Summer is slipping by, so if you or your employees are part of the more than 50 percent of U.S. employees who leave vacation days on the table at the end of the year, it’s time to encourage everyone (including yourself) to plan a vacation before the days of summer are long gone.
But, first. Let’s talk about why so many people don’t use their earned vacation time. In a study conducted by the U.S. Travel Association, respondents’ top reasons included fear of looking replaceable, too heavy of a workload and a lack of coverage at work while you are away. All three of those things you, as the leader, have a direct impact on.
For starters, have an honest conversation with your employees to ensure they feel like they can take time off from work. To help drive that discussion, Fierce Conversations recommends you ask your employees these questions:
What is your preferred amount of time off and are you taking it?
This is a great starting question to have with each of your team members. Get curious about their sentiments and assure there is clarity around company expectations. This sets a foundation for future conversations about paid time off.
Learn about your team members’ desires and how they can truly hit their own goals around work/life blending. Some employees will not want to take as much and others will want to take more. Gain clarity around what taking time off means to each of your team members, and do what you can to meet these needs. This doesn’t mean giving in to a month-long sabbatical every year, but instead, ensuring your employees feel heard and supported in their time off within the company’s set parameters.
How can I, and the rest of the team, support you better when you do take time off so you can relax?
When you ask this question, make sure to cover both areas of the question: how you can support them, and how the larger team can do the same. These answers may be different. And sometimes, to get the conversation started, it can be helpful to ask how the team works first.
Then, really dive into what works and doesn’t work. You can pan this question out to a larger support question, because if there are issues with how PTO is handled, there are likely other areas where your team member could feel more supported. Perhaps it is a mindset shift or perhaps you will uncover needed resources or attitudes to better support the person. This is where concerns about taking time off will come up — and you can hopefully work towards addressing them quickly and across the board.
How can we set up your vacation time for success?
This is a more actionable conversation. Ensure that your employees have the appropriate dialogue with you and other team members well before leaving. Having a plan in place will not only help those left on the ground, but will make it easier for your employees to actually relax, as they will feel as though they are set up for success.
Set clear expectations — both on their end and for the team. Some people may want to check in daily or continue to own a task while away, whereas others may want to disconnect completely. It’s important to remember that it doesn’t need to be one size fits all.