CEOs often angst over taking vacation time without feeling like they are abandoning their business to the forces of entropy and, especially in the current economy, employees are going through a similar predicament. A recent survey conducted by Right Management, a Philadelphia-based management consulting firm found that of 667 employees polled, 66 percent had not used all of their allotted paid vacation days this past year.
The firm believes fears about job security played a role in the underutilized rest and relaxation time and other experts agree. "What we've seen is that the economic climate has had a huge effect on people being willing to take vacations," says Karen Sumberg, vice president and director of projects and communications at the Center for Work Life Policy. "Frankly, people were very scared that they were going to get laid off."
Penny Herscher is pretty certain that's not why her employees are reluctant to take a holiday. The CEO of FirstRain, a San Mateo, California-based market research and analytics firm geared towards business people, noticed that her long-time employees were taking less and less vacation time, but it was their dedication to the job that drove them rather than fear. She kicked off the New Year by scrapping her company's vacation policy; now employees just take as much time as they need.
"I don't believe it will fundamentally change the amount of vacation time people take. I think it will change the level of freedom that our employees feel," Herscher says. "If somebody needs to take five weeks, I trust that they're making a good decision." FirstRain got the inspiration for the policy from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, whose company has a similar program in place.
According to Sumberg, it's distinctly counterproductive to have employees burning the midnight oil without a break. She says, "You get tremendous burnout where people are not working at their full potential, they're not excited anymore, they're just perpetually tired."
She adds that executives and managers can't just give their employees free reign, they also have to practice what they preach. Herscher is certainly a believer. "I'm a big fan of vacation, I think it makes people healthier mentally," she says. Besides she doesn't have to completely give up work to play. "I have an iPhone, so I stay connected wherever I am in the world."