White-in article.pngWhat has happened to the idea of taking vacation time? Even if your small business has a formal vacation policy, the reality is this: In a down economy, many employees are afraid to take vacation time because they feel like they are leaving their employer in the lurch and that they might not have a job once they return.  

 

 

Further, according to a 2010 survey from consulting firm Right Management, 66 percent of employees polled did not use all of their accrued vacation time in 2009. Further, 54 percent of American adults said they wouldn’t take a vacation at all, according to a Rasmussen poll

 

 

Younger employees, i.e. Generation Y, seem to find it hardest to take significant time off from work.  According to a Work Watch survey, 35 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds said that “giving up control of my projects, work and responsibilities” made them hesitate about taking vacation time.  Sales reps, financial services employees and IT professionals are other common groups that seem averse to tearing themselves away from work.

 

 

Due to a down economy, and having to do more with less, small business owners may be relieved that employees are dedicated to their work and are spending more time in the office. However, here’s why you should not cut your employees vacation time - if other companies in your area are offering paid time off and you are not, that could put you at risk of employees jumping ship.  And, staffers who have been working twice as hard in a leaner work environment may feel disheartened if they can’t take time to rest and rejuvenate.

 

 

So where do you start in crafting a formal vacation policy?  The following are some tips you may want to consider:


 

  • Know that a standard approach is to have employees’ vacation time increase with their number of years at the company.  For example, employees could earn two weeks after one year of employment; three weeks after five years and four weeks after ten years.
  • Adopt a “use-it-or-lose-it” policy, where employees can’t carry their vacation over from year to year.  Don’t leave this task to human resources.  Have management enforce this policy by encouraging their staff to take much-needed R&R. 
  • Consider using one of the newer approaches, such as “paid time-off banks.” This is where employees accrue a bank of hours based on the number of hours worked. They can then cash in the hours for vacation time, or opt to redeem them for additional pay.
  • Think carefully about whether part-time employees are integral to your success. If so, you may want to offer them some paid time off as well.
  • Take a close look at your corporate culture and see if it might be a better approach to let employees manage their own vacation policy.  Many forward-thinking companies are embracing the idea that, as long as the work gets done, employees should be able to determine for themselves when it’s an appropriate time to take a much-needed break.

 

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You may have a formal vacation policy.  And you may gently nudge your employees to take a week off during the summer.   But do you, the small business owner, take vacation time yourself?  If you don’t, you are not alone.  Only 46 percent of small business owners had plans to take a vacation in 2011, down from 67 percent in 2006, according to a recent poll.  


 

Small business owners who take vacation time often face difficulty temporarily ceding control to employees, refraining from calling the office on a daily basis or checking e-mail poolside. Just as you may tell your “Type A” employees:  If you have a hard time rationalizing going on a vacation, perhaps you could view your time off as an opportunity to search for inspiration on how to grow, or make improvements to, the company. Now get packing.