I’ve always been a believer in taking time away from work. Sometimes you just need a day, sometimes you need a full two weeks. The point is that in order to stay sane, you just need a break from the stress of work to recharge.
Well, I saw a tweet from Ann Lombardi today and it made me want to speak out.
#USA has west. world’s largest % of lost use/lose #vacation time. Break that workoholism cycle. #travel
The implication is that this is a bad thing. I think the stat is a good thing. Here’s why…
Most companies have a limit to the amount of vacation an employee can carry over from year to year. This is setup so employees cannot carry large amount of vacation around for years, leading to a massive cash expenditure when the employee leaves. Another side effect of unlimited carry-over is that nobody is forced to take a vacation. If you don’t take a vacation it doesn’t matter. You will still get the benefit in cash when you leave the company.
Most companies that decide to not let employees carry large volumes of vacation from year to year and allow employees to cash out excess vacation at the end of the year. This is worse. Now employees can earn a bonus simply by not taking vacation. The message is “Work hard and earn an extra year-end bonus”.
Finally, there are the companies that have a use or lose policy. Employees are permitted to carry over a certain amount of hours each year but any hours in excess of that are lost. No money. Nothing.
My last company had this policy. You could carry over two weeks of vacation from one year to the next. Anything left over you lost.
Contrary to what you might think, this was great. People could save some vacation for big trips but employees essentially had to take their full allotment of vacation or it was gone.
The result? People took vacations. They did their best to make sure that the benefit wasn’t left on the table. There were always people scrambling at the end of the year when they realized they hadn’t planned adequately, but that rarely occurred twice.
In fact, this policy forced some of the more workaholic people to take time away. That was critical in reducing burnout.
Use or lose vacation is great. It drives the desired behavior, which is time away from the office to recharge. While many U.S. companies may not give out nearly as much vacation as the European countries, the use or lose concept works.