For many people, attaining a healthy work-life balance can sometimes feel like an impossible goal. The fast pace of work combined with today’s digital tools keeps many employees connected far beyond traditional working hours, making it harder for them to pull away for much-needed time off.
Despite potential obstacles, creating opportunities for time off is essential for employees and your organization. A well-thought-out strategy for employee leave management can help you support a healthy work-life balance for employees, resulting in a productive and engaged workforce.
How Employee Leaves Benefit the Workplace
Although employees receive time off to support their work-life balance, many don’t take full advantage. According to a U.S. Travel Association survey, 52 percent of employees reported having unused vacation days left over at the end of the year.
In recent times, employees may have been even less inclined to take time off, as lockdowns and travel restrictions have resulted in limited getaway options. However, even if employees may not be going on a traditional “vacation,” they can still benefit from taking time off. By encouraging employees to take advantage of leave time offered, your business and employees can realize the following benefits:
Fewer Instances of Burnout
A recent Spring Health survey revealed that 76 percent of employees feel burnt out at work, and nearly one in three said that paid time off would help them avoid or reduce burnout. Employees who have time off to decompress can explore interests, hobbies and other activities that allow them to reduce stress and come back to work refreshed and well-rested. When employees are allowed more time away from the office, through both vacation and sick time, they are better able to take care of themselves and their families.
Lower Healthcare Expenses
Harvard University researchers found that workplace stress costs U.S. companies up to $190 billion in additional healthcare costs each year. By offering employees time away from work to manage their stress, you aren’t just supporting their overall well-being—you may also be helping them avoid the healthcare costs associated with stress-induced physical and mental illnesses, such as depression, heart disease and high blood pressure.
Employees that feel stressed, overworked and in need of a healthier work-life balance can become distracted at work, limiting their productivity. But when employees take time off, they have an opportunity to pay attention to areas of their life outside of work. When they return, they may be less distracted and more ready to focus on their job-related goals.
How to Encourage Work-Life Balance Through Leave Management
A Deloitte survey found that only 23 percent of companies believe that they have the best solutions in place to support employee work-life balance. To support your workforce and achieve the many benefits of effective leave management, consider taking the following actions:
Establish a leave management policy.
Your leave management policy provides an opportunity to communicate the importance of time off and your organization’s commitment to supporting a healthy employee work-life balance. The policy also clarifies the available kinds of leave, how employees can request time off and see balances, and what happens with unused leave. For example, it’s common for leave policies to distinguish between sick time and vacation time. As Mindy Honcoop, TCP's Chief People Officer explains, “Ideally, vacation should be tracked separately from sick leave. Employees should be able to enjoy their vacation time rather than have to use it when they’re sick.”
Monitor employee leaves regularly.
By tracking employee leave metrics, you can gain more visibility into when employees are taking time off and when there may be an issue. For example, you can identify which employees have accrued the most leave or have gone the longest without taking time off. Dashboards that help managers see these metrics in real time can enable more fruitful conversations with employees, including encouraging employees that haven’t been using their available leave to take some time off.
Remove the barriers that hinder employee time off.
There can be several factors impacting an employee’s ability to take time off. For example, there could be a lack of cross training, making an employee the only one who can perform specific tasks. Or, you may be offering employees a payout for unused vacation time, which can encourage employees to save time rather than use it. As a result, time off can become stigmatized and employees may eventually become uncomfortable making requests.
It’s critical to remove these barriers so your employees can work in an environment where taking time off is not only accepted, but welcomed. Even in states where time-off payouts at termination are required, you can implement policies that specifically encourage employees to use time off within a specified timeframe each year.
Ensure that managers lead by example.
Company leaders can set the tone for work-life balance by making it a priority for themselves. For example, when managers take time off and encourage their teams to do the same, employees will naturally see time off as an accepted norm in your work culture. Managers can also regularly encourage a healthier work-life balance with employees one-on-one and in team meetings.
Support Your Workforce with Effective Leave Management
In today’s fast-paced world, employees are pulled in many different directions, making time off essential to prevent burnout and support a healthier work-life balance. Tools for tracking and managing employee leave can help you efficiently and transparently track and manage employee leave. For more insights, read the next blog post in our Leave Management Series.
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