Vacation leave: 7 tips for HR and People teams to support employees to take time off

Charlotte Nicol
Published on 15th October 2020
3 min read

Sending your handover list, turning on your out of office, and closing the laptop.

Vacation is vitally important, yet with many employee’s vacation plans cancelled as a result of COVID-19 and more employees working from home, there’s a good chance your employees have cancelled their leave and built up quite a backlog of vacation time. However, without time off employees can become disengaged and become more at risk of burnout.

In fact, a study  revealed that 42% of recipients gave work and life stress as the reason for booking a holiday, and 79% came back from holiday feeling significantly less stressed. Yet, according to a survey by Glassdoor the average employee only takes 62% of their vacation allowance.

In addition, a study of 2,000 office workers found that taking vacation leave at least once every six weeks helps to prevent burnout.

Holidays provide a better employee experience for your people, not to mention maintaining their wellbeing, so how can you support employees to take leave?  Here are seven ideas for HR and People teams.

1. Re-visit your vacation policy

First things first, do your employees know how much leave they have and how they can book it? This – while it may seem simple – can minimize the barriers for taking vacation.

Your organization’s vacation policy should make this clear, setting out details around the number of days allocated (especially if this changes the longer employees have worked there), and the steps they need to take to get it approved and booked in.

2. Empower your employees to book leave themselves

Giving your employees the ability to book time off directly streamlines the process and makes it a lot more accessible.

Having a platform where employees can schedule their own holidays makes it easy for everyone. Employees can schedule their own time off and receive automatic notifications about vacation approvals, while managers can track absences and check team calendars to make sure there’s enough cover.

3. Consider your culture

It’s only natural that employees will feel more reluctant to take time off if there’s a negative perception around taking holiday.

A culture where taking vacation leave is the norm, rather than feeling as though they might be penalized for it in some way in itself encourages employees to take leave. This might involve a slight culture shift, but getting to the root of why employees feel uncomfortable will help you focus on what needs to change.

4. Send out email reminders

Regular and open communication about vacation leave will remind employees of what they’re entitled to and spark positive discussions about taking vacation.

You could send out email reminders every quarter to make sure that leave is spread out over the year and prompt employees to think about when they could take a break, as they might need to work around things like school holidays and work projects.

5. Share employee vacation recommendations

Inspiration could be a helpful way to support employees to take their holidays.

Particularly at the moment, you may want to consider how employees can enjoy a staycation – perhaps some tips to keep the children busy during a break, or things to see locally. You could make a section on your organization’s intranet for employees to ask for and share their recommendations.

6. Highlight any vacation benefits

If your organization has a benefits portal or offers discounts on things like travel, activities, accommodation, or places of interest, make sure employees know about them.

You could include links in a vacation reminder email or refer to them if employees share their own personal vacation recommendations. Even getting people to read through what’s on offer can motivate staff to take some vacation time.

7. Consider company-wide holidays

A really nice way of showing your organization’s appreciation for its staff is to consider company-wide holidays.

A free day off that doesn’t affect employees’ pro rata vacation days can be a great way of saying thank you for hitting financial targets or showing empathy in a difficult time. As everyone takes the same day off, it means employees can really take the downtime they need and will deliver a morale boost to the entire staff.

Vacation leave is just one HR challenge

COVID-19 has highlighted plenty of new challenges for HR and People teams.

However, things like vacation leave shouldn’t be forgotten. While organizations have been busier than ever to react and adapt to new ways of working, the work/life balance has never been more important for employees.

Encouraging vacation leave is just one way organizations can help to support employees to alleviate stress, prevent burnout and readdress the work/life balance.

How do you create moments that matter? Support employees throughout the employee lifecycle by downloading our eBook, 6 ways to create amazing workforce experiences.

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