Thanks has been given (last week… hopefully you were able to take vacation time to enjoy it!) and now we are immersed in full holiday season mode! People are decorating houses and thinking about spending time with family. Plans are being made to party like it’s 1999 and everyone is hoping that 2022 will be much, much better than this two-year Covid mess.
Vacation is on everyone’s mind (even retail workers who won’t get much vacation, but it’s still on their mind!). As I was thinking about vacation and time off this morning I was thinking about two important experiences that shaped how I think about what it means to take vacation. Or, to recharge our batteries.
The first experience was when I worked at a big federal agency and there was this policy where you could only roll over a certain amount of vacation time year after year. Once you hit that limit you either had to take vacation (use the time) or you would lose the time. YUCK, I thought.
I thought this was a policy in place to avoid a situation where perhaps an employee took their last year of work off because they had accumulated a ton of vacation time. Or, they would cash it in and get an extra year’s salary. But now I’m thinking, and hoping, it was partly to force people to actually take vacation time. Sounds dumb, doesn’t it? But there are certainly people, and some cultures, where really taking time off is weird.
The other experience was at an HR company that really, really emphasized each person take vacation, and take it seriously! I’ll share some of the ideas I learned about from that company in at least one of the points below.
As we end this year I encourage you to think differently about vacation. As a manager it can be hard to juggle schedules and make sure your team is appropriately staffed. It’s harder, I think, to have a bunch of zombies who haven’t been able to recharge, hence, the value of encouraging your team to really, actually take vacation time seriously.
As I write this I recognize my friends in Europe are probably rolling their eyes. Really? Forcing people to take vacation? Europeans are stereotypically good about taking vacation. They call it “holiday.” When you are at a beach or whatever destination you might often overhear people talking about being on holiday. Not only are they good at vacationing, their holiday is, comparatively, long compared to what we get in the U.S.A.
There’s a mindset there that we could learn from!
Okay, so here are just five bold ways to encourage your team to take vacation. Would love to hear what your ideas are… reach out to us and let’s have a conversation about your culture!
1. Pay People to Take Vacation
I’m not taking about paid leave, I’m talking about money to use while they are on leave! I learned this from a previous employer, BambooHR. Check out their short blog post on paid-paid vacation here.
When I worked there a full-time person would get $2,000 to spend on vacation. There were parameters but holy moly… paid leave PLUS $2,000 to spend?? This would pay for flight tickets or other things that otherwise might have been out of the budget. Super cool perk.
If you don’t have $2,000 could you scrape together a few hundred dollars? Seriously, this can be a great investment in your team’s job satisfaction and loyalty. Just realize, if you do it once you are probably on the hook to do it forever, so be careful about the precedent you set.
2. Encourage People to Share Their Vacation With the Team
I realize some people want a bit of privacy and I respect that. Don’t force this but when people take vacation encourage them to share what they did! Whether they stay home and get a bunch of projects done, just have BBQ on the patio, or go across the world, encourage your team to share how they spent their time.
Too often we are asked to give 110% to our job, but we are somehow not expected to really enjoy our downtime. We need to normalize vacation. We need to make it a more acceptable part of how we live. We should reward the idea of vacation. When we share what we did, perhaps with a picture (or pictures), we are saying “it’s okay to decompress! It’s okay to enjoy life! It’s okay to get away from work and unplug!”
Encouraging this message is probably a lot better than figuring out how to fix burnout and turnover from your key employees.
3. Create a Use It-or-Lose-It Policy So People Take Vacation
This is bold and would have offended me 25 years ago. But now that I’m further into my career, and realize that hording vacation can create a dangerously unhealthy culture, I would seriously consider a policy that allows a certain amount of rollover, like they had at the federal organization I worked at.
This is not to avoid someone taking a year off, or paying a year of salary. I think it’s super rare that anyone would stay at a company long enough to use a massive accumulation this way. Instead, it would be to encourage people to live life outside of the office. The goal is to encourage your team to take vacation, not to penalize people for not taking vacation.
I know this can sound like I’m mincing words. As with all of our advice make sure you sit down with your leadership team and have healthy conversations around this. It might be right for your team, or you might find other ways to send the message that you need your people to take vacation.
4. Model Healthy Vacationing at the Managament and Leadership Level
It’s critical that your management and leadership team normalize vacationing and even model how important it is by (a) doing it and (b) talking about it.
I’m not talking about bragging about going on a vacation that is unaffordable by non-management. Don’t talk about all the money you spent or the luxury you were able to afford. Rather, talk about the importance of recharging, the importance of getting away from work, the importance of spending time with loved ones (or even by yourself).
Vacationing is not a spending contest. The reasons you want your team to take vacation is to avoid burnout and build culture and loyalty. If you come back and talk about how you were able to reconnect with someone you vacationed with, or you were finally able to read a book you’ve been putting off, or you were able to get some clarity on a project because you were able to step away from it, I’ll be more inspired to take my own vacation.
What’s more, I’ll know it’s okay to actually take time off. Too many people feel like we can’t take time away from work. The organization will fall apart or our team will not function without us. This is generally not true. And if it is true then someone needs to make some changes. Having everything depend on someone always being there puts you in a dangerous position.
5. Make it Super Clear You Don’t Want People Doing Work While on Vacation
One of my favorite stories about taking vacation is of a colleague who was on vacation and replied to an email to her boss. Her boss’s response was something like, “Don’t check email while you are on vacation! You can get to this when you get back!”
I know this isn’t realistic for everyone. Network administrators are kind of on 24×7 and will constantly want to know the network is up and okay. But, if you can , figure out what measures you can put in place so your team can really unplug and relax. Consider this a good time to test your emergency or contingency plans. See how it goes and what you need to do to make your plans more solid.
Don’t send projects or work to your team members while they take vacation. Or, if you do, make it super clear those projects can wait until they get back (with plenty of time to complete the projets). Encourage them to step away.
For me, stepping 100% away can be stressful. If I have things I’m working on, like a big sale, I’ll want to be plugged in instead of waiting to get back to it after a week. So respect the need to check in every once in a while. But don’t let every once in a while to become all the time.
This ties into the last point. Don’t come off vacation and brag about how much work you were able to do while away from the distractions of the office. Again, normalize the recharging.
I strongly encourage you to sit down with your leadership team and talk about this rather weird mindset. What can you do to really help your team get healthier by using your vacation perks?
Want to talk about other ways Snowfly helps improve culture and work environments? It’s what we love to talk about…