It’s late summer, and employees around the world are heading off on vacation. A slower business pace marks the month of August in many countries, with a few key exceptions including the United States.
The U.S. is one of the thirteen countries in the world that does not legally require its employers to offer paid vacation. This puts the U.S. in the company of India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sierra Leone. This is in sharp contrast to Europe, where workers have the right to at least 20 days of paid vacation per year.
Indeed, in terms of paid vacation, 16 of the 18 most generous governments are European. Other countries like Canada and Japan steer a middle course by guaranteeing at least 10 days of paid vacation per year.
But does a break from work really matter?
Study after study has shown that vacation time significantly improves both mental and physical health. People that take the necessary time off to unwind, have a more positive outlook on life, are more motivated to achieve their goals and are less prone to suffer from burnout. Currently, American employers lose around $300 billion annually because of employee strain and the American economy loses an estimated $23 billion a year in employee productivity due to depression and absenteeism.
Companies should encourage employees to take their vacation. Some companies are already voluntarily leading the way, with unlimited vacation days and other incentives to take time off becoming a common perk for American knowledge workers.
So what can we do?
One way for managers to empower their teams to take a break is by setting an example and going on vacation themselves. Only when the management level models the right vacation behavior will employees feel empowered to follow suit.
Further, as most people fear the pile of work they will find when they return, it is important to train someone who can take on most of their workload while they are out.
In the end, companies that take these steps will reap the benefits, as a strong work-life interplay benefits both an employee’s and a company’s health.
Image source: Ken Teegardin