For some, the very thought of having to be reminded to take vacation days is ludicrous. For others, not so much. And despite the assumption, it’s actually the happily-vacationing employee who get more work done. According to a new study from Namely found that high-performing employees take off approximately 19 days a year, five more than their average-performing counterparts.
Acknowledging that employees who take their vacation days are more content and productive when in the office, some HR experts say the take a simple, two-pronged solution to this problem: Offer more vacation days and then make sure people use them.
Elana Bajic, CEO of IvyExec.com, offered a global perspective on vacationing in a column on Forbes.com. “Taking time off from work may seem unrelated to productivity at work, yet many countries that offer employees substantial vacation time each year also have some of the most productive workers in the world,” Bajic wrote. “Rather than feeling guilty for taking time off, as so many American workers do, these employees are able to enjoy their time away because when they are at the office, they are more efficient and productive. They work smarter so they don’t have to work longer.”
Still, being on vacation doesn’t always mean you’re taking a break from work. Tori Wolfe, a career coach in Philadelphia, says she’s been working with clients who left their former companies because their managers insisted they check their voicemails and emails while away from the office. “People are getting much more territorial with their vacation time,” said Wolfe. “Granted, people are still plugged in at home and during their commutes, but it seems like vacations are becoming more sacred, especially as people get older. Employers need to recognize this about their employees who are moving beyond their 20s. They want to unplug and get away from everything when they go on vacation.”
Lotte Bailyn, professor emerita at the MIT Sloan School of Management, agrees, arguing that employers who encourage a tethered-to-the-job approach may help contribute to their employees’ health and social issues later in life. “The trouble is that it could develop into an unhealthy lifelong pattern of workaholism, where people’s entire lives revolve around the office. It will be hard for those people to form and maintain good personal relationships,” Bailyn wrote on Quartz.com. “It will be a detriment to the neighborhoods in which they live because it leaves them no time to participate in community building activities. It could also literally make them sick. On top of that, it is not likely to be an effective or efficient way to accomplish innovative and creative work.”