Hate taking time off? Some companies make it mandatory

Employers mandate, finance vacations to get workers out of the office

Some companies are enforcing mandatory-vacation policies to prevent burnout and health problems in workers, Sue Shellenbarger writes in the Wall Street Journal.

CEO: Take more naps, vacations to boost productivity

Why would workers skip vacations?

According to a survey of nearly 1,000 Americans on career website Glassdoor, about 15% of U.S. employees who are allowed to take paid vacation did not use any in 2013, a move that can lead to fatigue and heart problems. Moreover, employees who do not take vacation can also become less productive and bring down morale at the office.

Many vacation-skippers are hoping to advance their careers, according to a study in the journal Work and Occupations. "They wear it like a badge of honor, and they brag about it: 'I haven't taken a vacation in years,'" says Cheryl Heisler, president of Lawternatives, a career-consulting firm for lawyers.

FullContact CEO Bart Lorang says employees who want to work non-stop may be suffering from "misguided hero syndrome." They believe "you need to be up and running, or nothing works without you…It's almost like you have this adrenaline rush, brought on by the fact that people need you 24/7," he says.

Despite health benefits, Americans say no to vacations

And the tactic may succeed, according to a survey by consulting firm Oxford Economics. The survey found 13% of managers are less likely to promote employees who take all of their vacation time. Moreover, a 2012 German survey found employees who took less than their full vacation time earned an average of 2.8% more in the following year compared to employees who took their full vacation.

According to Shellenbarger's research, other reasons for skipping vacation include:

  • "Taking one for the team" or avoiding vacation because others "need it more;"
  • Striving to meet quotas or certain billable hours;
  • Avoiding creating a big backlog of work; and
  • Building self-esteem through working non-stop.

But skipping vacation may not be worth it in the long term, because several studies show that time off improves mental and physical health, as well as workplace productivity.

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Employers: You will take vacation

To address the issue, some companies now require employees to take time off.

At marketing company HubSpot, every worker gets unlimited paid time off and the ability to reduce their sales quotes two times per year. To push workers to make the best use of the policy, the company in 2012 began requiring all employees to take a minimum of two weeks off.

The ultimate perk? Employers offer unlimited paid vacation

Some companies have created vacation incentives to get employees out of the office. For example, FullContact offers each employee $7,500 a year to help finance vacation.

Similarly, Evernote worried that its unlimited paid vacation policy would make some employees think that "maybe that means they don't want me to take any," says Evernote CEO Phil Libin. So the company cleared the confusion by offering each employee $1,000 to take at least one week off, disconnect, and "come back with a stretched-out mind," Libin says (Shellenbarger, Wall Street Journal, 8/12).

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