multiple days when a deadline demands late nights. All of that extra work adds up to sleep deprivation over the long term.
Employees still need to meet their personal responsibilities regardless of how many hours they work in one week, and sleep is usually the first thing to go.
What does sleep deprivation look like for the brain? Six percent less glucose, or fuel, reaches the sleep-starved brain, resulting in a 12 to 14 percent productivity lapse in areas of the brain that perform critical thinking and other higher functioning skills. Giving employees more vacation days — so that they can take a week off more than once a year, or schedule more three-day weekends — gives them time to recover and rest. That means a sharper, more productive workforce for your company.
- Recruitment and Retention
In addition to the productivity benefits to your company, a better-rested workforce is a happier workforce. Ample time off makes employees feel less stressed and more satisfied with their jobs. And every worker you can retain instead of replace saves time and resources for the company.
A generous holiday policy also gives your company a competitive edge in the job market. Most places offer the same underwhelming benefits package combo of meager time off and costly health insurance.
You don’t need to be as radical as Netflix, but any gesture that sets you apart from the rest — such as giving employees their birthdays off or shutting down the office for the week between Christmas and New Year’s — makes your company more attractive to potential hires, giving managers their choice of top talent during the recruitment process.
- Separation of Family and Workplace
When employees are distracted by personal matters, the quality of their work suffers.
For example, a father who wishes to attend his child’s parent-teacher conference but is afraid to say so will likely spend the day of the conference wondering what his wife and the teacher are discussing. This may lead to time-wasting activities like internet surfing or simply result in an inferior performance because the man isn’t focused on his job.
Offering a flexible PTO policy, such as the ability to make up lost time during evenings and weekends, allows employees to balance work and family life without constantly choosing between the two. Even employees without children or spouses may have dogs that need walking at lunchtime, health matters to attend to or other family members in need of care. Since technology makes it so easy to work outside the office, there’s no reason not to give your employees flexibility in managing their workloads.
- The Rest of the World Does It
The U.S. lags embarrassingly far behind other developed countries in paid time off. In a recent list of the 20 countries with the most generous vacation packages, America was nowhere to be seen.
Some people argue that generous time off makes these countries’ economies less competitive, but Germany, a model of economic health and competitiveness, claimed the eleventh spot. Perhaps it’s time we learned from our European allies that the greatest efficiency does not always stem from the greatest number of hours worked.
- Employee Health
Employees in poor health place a burden on companies ranging from higher health insurance costs to reduced productivity and performance. This doesn’t mean you should fire everyone with chronic health conditions. Instead, create a corporate culture that encourages good health. For example, studies show a correlation between annual vacations and mortality among men at risk for heart disease. Men who skipped vacations were more likely to die of heart attacks than their vacationing counterparts.
Even in an age of measurement, some things can’t be measured. Creative thinking is one concept that eludes tracking. But we know it’s essential for innovation and other in-demand workforce traits.
Ask a creative person how their mind works and you’re likely to receive many different responses. But most artists prescribe both discipline — a regular schedule, working even when feeling uninspired — and experience — the free time provided by vacations — to recharge the mind. Creative people also know that ideas can come at any time, even during mundane activities like commuting.
An expanded vacation and PTO package gives employees time to experience, daydream and recharge. They will return from time off with new ideas and inspiration to put into their jobs.
With so many important factors on the line — from productivity and retention to employee health and creativity — there’s no good reason to be average when it comes to time off. Unveil a new vacation package tomorrow and you’ll soon be yielding the benefits of a well-rested office.
Are you getting enough holidays and PTO? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments!