Encouraging Employees to Utilize Paid Time Off During a Pandemic

Many employees found themselves with unused vacation days at the end of 2020. Due to the pandemic, vacations were cancelled and shelter in place made any other options limited.

It doesn’t appear the pandemic is disappearing immediately in 2021, so how can you help your employees utilize their paid time off?

Whether your employees are remote, working from home with kids, or continue to work in the office, the pandemic has posed new challenges for workers at all levels. It can be draining. Adapting to the changes and juggling different roles has meant working longer hours than usual, which can easily lead to burnout at work.

It is essential that your employees take time off work to relax and unwind. Research shows that 64% of people returning from vacation have mentioned they feel energized and ready to return to work. Adversely, not taking vacation days costs businesses in the U.S. an average of $224 billion a year in burnout and lost productivity. So, implement a strategy to remind your employees about the importance of taking a pause from work to recharge.


Consider these four suggestions to encourage your employees to use their benefit of vacation days.


1. Set the example for your employees

Discuss the days you will be taking off and encourage your team to do the same. An example of this could simply be sending a calendar invitation via email to remind your employees that you will be out of the office. This allows your employees to start thinking of dates they might like to request off.

During casual meetings, mention what you are looking forward to on your time off. By starting the conversation, you will help motivate your employees to request paid time off and have something to look forward to. If your employees feel there is nothing to do or nowhere to go, offer suggestions such as volunteering, connecting with family, or exploring new sites in the area in which they live. Small ideas can make a large impact.

2. Establish mandatory paid time off

Normally, unused vacation days are either rolled over, expended, or lost if not used. As a company, one thing to consider during this time is mandatory PTO. The idea is employees must take a certain amount of time off.

3. Create a coverage plan

Pandemic or not, sometimes employees hesitate to take vacation days when they know they are coming back to a pile of missed work. For many employees, the pandemic has created an even larger workload, compounding this common challenge idea. Encourage your managers to create plans for coverage while the employee is taking time off so that they are not overwhelmed upon return. Knowing there is proper back up for their position will encourage employees to take time off and will certainly allow them to relax and disconnect.

4. Give them vacation planning help

Whether they need guidance on what travel agent to contact, which hotel to book, or even things to do while on vacation, an EAP can help. Your EAP will take care of your worries so you can focus on enjoying your time off.

Keeping your current paid time off policy or adjusting it due to the pandemic should depend on the needs of your organization. Keep a pulse on the mental health of your employees and adjust as needed. The pandemic has thrown many obstacles at businesses this past year so encourage them to take time off to recharge. Focusing on their needs will only reward your business.


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