Why you should pay your employees to go on vacation

Canadians are bad at taking time off.

A recent study by Expedia.ca found that Canadians leave 31 million vacation days unused each year. The study also found that more than a quarter Canadians (27 per cent) go a year or more without taking a vacation, and another 36 per cent go six months to a year without taking a break.

“Vacation time can be considered a major stress reliever with a range of benefits for both our physical and mental well-being, including lower blood pressure and reduced anxiety,” says Beverly Beuermann-King, a Canadian work-life balance expert.

Not only are overworked employees likely to be burned out, employers are legally required to pay out unused vacation time when employment ends. The solution? Some companies are paying their employees to take a “paid-paid vacation” (a stipend beyond the legally required paid vacation time) and it might not be as crazy as it sounds.

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A recent study by Glassdoor found that four out of five employees would prefer new benefits or perks over than a salary increase. The survey also found that next to healthcare insurance, vacation or paid time off is the most valued employment perk. And while some companies are offering what may seem like the ultimate employment perk–unlimited vacation time–several employers who implemented the perk found it works the opposite way you want it to: employees take less vacation time because they feel more pressure to work when vacation guidelines are unclear.

Other so-called perks have similar effects. Free food, workout classes, massages and office parties are nice perks, but mean more time spent at the office. Paid-paid vacation, on the other hand, gives enthusiastic permission for employees to maximize their vacation time while minimizing the stigma of taking time away from the office.

While the trend has yet to catch on in Canada, about three per cent of U.S. companies offer a “vacation stipend” according to a 2016 survey from the Society of Human Resources Management.

That stipend could range from $500 to as much as $7,500. For example, a U.S. software business called FullContact offers staff $7,500, with the only restriction being that employees must disconnect: no emails, no calls, no work at all. Another company that offers paid-paid vacation, BambooHR, asks that employees share at least one photo with their coworkers through the company’s internal communications network.

Being required to share vacation joy with your coworkers? That’s an assignment employees will be happy to receive. Plus, you can be sure you’ll be called the best boss ever more than once.

See also:

How to navigate the unlimited vacation landscape


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