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How vacation time improves employee wellness

Mental health, physical health, and employee motivation are all components of employee wellbeing that increase when your workers have vacation days

As a manager, one of your key responsibilities is to look after your employees. While that is usually understood to mean ensuring workplace safety, looking after employees also means maintaining employee wellness. A key way to improve employee mental health is by understanding the benefits of vacation time to your workers.

Table of contents

1. What are the benefits of vacation time?

1.1. Increased motivation

1.2. Less burnout

1.3. Increased productivity

1.4. Employee retention

2. When is vacation time best for employee wellness?

3. How can you help employees use vacation time?

What are the benefits of vacation time?

Employee wellness is a mix of factors, including job satisfaction, mental health, and burnout. Vacation time can improve all these factors, and lead to happier, healthier, and more enthusiastic employees.

Two women hiking on a dirt-lined rocky path

Increased motivation

Taking vacation days is an important part of maintaining a work-life balance; and when employees are able to make time for their lives outside of work, they tend to be happier. Knowing they can take vacation leave helps workers feel motivated to show up to work and give their all.

Less burnout

Avoiding burnout is an essential part of employee wellness. Not only employee mental health, but also productivity and work quality, decline when employees are burned out. Burnout is also very common – approximately 84% of millennials report feeling burned out at their jobs. Vacation time fights burnout by giving employees room to step back and take breaks.

Increased productivity

Along with the benefits that time away has for your employees, it also benefits your business. Using their vacation benefits makes employees more productive workers. Regular vacation opportunities reenergize employees and help them focus more closely on tasks.

Employee retention

As an employer, it’s in your interest to institute policies that promote employee wellness so that your staff feel satisfied working for you. Vacation leave is one of those policies; offering employees vacation time shows that you acknowledge they are human and benefit from self-care. Feeling seen and cared for incentivizes employee to remain.

When is vacation time best for employee wellness?

As beneficial as taking time off is, not all forms of vacation leave are equally helpful for wellness at work. Research by Dr. Jessica De Bloom indicates that shorter vacations are more helpful for employee wellness. This makes sense, as you can take vacations more frequently when they are shorter, and a key aspect of her findings is that vacation time is most helpful when it is regular.

According to De Bloom, health and wellness increase almost immediately after holidays begin, and peak around the eighth day. When it comes to vacation activities, simply engaging in passive or social activities increases wellness, no matter the activity.

Additionally, adopting a somewhat active lifestyle increases the benefit of vacationing. Walking everywhere you can while on vacation is one example of a change you can make to your routine that helps you get the most out of your time away.

A woman looking out at a mountain view and relaxing

It’s also possible to preserve the feeling of being on vacation after the trip is over, which makes its effects on employee wellbeing last longer. Some strategies include:

    • Sharing and exchanging vacation stories/pictures with colleagues
    • Take breaks where possible during the day, and stay hydrated
    • Keep and look back on your photos from the vacation

Vacation time of all kinds has also been shown to improve cardiovascular health. People who take regular vacation days are less likely to develop heart disease than those who take less frequent or no vacations.

How can you help employees use vacation time?

Despite all the benefits of regular vacations, a lot of Americans are still reluctant to use their time off. A Bloomberg survey found that around half of U.S. employees do not use their full vacation days every year. This is likely linked to the high amount of burnout in American workplaces.

While most survey respondents said they don’t feel the need to take all their vacation days, other reasons for unused vacation days varied, including reasons like:

      • Fear of falling behind
      • Feeling bad for their coworkers
      • Being afraid to hurt their career prospects
      • Being discouraged from vacations by their boss

So how can you as an employer assuage employee fears and get them to use their vacation time? That’s where your HR policies and procedures come in. Make it clear that employees are allotted a certain number of days off and that there is no penalty, either to them or to their coworkers, for using them.

Having these policies is half of improving wellness at work; employers should then incentivize their staff to take vacation leave. Many workers don’t use vacation days because of the cost of travel, so one strategy employers have used is to offer employee purchase programs. With a purchase program, your staff can use part of their payroll on their vacation allowance directly, which is both more convenient and often less expensive than credit cards and other options.

Another large barrier to vacation time is workplace culture, as employees sometimes feel their careers or employment will suffer from taking leave. It’s your job to assure them that self-care won’t come at the expense of career success, by being an empathetic manager.

Measuring employee wellness and communicating vacation policies is easier with a digital checklist app like Lumiform. Lumiform helps you conduct employee surveys and gather data about workplace culture and satisfaction. You can also easily write up and distribute employer HR policies.

 
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