Benefits and Compensation

Welcome to the No Vacation Nation

According to a recent report by Kimble Applications, quite a few employees in the United States did not take all of their allotted vacation time. Today we are joined by Kimble Application’s Mark Robinson to discuss the findings. Finally, scroll down to check out an infographic with the results.


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HR Daily Advisor: First of all, are there any disadvantages to employees when they don’t use all of their vacation time?

Robinson: In my experience people tend to come back from vacation recharged and ‘refreshed’ regardless of what they did while away. Often people come back more positive, focused and ready to dive back into their work, so by not taking time off, employees risk being burned out by their work.  Obviously for the personal health and well-being and that of their family it can only be good to take all your vacation allowance.

HR Daily Advisor:Do companies experience any disadvantages when their employees don’t use their vacation time?

Robinson: I think people don’t realize that they are becoming jaded and they can get stuck in a rut without some time away from work.  Some may even get to the point that they leave the company, so as an employer, making employees take full allocation of vacation is a small price to pay compared to an employee not performing at their best or leaving all together.  I’ve seen companies who have offered 3-6-month sabbaticals to people who have been in 5 years of continual employment with them and rather than thinking this is a risk to have them away for 6 months, the general experience is that it actually reduces attrition.

HR Daily Advisor: What can companies do to encourage their workers to actually take their vacations?

Robinson: Sometimes the temptation is to offer to pay holiday that isn’t taken or an offer to carry over any unused allowance to the following year, when in reality companies should enforce a zero-carry-over policy and only allow a minimal level of carry over with manager approval.  This has worked well in some of the companies I’ve founded in terms of ensuring employees take time away from work. In past companies, we’ve also ensured that managers are measured on getting their teams to take full allocation as sometimes it’s the managers that are the problem! I am an advocate of giving people a reasonable vacation entitlement and then encouraging them to take it, hence these ideas. My experience is that businesses work best if there is clarity about this and people feel confident about planning their vacation well in advance. American businesses sometimes offer unlimited time off – but they know that in most cases that ends up with people taking less time off.

HR Daily Advisor: Your research shows that nearly half of all respondents check on work while on vacation. Do you think that trend will increase in the future?

Robinson: With data communications becoming more easily and virtually free wherever you are in the world and whatever you are doing, it’s very hard to be off the grid however hard you try! So, I can only see this increasing which is why it’s important that managers and organizations push employees to really unplug during their time off and having a back-up plan in place in case of an emergency.

HR Daily Advisor: According to your research, 14% believe not using vacation days helps their chances of advancement. Do you think that’s true, or is it just wishful thinking?

Robinson: I don’t believe this.  If it is true in the company you work for then I suggest you look for a new employer, it sounds like a pretty toxic culture!  I would say, though, that people should try and schedule their vacation responsibly – so not scheduling across an important deadline or taking at very short notice. I think if you did that then I can understand why it might harm your promotion chances.

HR Daily Advisor: Another 19% say they would trade vacation for a promotion. Was that ever an option?

Robinson: As I say if a company really wanted to offer less vacation in return for a promotion then it’s not a work environment or culture I’d want to be part of or encourage others to be part of.  In my experience, giving good vacation allowances (and other health and training benefits) helps attract top talent and encourages loyalty and higher performance.  So, the cost to the company of the vacation benefit and enforcing as far as practical that people take their allowance is outweighed by the potential returns of the employee’s performance.

Check out the infographic here.