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Most American workers are offered more vacation time than ever. And we're still loathe to take a day off. Some companies are offering unlimited vacation time, and others are forcing employees to take time off. (These two trends may even be related.) And despite employers' best intentions, there's still the issue of vacation shaming -- judging employees and peers for taking time off work.
So small business owners are back to the same old conundrum: how do you encourage employees to take the time off they need while maintaining the focus, commitment, and productivity necessary to stay afloat and grow?
No, you probably don't have to offer paid vacation time. But it's quickly becoming the norm for companies, and not just as a benefits bargaining chip when looking for the best talent. And why offer vacation time if you're just going to make employees feel bad for taking it?
Vacation shaming your staff can lead to all kinds of problems in the office, not the least of which is burnout. You went to all the trouble of hiring the best candidates, so why run them off because they're too stressed out. Your small business needs to stay humming, and that's easier to do when you're maintaining a great core of employees rather than hunting for replacements every few months.
New technology can blur the line between in the office and out, or on the clock or off, so it's up to executives and managers to set the tone and the limits for work. Recent studies have shown that our productivity is at its peak when we focus for 52 minutes, then break for 17. So it's essential to teach your staff how to dial in on a task for the better part of an hour, then force some time to breathe and refocus. The same can applied to time out of the office.
Create expectations of productivity while in the office or working on a specific assignment, then encourage their time away from work (even just a night or weekend) to be truly away from work. Give their phones and inboxes a break so they don't internalize a 24-hr workday. Knowing that they're free to relax, so long as they've met benchmarks and deadlines, will make your employees feel more comfortable taking the vacation time they need.
If you're putting together a vacation policy at your small business, or need help making sure your employees comply, talk to an experienced employment attorney in your area.
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