If your employees aren't taking vacation, they're putting themselves and your business at risk.

Need a reason for vacation? Good news: Scientific evidence suggests that you and your employees will be healthier and more productive if you take some real breaks throughout the year.

One study showed that employees were able to sleep better and were in a better mood after vacations, and the effects were still felt more than a month after their return. Another study demonstrated that vacations, especially those taken in warmer climates, resulted in increased productivity and less exhaustion for employees. And the famous Framingham Heart Study, a long-term study that began researching cardiovascular health in 1948, found a positive correlation between frequent vacations and longer, healthier lives over a nine-year period.

Understand the Problem

Despite the scientific evidence in favor, many Americans opt out of taking their vacation time. More than 40 percent of Americans didn't take a single day off in 2015, according to one study. And many of those who do take vacations continue to work while they're away: Only 44 percent of respondents to one survey said they didn't work at all while on vacation.

Encouraging your employees to use their vacation time is both good for them and good for your business. If you want to help encourage your employees to take their time off and come back refreshed and productive, here are a few ideas you may not have considered.

Set an Example

As a business owner, here's a compelling reason for vacation: You have to set a good example. If the boss never takes time off, employees may feel like they shouldn't do so either. So set an example by taking regular time off throughout the year. Besides, business owners need recharging, too. You'll avoid burnout and set the stage to help your employees do the same.

Take Company-Wide Breaks

At a thriving business, there's never a good time to get away. But if the business simply shuts down for a few days or a week, essentially forcing employees to take time off and recharge, some employees may find it easier to actually use their vacation time. Traditionally, manufacturing plants might shut down for two weeks during the year, one week in July and one in December, so that assembly line workers don't have to cover for each other during varied vacations. But white-collar professionals are beginning to enjoy this perk as well: Tech giant LinkedIn, for instance, closes its offices during the week of July 4.

Offer an Incentive

If your employees don't use their vacation days and eventually leave the business, you may end up paying them for all those unused days when they leave. So providing a financial incentive to those who use all their vacation days could save you money in the long run while at the same time helping your employees avoid stress and burnout. For instance, in 2014 the U.S. Travel Association began offering a $500 bonus to every employee who used all of their vacation time, and the percentage of staffers who used it all went from 19 percent to 91 percent in one year. Not only did employees get re-energized, but the organization reduced its financial liability from unused time off by more than $36,000, according to USA Today.

Before you make any changes, look at your own business's numbers to see how you fit into this national trend. And if you do find that your employees aren't taking the vacation time they should, don't stop at implementing the steps above: Use this as an opportunity to assess your company culture, management training and employee engagement metrics.


Tags: PTO Vacation