The One Really Obvious Benefit You're NOT Giving Employees

Posted by Brandon Carter on Sep. 13, 2016

When was the last time you had a day off?

As in, a true day off. Where you didn't check your email,  didn't check in with your boss, or even think of work.

Has it been a while? You're not alone. Most people aren't unplugging when they're away from the office. And despite how great our workplaces are, that's a bad thing.

Access Perks in the business of employee benefits. Our primary service is an employee discount program. We literally help employees save hundreds of dollars, which is a pretty big freakin' deal.

As valuable as that is, money is fungible.

Time, on the other hand, is a limited resource. Once it's gone, it ain't ever coming back.

What if you could give employees the gift of time?

You're probably already doing that through PTO and vacation benefits.

But are you actually giving them time off?

As in, glorious, undisputed, undisturbed, absolute time off?

In a nation of workaholics who put in an average of 47 hours a week and leave vacation time on the table at incredible rates, the companies that help employees create personal boundaries stand to make huge gains in engagement and productivity.

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Your employees could use a good day off.

Even better, they could use the knowledge that you want them to have a good day off. They need to know that it's not just okay, but you really would like them to unplug and unwind.

Stress, from within and outside the office, is growing. People are feeling financial pressure. The economy is still climbing back. Layoffs still loom for many.

As a result, people are working more hours and taking less time off. Nearly 40% of employees think taking less time off impresses their boss. 36% have canceled vacations due to work.

And when they do take time off, 61% of them just keep on working.

Management is complicit in the scheme.

95% of senior leaders say they recognize the importance of taking time off, but 67% of employees say their company discourages (or sends mixed messages about) taking time off.

Yes, we're getting more work out of people, but it isn't better work.

On a more important scale, encouraging or allowing employees to always be on the clock sends the message that work doesn't care about the human. This only encourages stress, turnover, and perhaps most dangerous, active resentment. 

More than Just a Benefit - a Culture

Here's the hard part.

How do you make reasonable hours, PTO and vacation days beneficial when they're already part of your benefits?

Time off has to be part of your culture as well as baked into your policies. And not just time off, but time off.

Boundaries need to be set. Write a policy that prevents managers from contacting employees out on PTO. If you want to be so bold, forbid off-hours and out-of-the-office emailing and texting. Follow the example of the Boston Consulting Group, which guarantees at least one email-free evening each week.

Management needs to set the example. Just 37% of senior business leaders say they unplug entirely while out. Employees are more likely to work on their vacations when the manager is texting about compliance reports from a beach in Cabo.

Assurances must be made. Employees won't take time off because they worry about work piling up while they're out, their load being shifted to coworkers, or imagined guilt from their boss. Work with employees beforehand to identify which projects need to shift and which can wait. Setting a pre-vacation process and sorting out tasks helps employees feel better about leaving while showing the company wants them to relax while out.

Guilt trips have to go. One of the biggest reasons people work around the clock is guilt. This is especially prevalent after an employee returns from a vacation. Managers and colleagues need to know that passive aggressive comments and bagging on colleagues are forbidden.

Make the Benefit Beneficial

Companies are beginning to recognize the benefits of quality time off. People return from vacation (or just a regular weekday night at home) refreshed and ready after unplugging. Studies have proven that they're better workers when they've had breaks and time to re-energize.

And they'd love to unplug, if only their employer would show that it's okay.

You've got the PTO days in your benefits catalog. Now it's time to shift toward making the most of those days - for the employees and the company.

Topics: Employee Engagement + Loyalty, Benefits Trends

Brandon Carter

Written by Brandon Carter

Brandon is a former writer and marketer for Access Development. He's a frequent blogger on customer and employee engagement & loyalty, consumer trends, and branding. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter at @bscarter