Why Vacations are Good for Business

by | May 15, 2020 | Uncategorized

With summer around the corner, employees’ thoughts may turn to sunny skies and the lure of a cottage, a beach vacation, or a trip abroad. But despite their best intentions, many will shorten their vacations or skip them entirely, influenced by an office culture prioritizing constant productivity.

The vacation statistics in Canada are already less than ideal. According to a 2022 report by Comparethemarket.com, Canadian employers provide an average of just 10 paid vacation days a year, trailing behind 38 other countries. In addition, a 2023 survey by Expedia.ca reveals that 57 per cent of Canadian employees feel they don’t receive enough vacation time.

The lack of adequate vacation time can profoundly affect an employee’s mental health, productivity, and engagement in the workplace. “The importance of mental health needs to be talked about,” says Stacey Frost, a benefits advisor associate with Sutton Benefits and Pension in Saskatoon, SK. “You need a reset. And the problem with vacations is they’re often too short.”

Studies show sufficient vacation time is positively linked with overall health and life satisfaction. Employees who take their vacations report higher satisfaction with their work-life balance and improved mental health.

The decision to take a vacation comes down to the environment in which employees work. Dr. Ryan Todd, a psychiatrist and CEO of headversity, notes that an employee’s comfort around taking time off is “heavily contingent on workplace culture.”

Creating a vacation-friendly workplace

Dr. Todd remarks that employers must establish a pro-vacation tone. Many workplaces get caught up in a quest for productivity, which can deter employees from taking vacation. However, with specific measures, employers can ensure their employees get the breaks they need and deserve.

Communicate your position. Dr. Todd says this should be done both implicitly and explicitly. Employees pick up on subtle and overt cues from managers, such as disparaging remarks about vacation time, not taking vacations themselves, or making staff feel guilty for taking a break. Instead, organizations should openly share their vacation policy and train managers to encourage employees to take their well-earned breaks. “Managers should remind them that this is a good thing to do,” suggests Dr. Todd.

Lead by example. Dr. Todd explains that if senior managers don’t take vacations, many employees will follow suit. Leadership from the top down must demonstrate the importance of using vacation days. “It’s all about modeling good behaviour,” says Dr. Todd.

Provide options. Frost’s company enjoys modified summer work weeks, allowing some employees to take Monday off while others take Friday as vacation time. “This has been a game-changer for many employees,” she says. It creates an environment that fosters relaxation and fun and sets the tone for taking all vacation days and more extended vacations. “We all take our vacations,” she adds.

Another option is to allow employees to take bereavement days without using their vacation days. “Have times set aside for crisis times with families,” Frost suggests. “Who wants to be ‘on vacation’ while dealing with the death of a family member?”

Create a backup system. Establishing robust coverage processes is essential to encourage employees to truly unwind on vacation—and avoid the need to check emails routinely. “People worry about having so much backlog,” says Frost, adding that she’s heard of some employees returning to hundreds of emails. Coverage strategies could include cross-training employees on each other’s main tasks and having emails redirected to and managed by colleagues. This helps prevent the so-called “working holiday,” enabling employees to disconnect and relax fully. “Tell them, ‘Don’t look at your email,’” she suggests to managers. “Everything should be taken care of.”

Let employees choose how much they disconnect. While the goal is to disconnect entirely from the workplace, some employees can become anxious if they’re completely unplugged from work during their vacation. “It varies from person to person,” Dr. Todd notes, suggesting that managers should let employees make their own choices.

Frost says it all comes down to believing in the power of vacations to help recharge employees, make them feel more productive in their roles, and create a work environment where everyone works hard and plays hard.

Todd agrees. “Taking time off shouldn’t be shameful or induce guilt. Time off is a good thing.”