Help Employees Who Forgo Vacation

By Mark Swartz
Monster Contributing Writer 
Think you’re vacation-deprived? A study here in Canada says nearly 22% of employees cancelled or postponed vacation in the past year, mostly due to work obligations. (In the U.S. that number rises to one in four.)
Vacation deprivation. Looks like it’s here to stay. Even though the economy’s picked up some, a bunch of stubborn souls refuse to leave the office behind. Or feel pressured to forgo vacation.
Mind you, it’s a huge gift to employers. One-quarter of Canadians aren’t taking all of their vacation time. They leave an average of 2.17 unused vacation days. This translates to 36.5 million unused days overall: that’s a $6.02 billion present for employers.
It would be nice to somehow reward your loyal non-vacationing staff . Solutions range from silly to practical.
Why Some Employees Shorten Or Skip Their Vacations
Here are the most common reasons employees give when asked why they don’t take advantage of their full vacation entitlement:
·         Can’t afford the money for a proper getaway
·         Can’t risk leaving work to pile up till it becomes unmanageable
·         Can’t give the employer an impression of not being super-dedicated
It often comes down to dollars, workload, or fear. Could be workaholism too. Each of these reasons can be stressful for the employee. So what can you do to ease their pressures?
The Silly Solution: A “Staycation” Camping Experience
Can’t get your staff to enjoy the great outdoors on their own time? Then yank open the office windows. Let in black flies and mosquitoes. Replace the plastic plants with poison ivy.
Your vacation-refusers deserve to commune with nature. Sitting there in their cubicles they’ll never get outdoors to sleep on rocks in a leaking tent. Or get stung by killer bees the size of SUV’s.
So gather all those pages of reports no one reads anymore. Pile them in your Reception area. Then strike a match and whoomph! – instant camp fire.
A Better Solution: Help Your Vacation-Refusers Unwind
Short of physically barring your vacationing staff from coming into work, or prying them from their office chairs with a crowbar, what can you do to make their lives easier if they won’t leave?
For starters, encourage them to take mini-vacations instead of one big holiday all at once. Half days here and there during the week. Three or four day weekends on occasion by arranging in advance a day off Monday, Friday or both.
Reassure your employees that you want them to get away from time to time. Explain that it will help reduce their stress and make them even more productive.
For those who absolutely refuse to take holidays, let them have an extra long lunch, leave work a little early, or arrive a bit late on pre-agreed days. At least this will break the routine. Plus it lets these staffers do things that’ll refresh them.
The Best Solution: Encourage Your Employees To Take Real Vacations
Inviting vacation-refusers to stay on the job may sound like a good idea. Until they start making costly mistakes from sheer fatigue. Or exhibit stress related symptoms like clinical depression.
The alternative then to Staycations? Help your employees feel good about taking their real vacation entitlement. Begin by scheduling your work flow properly. And take the burden off of those who are still there working while those away on holiday recharge.
Set an example by having managers and executives use their full holiday benefits. Could be you’ll see performance improvements in the rank and file over time. If so, you might even start to use vacation benefits to attract and retain talent. It may not rival bonfires in Reception. But it beats allowing your workforce to flame out.