Americans need more rest and vacation.
The average full-time employee works 47 hours per week, and Americans work 7.8% more hours annually than they did in the 1970s. And 52% don’t use their annual allotment of vacation days. As a result, American workers are under heightened stress.
I love what I do and believe that hard work is vital to success, but we all need time to recharge. I consciously dedicate time to other vital parts of my life: family, health, travel. Because of this, I think companies owe it to their employees to encourage vacation time. It obviously benefits the employee but strengthens the company as well.
At Acceleration Partners, we take this concept to the next level: We offer up to a $750 bonus to employees to stay offline during vacation. We don’t want vacationing employees to glance at email or even send a Slack message. Here’s why we do it, and why it works.
Recharging is part of high performance
The fact that people don’t take their full vacation time is, in many ways, illogical. Even the most dedicated workers appreciate time off, and companies build paid vacation time into benefits packages. The world’s greatest athletes understand the value of interval training and making rest a part of the training process. But many employees don’t realize the clear link between vacations and performance.
Harvard Business Review found that employees who took more than 11 vacation days per year had a 30% higher chance of earning a raise or promotion. High performers take more vacation time. They can get their work done in less time, and they know that taking time to recharge is vital to being an A player.
Taking vacation time also makes employees more engaged and satisfied with their jobs. Managers recognize this. A survey from the Society of Human Resource Managers (SHRM) found that 81% of managers notice that vacation time alleviates burnout.
Burnout is damaging for businesses because it can be contagious. Many people value an environment where others are engaged and enthusiastic, and dissatisfaction can spread throughout your organization. Part of why we pay employees to unplug during vacation is because vacationing employees are more productive, and contribute to a positive culture. Just because you are at your desk doesn’t mean you are performing at a high level.
Uncovering the surprising reason workers are afraid to go on vacation
Many employees avoid taking their full vacation because they worry about leaving their colleagues stranded. People fear that either their team will feel overwhelmed without them, or that crucial projects will go off track.
While I’ve worked with many talented people, Acceleration Partners has never had an employee we couldn’t function without for a week or two. People sometimes think they are irreplaceable for even a short time, but often they are underestimating the capacity of the people around them, or simply feeling guilty about making time for themselves.
In reality, people who refuse to take time off aren’t saving their colleagues, they are often just avoiding delegation. Delegating is a tough skill to learn, but it is especially vital for people who lead teams. By encouraging your team to delegate important work during a vacation, you create a culture of trust and high expectations. And in the best-case scenario, you may discover untapped capacity in your colleagues that you didn’t notice before.
A great example comes from The Daily Show. Jon Stewart was so important to that show that his name was in the title, but in 2013 he took a 12-week hiatus to direct a feature film. Rather than suspending the show, Stewart delegated hosting duties to John Oliver. Oliver, who had no hosting experience, performed so well that he earned his own show, HBO’s Last Week Tonight.
Employees should feel their work is important to the company, but they should view delegating as an essential skill. A team should be strong enough to perform well with changing roles and responsibilities, and encouraging your team to take vacations can open the window for others to step up.
Making sure employees don’t worry about work when they’re away
The benefits to employee vacations are clear, but many workers still feel doubts. Many employees think their company doesn’t want them to take their full vacation, worry their dedication will be questioned if they do, and believe they’ll have to stay fully accessible while they’re off.
It’s clear that, for many employees, simply being offered paid vacation in a benefits package isn’t enough encouragement. The onus is on businesses, and business leaders, to create a culture where vacation is a part of the work cycle, and employees are empowered to take time off. Companies get the behavior they incentivize, and many businesses still reward hero hours.
We launched our policy early last year and offer $250-$750, because tying in a financial investment shows our team that we consider vacations a positive benefit for everybody involved. And while it does come with costs–60% of our 100 or so employees took advantage of the program last year–I believe it makes sense for us to spend that money. We want our employees to be happy and engaged, but we also believe vacation time improves the health of the business.
What’s the point of offering a vacation package if people are afraid to use it? Businesses have a responsibility to make their employees feel comfortable and safe to take time off. It’s good for your team’s well-being, it’s good for your company health, and it teaches your entire team to step up in a top performer’s absence.
More Americans need a break, and you can help make it happen.
Robert Glazer is the CEO and founder of Acceleration Partners.