In today’s always-on business world, it can be difficult to make time for rest and relaxation, even with generous PTO policies. In fact, employees left around 705 million vacation days on the table in 2017 -- and that number is only growing.
However, taking the occasional break is crucial to maintaining your team's productivity, creativity and drive. As an employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure your employees are taking their well-deserved time off.
Below, a group of entrepreneurs shared their best tips for encouraging workers to make use of their vacation days.
Make it easy to take time off.
If you want to encourage employees to take more time off, you need to make it easy for them, says Stephanie Wells, founder of Formidable Forms.
"Make the time off request form simple to fill out," Wells says. "You should also make it easy for employees to leave their work and pick it back up when they return."
Allow for hourly PTO.
Not every employee wants to blow all their hard-earned PTO on a single vacation. Instead, David Henzel, CEO of LTVPlus, recommends letting your team take PTO in hourly increments, instead of a full eight-hour day at a time.
"Give them the option to use their hours sparingly throughout the week," says Henzel. "This option allows employees to work a schedule that lets them get work done while remaining productive."
Plan projects around employee vacations.
When starting a new project, Rana Gujral, CEO of Behavioral Signals, asks employees up front when they are planning to take time off so they can plan workloads accordingly.
"My employees work so much better when they can come back refreshed," says Gujral. "Planning projects around their schedule has made it more enticing for them to go."
Put delegation processes in place.
According to Diego Orjuela, CEO of Cables & Sensors, employees tend not to use all their allotted PTO because of the amount of work they'll come back to after a vacation. He suggests supporting rest and relaxation by making sure any employee's duties and tasks will be covered for them while they are away.
"This will ensure more people will feel comfortable using their vacation days and will not return to stress and overwhelm," adds Orjuela.
Take an interest in their vacation plans.
If you openly talk about vacations as a positive thing, employees will catch on. That's why Angela Ruth, customer experience rep at Calendar, advises showing an interest in your team's vacation plans.
"It helps to tell them to take a vacation and that they deserve it," says Ruth. "Then, employees might feel more comfortable with the idea and take the rest."
Don't bother employees on their days off.
If employees are still fielding constant communication from the office while they're on PTO, they're not truly "off." As Patrick Ambron, co-founder and CEO of BrandYourself.com, puts it, allowing this to happen is the "worst of both worlds."
"They aren't relaxing on the vacation, but they still need to play catch-up when they're back," Ambron says. "We work really hard to make sure when someone is out of the office, they don't feel the need to check in."
Implement a 'use it or lose it' policy.
While unlimited vacation sounds like a dream, most companies that implement this type of policy find that it has the opposite effect: People have no incentive to take time off if it's unlimited.
"We realized no one was taking any vacation and were burning themselves out, so we instituted a 'use it or lose it policy' -- 20 days a year, and what you don't use does not roll over," says Kerry Guard, COO of MKG Marketing. "We went from no one taking days to people using every last one!"
Lead by example.
Employee behavior is learned from the top, so it's up to you to set the standard for your team, says Stephen Beach, CEO of Craft Impact Marketing.
"Ensure you’re taking your own vacation days and show your team how to prepare for time away," Beach says. "Brief them on open items they’ll need to handle in your absence and, if necessary, set up scheduled intervals to touch base. Encourage them to do the same so that they can enjoy downtime knowing that things will be handled appropriately at the office."