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Study: Mandatory Vacation Works Best for Employees

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Aug 14, 2017

It's no secret that, compared to other countries, workers in the United States tend not to take much time off. While many workers in the U.S. have little to no vacation time at all, as it is the only country without any legal right to paid vacation, even when days are available, people often don't take advantage of them, which contributes to employee burnout.

A recent study outlined in the Harvard Business Review has found that many of the approaches companies take to encourage workers to take more time off don't work. Giving people more days off doesn't work because they often just don't use them. This even happens when people have literally unlimited time off, as workers don't want to look like slackers and so don't really take advantage of this perk. So what does work? Mandatory vacations. 

Study participants were required to take one week off for every seven weeks of work. Further, they made it so that if they contacted the office while they were on vacation in any way, shape or form, they didn't get paid for that vacation week. Further, there was no employee input on when their vacation started, which meant they couldn't just put it off, and since it was scheduled ahead of time, clients and coworkers knew to prepare for that person leaving. 

After doing this for 12 weeks, the study authors said, managers rated employee productivity, creativity, and happiness levels before and after the mandatory time off. What they found was that the mandatory scheduled vacation system increased creativity by 33 percent, happiness by 25 percent and productivity by 13 percent. 

"This is early research, but it confirms something we said at the beginning: Vacation systems are broken and aren’t actually doing what they’re advertised to do. If you show up drained after your vacation, that means you didn’t get the benefit of creating space," said the study authors. 

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