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10 Proactive Ways to Avoid Vacation Shaming

by | Oct 3, 2016 | Management

Last week, we talked about the toxic effects of vacation shaming. This week, we focus on how to ditch the bad habits and create a PTO positive workplace culture.

Creating a workplace culture centered around balancing work and life requires concentrated effort. It doesn’t happen just because you throw words at the problem. Although words can carry weight, real impacting change only comes when words and actions match.

Related: How Vacation Shaming Could Harm Your Employee Performance

1 | Encourage employees to take paid time off

For workaholic employees, sometimes a little nudging is necessary to get them to use their time off. Utilize mid-year meetings to review PTO balances and encourage them to utilize the time they have.

Example: “Hey Sue, I was reviewing PTO balances and realized you haven’t taken any time off.  When would you like to do that?” Workers will pay less attention to vacation shaming from their peers if management is pushing for time-off use.

2 | Approve as many time off requests as possible

Make a habit of saying yes.  The few times you aren’t able to grant a request for time off because of business demands, explain why those dates won’t work and look for alternative dates with your employee.  This will help them understand the scheduling process and they will respect you for being honest with them.

3 | Cross-train employees

If most people in your organization are cross-trained in several areas, when someone wants time off, you have a well-trained group of employees to fill in.  This also creates a great culture of learning and cross-functional support, and you end up with a much more diverse talent pool for succession planning.

4 | Remind employees that vacation means time away from work and not just working from another location

The temptation to blur the lines between work time and personal time is all too easy given the all-the-time instant access to everything work related.  Another aspect of vacation shaming is the stigma that, even when we are off, we should still be doing some background work so that our projects and tasks don’t fall to the wayside.

We hear the phone beep every time we get an e-mail, text or voice message.  Most of us are tempted to at least look at what new message is waiting for us.  We can, however, create the expectation that all employees stay away from work during vacation. Remind them to set their out-of-office email auto-reply and voicemail recording before they leave and encourage them to enjoy their well deserved time off.

5 | Lead by example

The best way leaders can reinforce the importance of leaving work at work while on vacation is to demonstrate it themselves.  As we previously discussed, if the boss is sending emails and calling the office while on vacation, then employees will think the same is expected of them.  It is critical that leaders set the right tone and follow their own advice.

6 | Reward employees for using their PTO with wellness points

If your organization has a formal wellness program, the point system should align with the goals established in that plan.  Even if you don’t have a formal wellness program, the PTO wellness points could be redeemed for some type of merchandise or gift cards.

Be creative and make sure those rewards align with what your employees value most. These kinds of incentives will hopefully convert the vacation shaming to vacation praising.

7 | Always show PTO balances on pay stubs

Even if all of your pay stubs are online through an employee intranet or payroll provider, simply adding a line to those pay stubs will help remind employees how much PTO they have available.

8 | Allow for PTO donations for co-workers in need

If you have a use-it-or-lose-it PTO/Vacation policy, allowing employees to donate unused paid time off to a co-worker in need can offer a solution that encourages employees to support one another and creates an environment of giving.

I strongly encourage limitations on the amount of time one employee can donate.  This will prohibit the anti-vacationers from just giving their time away and never taking time for themselves.

9 | Consider a VTO (Volunteer Time Off) Policy

Offering an additional option of volunteering as a means of getting employees out of the office and out into the community can work well for employees who don’t necessarily like to “go” anywhere for vacation or otherwise cannot afford to go anywhere special.  It is a fantastic way to build strong team connections and gives employees the opportunity to help others in a meaningful way.

10 | Do not pay out unused PTO/Vacation time

It may sound harsh, but some anti-vacationers have a tendency to bank their paid time off in hopes of a big cash out at the end of the year.  Remember the purpose of providing a paid time off benefit is to provide employees with the opportunity to recharge their batteries and manage stress.  If employees believe they have the option of a cash payout versus taking time off, some will choose cash.

No payout sends the message that the organization intends for employees to actually use the time off they are provided.  It does not matter if they “go” somewhere for vacation or if they just spend time in town doing the things they have put off because of work demands. They can even just sit home and do nothing while catching up on the latest Netflix binge craze.

Realize that shifting workplace cultural beliefs and behavior takes time, patience and concentrated effort.  Hardcore anti-vacationers may require some additional effort.  Some of their beliefs have been ingrained and reinforced by observing widespread corporate behavior, both yours and those of other companies.

With that in mind, remember that words and actions must match in order for any of the above solutions to actually yield the desired results.

Over to You

Do you plan on implementing any of these ideas into your HR strategy? Are any of these working for you already? Comment below and tell us your ideas![

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