On the surface, it makes sense. More people on vacation means there are fewer employees to crack whips at, which means less work gets done. But consider this: A lack of work-life balance is the second most common reason employees leave jobs. In fact,

  • More than 50 percent of employees say they are more "rested, rejuvenated and reconnected to their personal life" after a vacation.
  • Almost 40 percent say they "feel more productive and better about their job" after a vacation.
  • Almost 75 percent of HR professionals say employees who take more vacation time have higher job satisfaction.
  • Sixty-seven percent of HR professionals said employees are more engaged if they take time off.

You need your people to like their jobs and be engaged, productive and rejuvenated. Here are some ways companies are depriving themselves (and their employees) of those benefits of vacations:

Ignoring the Benefit: First, acknowledge the benefits of allowing employees to take vacation time. Reread the statistics above. Look up the countless articles outlining the benefits of a vacation. It improves health. It improves how your employees work and how they feel. Companies need to remember that people aren't machines, they're people! And as the recent Amazon workplace criticisms have shown, inconsiderate employers who treat their people poorly aren't tolerated much anymore. Refusing to acknowledge the benefits of vacation won't make them go away, but it will certainly drive your employees away and could absolutely earn you criticism (even if you aren't a huge company like Amazon, any of your employees can shed light on the workplace by posting to places like Glassdoor).

Creating Vague or Imaginary PTO Policies: If you give your employees 15 days of vacation per year, it shouldn't be a crime when employees are gone for 15 days a year on vacation. Expect it. Encourage it. A big problem with the trend of unlimited vacation policies is that they actually turn into unused vacation policies. Coworkers end up constantly worried that they'll be penalized for taking time because there isn't a specified amount to take. Some workplace cultures have this toxic invisible badge of honor awarded to the employee with 1500 hours of unused vacation time racked up, or the person who hasn't taken a personal day in seven years. That's crazy! Encourage your employees to support their coworkers when they take time off and pick up the slack so that vacationers can actually relax while they're gone.

Keeping a Short Vacation Leash: Yes, there are emergencies. And you may have to contact someone on vacation if emergencies arise. But if there is anyone else at the company who can do what you need, or any possible work-around, don't expect employees to stay in touch while they're gone. Having work expectations during time off is the No. 2 deal breaker for employees. Let them leave you behind. It's not commonly acknowledged, but no one (usually) dies when a deadline is missed. Questions can typically wait a few days. Letting your employees have uninterrupted relaxation time benefits you and, more importantly, is simply humane.

Piling On Too Much: Do your employees feel like they have so much going on that it's impossible to get away? That's a fast track to burnout. Your employees should work hard. They should be focused. But their workload should be manageable. You can do a few things to make your employees feel more comfortable stepping away from the office:

  • Cross train: This will help you protect your employees' sanity and your company. Any employee could leave at any moment, and that shouldn't leave you in a bind. Make sure if someone is out there's someone else trained to cover for him or her.
  • Hire more people: This is the most obvious solution, but isn't always the easiest one. If it is in your budget, be fair with your employees. Don't expect one person to do the work of three. Again, busy is good, but overwhelming your employees will just drive them away in droves (which may cost you more in the long run than just hiring another person).
  • Shift responsibilities: Hopefully you've got your finger on the pulse of the organization and know how your employees are feeling. If some constantly have too much on their plate while others are consistently asking for more work to do, you may want to consider shifting responsibilities around.

If you think your company is struggling with any of these things, see what you can do to make things better. Change your mindset and value your employees enough to give them meaningful vacation time. It's absolutely worth it, and it's the right thing to do. Here are a few ways to encourage employees to take vacations:

  1. Time off: This is obvious, but some companies aren't doing it. Give employees a decent amount of time to take off (we do 15 days, plus one more each year and 11 holidays). Find ways to encourage employees to actually use it. You can limit how much employees can accrue so that they know they must use it or lose it. Stop paying out for time not used when employees leave (this makes them feel like vacation time is costing them money); stop rewarding people who don't take their vacation time (Perfect attendance award, anyone?) and punishing people who do; and make it easy for employees to request time off.
  2. Vacation benefits: Many companies are finding creative ways to encourage vacations. I've heard of companies having parties where everyone brings packed luggage into work, and a few lucky employees are drawn at random to go on a vacation. Some companies give away vacations to employees who go above and beyond. Other companies make vacations more financially viable by offering a vacation bonus to employees. Some even have sabbaticals to reward employees for staying with the company for a set amount of years.
  3. Culture: This is what it really boils down to. Your culture should empower your employees to take and enjoy their vacations. At BambooHR, employees post their vacation pictures on an internal social media platform. We ask how they went and get excited for each other when big trips are approaching. Companies need to start caring more for their workforce and treating them like the valued people they are.

There are so many benefits to ensuring your employees take a little time away from the office. Specifically, higher engagement, job satisfaction, productivity and rejuvenation. Having a great company and satisfied, happy employees are not mutually exclusive. People simply perform better when they have balance, and time off is crucial to having that balance. When you give employees the time off they need, your culture, employees and bottomline will benefit.

Published on: Aug 27, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.