Monday, April 12, 2021

Coronavirus Update 4-12-2021: It’s time to end pandemic PTO hesitancy

I haven't taken a proper vacation in 25 months. We were supposed to go to Portugal last March, but then Covid happened. In the 13 months since, there's been little point in taking off from work for any length of time because I haven't been able to go anywhere. "I can't go anywhere, so I might as well work," has been a popular pandemic refrain (me included).

Americans were bad at vacations before Covid. The pandemic certainly hasn't helped our PTO hesitancy. 

Consider the following from The Atlantic.

Americans are good at lots of different things, but going on vacation is not one of them.… Guess which industrialized country is the only one that doesn’t guarantee time off to its workers? Guess which country left 768 million vacation days on the table in 2018?

The pandemic has not been great for America’s vacation malaise. When there are few new places to go and few new things to do, what’s the point of asking for time off? Yes, many Americans who have made it through without losing their jobs have taken a break to discover nature or their apartment balconies, but largely, we do not seem to be PTO-ing our way through this god-awful year. In February, time-off requests on the HR platform Zenefits were down 26 percent from the year before, a spokesperson told me, in line with what the company has seen since July.
I'm ending my vacation moratorium this summer with a week in a cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I suggest that you strongly encourage your employees to do the same, lest you risk the burnout I warned about last week.

Here are four tips to help push your employees to use their PTO and take a vacation.

1/ Teach your employees the benefits of taking a vacation. Make it a part of your wellness education. Communicate the health and wellness benefits of taking a vacation. If employees understand that vacations lead to improvements in performance productivity, they will be more likely to leave work behind for a few days.

2/ Take your own time off. If the boss never takes a vacation, employees won't either. If you want your employees to take time away from work, do so yourself. Leadership and messaging start at the top. If you make vacations a priority, your employees will, too.

3/ Ease employee back to work. When asked why they don't take time off, most employees historically cite the fear of returning to a backlog of work and thousands of emails to which to respond. Covid hasn't helped, as fewer are away from work. Plan for coverage when employees are out, and provide a day upon their return for them to catch-up, so that they won't fear the return-to-work ambush or avalanche.

4/ Prohibit vacation shaming. No one should be permitted to discourage or tease employees who take a vacation. If you send or permit negative messages about vacations, your employees won't take them. They will fear letting the team down, or the time-off impacting their employment. This form of bullying cannot and should not be tolerated.

* Image by Mohamed Ajufaan on Unsplash