Taking time off can actually improve your productivity.

Thanks to COVID-19, many of your employees won’t be going on the trips they planned this summer. But, as Taylor Jackson, HR Business Partner at Industrious puts it: “Just because a lot of us are not able to take our usual summer vacations, does not mean that time off is less important or not needed.”
 
In fact, it’s just the opposite. The pandemic has introduced new stressors — including 24/7 childcare — while eliminating our usual relief valves, such as a weekly exercise class or night out with friends. As a result, many employees are struggling to maintain their work-life balance and facing potential burnout.
 
But time off can help. Vacations have been shown to reduce stress, enhance sleep, and even boost productivity; a study by Ernst & Young found that for each additional 10 hours employees took off, their performance reviews improved by eight percent the following year. In the same Ernst & Young study, employees who took time off more often were more likely to stay with the company.
 
Unfortunately, Americans are notoriously bad at taking their hard-earned vacations, leaving a staggering 768 million PTO days on the table in 2018, according to the State of the American Vacation by Project: Time Off, an initiative of the U.S. Travel Association. Some of the top reasons employees cited for not taking their PTO included worry that they might look less dedicated and be replaced; a heavy workload; and a lack of coverage at the office.
 
Employers can help by setting an example and creating a culture that actively encourages time off — or even insists on it. Making vacation a requirement, and not a suggestion, can go a long way in eliminating the concerns employees have that taking their PTO days could make them appear less dedicated. Employees who were required to regularly take time off were also found to be more productive than those who were not in one study by Boston Consulting Group.
 
To address employees’ worries about their workload and coverage, try asking them to submit PTO time early on so that it’s easier to plan ahead. Have a shared PTO calendar, so that everyone knows when someone is out of the office. And as a manager, be firm about not contacting employees when they are out of the office, so that they don’t feel like they need to be constantly on-call.
 
Although employees may not be able to go abroad this year, there are still plenty of ways they can get a change of scene. “We have strongly encouraged our employees to take time off to hike, go on a road trip or just chill at home and binge that one show you have always wanted to watch — whatever they need to recharge,” Jackson says. Even taking a few days at home can give employees an opportunity to unwind or spend some much-needed time with their family. Chances are, they’ll be much happier for it — and you will, too.
 
Discover more ways to make your team more productive in Industrious’ new guide, Optimizing Productivity Through Workplace Design.