Business coach David Wanounou made a bold proclamation on LinkedIn:
If you're an employee, asking for a 3-week vacation ain't the best idea.
Because those 3 weeks will show the company that they can manage without you.
So better ask for less.
He's not wrong, but he's not right either. Employees in American businesses would be wise not to ask for an extended vacation. But that should change. And you, as the boss, can make those changes, and they will benefit your business in the long run. Here's why.
Burnout damages your business.
Do you know what burnout is? When it hits you, it's not that you don't want to work. You simply cannot...at least in my experience. You can get up, get dressed, and sit at a desk, but your brain doesn't work right.
The International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) defines burnout as an occupational phenomenon, not a disease, and describes it as follows:
Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
- increased mental distance from one's job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and
- reduced professional efficacy.
The last thing you want for your business is employees in burnout. And just burning through employees and hiring fresh people to replace them isn't a great business strategy--eventually, you'll run out of people willing to work for you.
The American Psychological Association found high levels of burnout in 2021 among US-based adult workers.
- 79% of employees had experienced work-related stress in the month before the survey.
- Nearly 3 in 5 employees reported negative impacts of work-related stress, including lack of interest, motivation, or energy (26%) and lack of effort at work (19%).
- 36% reported cognitive weariness
- 32% reported emotional exhaustion
- 44% reported physical fatigue--a 38% increase since 2019.
You can pretend your employees don't need a break, but it's clear that they do.
While a simple vacation won't magically cure burnout, it's one tool you can use to help your employees.
Three weeks is nothing in recruiting time.
Wanounou theorizes that if you leave for three weeks, your boss will realize they didn't need you.
I wonder what kind of businesses Wanounou ran, as this would indicate that he never needed employees. In reality, you'll probably miss your employees who leave for three weeks. But, you know what you'll miss even more? Your employees who quit because you wouldn't approve vacation time.
While the Great Resignation is slowing down, there are always jobs for your best employees. According to Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) surveys, it takes 36 days to get a candidate to accept an offer. Add at least two weeks past acceptance for them to start work, and you're looking at 50 days.
That is just from when you start recruiting, and that's an average. You can expect that time to be much more significant for specialty roles. And that's just to get the person in the door. It takes time for people to become productive, even if they are well-qualified experts.
So, if you want to lose an employee because you won't approve a three-week vacation, consider that you'll be without someone productive for far more than three weeks.
Europe makes long vacations work.
The first summer I lived in Europe, my husband's boss announced he was going scuba diving in Bali and would be back in a month, and he wasn't even taking his laptop. Coming from the States, we were flabbergasted. How could anyone take that kind of vacation and keep their job?
It turns out a lot of people do. Right now, my Swiss upstairs neighbors--ordinary people with 9-to-5 jobs--are on a four-week vacation with their two children.
While there are many differences between US and European culture and employment law (and recognizing that there are massive differences between European countries), businesses indeed continue to prosper even when employees take a vacation.
Vacation prevents and uncovers fraud.
If I cannot convince you to allow your employees to take more extended vacations because it's better for them and you, then I'll appeal to your direct pocketbook: Fraud prevention.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has a longstanding recommendation that banks have a two-consecutive-week vacation policy for fraud prevention. Why? Because when someone steps away from their desk and computer for two weeks, someone else has to do their job, and that's a way to uncover fraud. Additionally, a lot of fraud requires careful management--if your potential fraudster knows they have to take a two-week vacation, they are less likely to start siphoning funds off.
The bottom line: Let your employees take vacations--even long ones. You'll benefit.