How to get your team to take their PTO, according to a Harvard professor
According to the US Travel Association, tens of millions of Americans travel year-round for holidays like July 4th and Memorial Day weekend. Yet when it comes to vacationing, Americans aren’t taking full advantage of their paid time off. On average, Americans still had 9.5 unused vacation days left at the end of 2021, according to a January 2022 study of 1,021 American adults by software company Qualtrics.
“People worry a lot about taking vacations because they don’t want to waste their opportunity on a project or they don’t seem to really care about their work,” says Ashley Whillans, behavioral psychologist, assistant professor at the Harvard Business School and author of “Time Smart”.
But “holidays are really important for recovering from our permanent work culture,” she says. They help us avoid burnout and return to our work and life “more rested, more creative, more energized, more positive.”
When it comes to making sure employees take their paid time off, managers can do a lot to encourage them. Here are three tactics managers can try, according to experts.
‘Take it yourself and show how it’s done’
“Sometimes we forget or overlook how much when you lead the team, your actions can influence how other team members feel,” says Angelina Darrisaw, career coach and founder and CEO of C-Suite Coach, about the importance of Leading by Example.
“If you don’t take your vacation yourself,” she says, “then you could be unwittingly creating a pressure culture where your employees don’t feel capable of doing it.”
A simple and crucial way to give your employees the feeling that it’s not only OK, but that they expect them to take all their vacation time is to “take yourself and show how done,” says Stacie Haller, Career Expert at ResumeBuilder.com.
Set protocols: “Who is going to save this person’s work?”
Sometimes, when employees want to leave, they fear that they will miss important information at work or that no one is there to cover their tasks and they will fall behind. Managers “have to put the parameters in place so that someone feels like they can take a vacation,” says Haller. “There should be protocols. Who is going to safeguard this person’s work?”
Let your employees know that when they decide to leave, systems will be put in place to ensure their work gets done and they won’t fall behind. Arrange a meeting with them before they are discharged and work out all the details of who will take care of their daily duties.
You can also let them know what the team will be working on and give them a chance to give feedback before they leave. “If they feel like their input will be heard, even if they’re not there,” says Whillans, “it will increase the likelihood that people will really tune out while on vacation.”