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How Encouraging Employee Vacations is Good for Business

By: Benefits by Design | Tuesday November 14, 2017

Updated : Thursday March 14, 2024

Like a squirrel storing up acorns getting ready for winter, many Canadians are guilty of saving up their vacation time. Some save their days for a lengthy trip, while others like the safety-net it provides for the year ahead. However, this diligent saving means that by the end of the year employees haven’t used up all of their allotment.

Vacations give employees much needed time off. So why are Canadians leaving a lot of unused days on the table?

Managing employee vacation days, sick days and more

Taking time off

Taking a break is important for our mental and physical well being, science shows. While justifying working 18 hour days, 7 days a week is easy, that amount of work without a break negatively affects our productivity.

According to Dr. David Posen “Vacations can lower blood pressure and ease stress and tension in the body. Vacations are a prescription for health, stress relief, more energy, improved productivity and overall happiness.”

Vacations also provide an opportunity to recharge by allowing us to break free of our normal routine. Rather than continue to limit our daily experiences, a holiday allows us to try the new and the novel (sometimes in new countries). This change in novelty, sparks creativity that translates into action at work.

With all of the benefits to taking a break, why are so many Canadians not taking advantage of all of their time off?

Making the most of your time off

At the beginning of a new year, stockpiling vacation days seems like the responsible thing to do (you just never know). However, by the end of the year 18% will not take their full vacation and 13% will take less vacation time than the year previous.

Many employees cite work demands as a reason for not using all of their allotted vacation time. Even those who do take a vacation may find themselves checking emails, voicemails, or calling their colleagues just to “check in” on their time off.

Paying for vacation time

Even progressive workplaces like Benefits by Design (BBD) are not immune. It came our attention that employees weren’t taking their full vacation allotment. In fact, more than half the staff were rolling over their unused days into the following year or requesting to be paid out.

Inspiring staff to take more holidays, BBD tried out a $50 reward system. Employees who used all of their vacation hours were given a $50 gift card to a location of their choice. This program saw 38% of eligible BBD employees take all of their allotted days – an increase over years past – however, we ultimately wanted more employees participating.

At the end of 2016, we sweetened the deal to help employees use up those hours! Every calendar year, each employee who uses all of their vacation entitlement enters a draw for the chance to win $500. There are four winners total across all BBD and a bonus draw for any new BBD employee hired after September of the current year who is eligible for an extra day off.

At the announcement of this new incentive, 66% of employees used all of their vacation time (an increase of 78%).

Darcie Paterson, one of last years winners shares:

“I participated because I like using my vacation – it’s nice to take a break. And getting a bonus to take your vacation, no other workplace has ever given me that before. I definitely plan to participate again this year.”

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