While remote working has saved workers time in commuting hours, it’s also added hours on to the average workday. According to an evaluation of server activity on its network, NordVPN found that the average working day has grown by three hours in the U.S. since mid-March.
So, how can you encourage employees to take time off and what should a vacation policy for small business look like during the coronavirus-battling new normal?
Small Business Vacation Policies
Even though you are not required to offer paid vacation benefits to your employees, most companies do. And it is important to understand what your small business vacation should look like before making COVID-19 adjustments.
Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 76% of private industry workers are given paid vacations. Besides the mental and physical values, paid vacations make an employer more desirable to potential employee candidates.
According to Patriot Software, the typical vacation policy allows for the following number of days:
- 10 days paid vacation/year for employees with a business for 1-5 years
- 15 days paid vacation/year for employees with a business for 5-10 years
- 17 days paid vacation/year for employees with a business for 10-20 years
- 20 days paid vacation/year for employees with a business for over 20 years
In addition to paid vacation, your business may also offer paid holidays and paid sick leave (mandated by some states) and/or personal time off. It’s important to have a clearly outlined vacation policy in your employee handbook so your staff knows the requirements for days off, such as giving notice, number of days off allowed and limits on accrued days off (“use it or lose it”).
Likely your employee handbook does not cover how to handle paid vacation during a pandemic, so let’s take a look at the changes you may need to make.
- Childcare issues. Taking time off may just mean more time devoted to childcare, which could be a plus, but could also be another source of stress.
- Job security. Employees might be feeling their jobs are in danger of being eliminated and therefore are saving paid vacation days as possible payout when layoffs occur.
- Work distraction. Finally, work can be a welcome distraction to the stress people are experiencing about the current state of the world.
In addition, workers may want to save their vacations for later when travel options open up. Travel companies such as Travelzoo are offering tons of flexible deals such as no-fee travel cancellations and “buy now, pay later” options.
Why Business Owners Need Options
Employers are struggling also, realizing letting employees carry over tons of unused time or paying them for their unused time is too cost prohibitive in a slowing economy.
According to a survey by consulting firm Willis Towers Watson, 42% of companies surveyed have made or plan to make changes to vacation programs. In addition, more than half of employers plan to enhance vacation flexibility, either by allowing negative balances or by increasing accrual allowances. A smaller share of respondents (16%) requires employees to take vacation time to reduce the build-up, and another 22% are planning to or considering instituting that policy.
Another option is allowing employees to donate unused vacation time to fellow workers facing unusual circumstances.
To encourage employees to take time off, business owners should lead by example:
- Take time off yourself and make sure employees know time off will not put their jobs in danger.
- Suggest long weekends or days of the week you know are slower business days.
- Encourage employees to take time for themselves, even if that just means time away from their workstations.
The Benefits of Time Off
Taking time off from work to recharge has long been shown to have significant psychological and physical benefits. A study released by the American Psychological Association determined vacations reduce stress by temporarily distancing people from the actions and environments associated with stress and anxiety. Subsequently, less stress leads to:
- Better resiliency
- Less impatience, irritability, and anger
- Greater intuition capability
- Improvement in memory, focus, other brain functions
- More daytime energy and more restful sleep
- Lower risk of high blood pressure
Bottom line: taking a vacation leaves you and your employees more satisfied, with a better life balance, and less chance for burnout.
About Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and theblog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.
Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.
Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned. All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.
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