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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

All expenses paid

Do you offer paid leave to your employees? How about paying for their vacations? A trend sweeping through the business world is doing just that. Companies are rolling vacation time, sick leave, and any other time off into one plan and offering their employees unlimited time off. While the concept is trending, the Society for Human Resource Management says that only 1% of U.S. employers are offering unlimited time off. Others are offering stipends, free adventure trips, and use of company properties to encourage employees to take a break. The consensus of all the new thinking being that happier employees are easier to retain and are more productive.

Abuse? There’s not that much. Companies that offer unlimited vacation tend to be invested in hiring responsible employees who can balance taking time off with getting their work done. While unlimited vacation can be hard for managers to implement, most employees aren’t taking advantage of the perk. They get overwhelmed by the possibilities or can’t find the right amount that they feel is a fair amount to take. Employees still feel that their reputation will be damaged if they are away from the office too much.

Americans only take about half of their earned vacation days adding up to some $50 billion in lost paid vacation. A study conducted by the U.S. Travel Association found that American workers averaged 16 days leave in 2013; down from 20 in 2000. While most companies praise workaholics, people that don’t ever take off may being harming themselves and the office culture. It’s been well proven that not being able to disconnect from work can be unhealthy, but those individuals may cause resentment and guilt among their coworkers. Oxford Economics conducted a survey that found that 13 percent of managers were less likely to promote employees who took all of their allotted vacation. The DIW Economic Bulletin published a German study in 2012 that indicated employees who took fewer days off earned almost three percent more than those who took all their vacation time. 
Too offer even more encouragement companies are giving cash or other incentives to use vacation days. Some are also experimenting with paying employees to take vacation by offering a percentage of their salaries as a stipend or bonuses to help pay for the vacation, with stipulations that they actually take a trip of at least five days and not just stay home. Companies that aren’t offering the time off or stipends are paying for Caribbean getaways or adventure type vacations. Again, the idea being that a company that is a great place to work will have higher employee retention. 
Those working at more traditional minded companies have countered with a plan of their own. Employees request what are becoming known as “workcations”. This is where the employee is granted leave (time away from the office) but they agree to telecommute while they are away. The employee pays for the trip, but the leave is not charged against their vacation days.

Critics wonder how much work is actually being completed while at the beach with your family. Some employers or tasks just aren’t logistically equipped to handle telecommuting. Those concerned for employee health question if employees are really benefitting from being out of the office. Workers like the idea of a change of environment and feel that more can be accomplished without the constant interruptions present in the office. Further they can get away while saving their leave for life’s emergency that pop up. Kenneth Matos, senior director of research at the Families and Work Institute, says: “Is the workcation detracting from the vacation you were going to have, or is it enabling the vacation you otherwise wouldn’t have had?”

Either way, both companies and employees are getting creative with their use of paid leave. Traditional time off is definitely changing.

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