American workers don't take vacation as often as they should. According to Project: Time Off, U.S. employees take fewer vacations today than they have in the last 40 years. This has a serious effect on productivity and employee satisfaction, and can quickly lead to burnout. However, it's not just a matter of giving your employees time off – they have to actually take it. Here are some ways you can make sure your employees are taking time to recharge:
1. Set a Precedent
If your employees see that vacations don't make the office fall apart, they'll be more likely to take them themselves. When someone goes on vacation, make an effort to demonstrate that the office can handle responsibilities while they're away. This way other employees will see that they're not abandoning their co-workers when they take time off. You can also make a strong impression by taking time off yourself. "Do as I say, not as I do" only goes so far: By taking vacations, you're setting an example for others to do the same.
2. Let People Disconnect
Set an office-wide policy that says that employees will not be contacted while they're on vacation except in emergency situations. Define what counts as an emergency, don't leave it to be decided in the moment. Empower employees taking on an absent co-worker's responsibility to use discretion and make decisions without reaching out whenever possible. Encourage vacationing employees to disconnect as well: They shouldn't be checking emails or handing out business cards when they're supposed to be relaxing.
3. Make a Policy
If building a culture of vacationing isn't working, you can instate a policy of required time off. If you do this, it is vital that you build policies to take over work when people are out of the office. It's not fair to require that people take vacation and effectively punish them in the process, so be sure you've already taken other vacation-encouraging steps before you force workers to take time off.