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Director, HR Advisory. ADP Canada

When January arrived and left the holiday season behind, employees should have been well rested and ready to tackle the new year by easing back into their day-to-day responsibilities, right? Well, a stroll down the hallway in the first week back may have shown more staff as tired as they were before their vacations.

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Together with Leger, ADP Canada took a look at the true cost Canadians paid to take time off in 2018. Working Canadians told us that on average, they put in 23 extra hours — nearly three full workdays — before and after taking a week away from work to make up for their absence. We’ve dubbed this the “time-off tax.”

That number more than doubled from 11 hours the previous year, and could be part of the reason why more than half of respondents reported that they don’t or won’t take all their allotted vacation time.

Further, the survey has shown that when most employees finally do take time away, they have a hard time fully disconnecting, regularly checking e-mail or keeping on standby in case something pressing crops up. This is a big problem: Vacations are critical in preventing employee burnout, retaining talent and are incredibly valuable to an organization’s bottom line.

Almost half of working Canadians say they would switch employers for an increase in vacation time, if all other considerations remained the same. This suggests that by making vacation time a priority for employees, an organization can retain more of their talent and save costs in recruitment and training.

As managers plan for 2019, they should consider adding some of these workplace resolutions to their list:

Create the culture

It is up to managers to reinforce the mindset that vacations are important. They also need to ensure that when assigning coverage for tasks, that they don’t make staff feel their vacation time is a burden to the rest of the team. By making sure employees feel that they have earned the time to disconnect and recharge, and that they have the support of their managers to do so, employees are more likely to return refreshed and eager to contribute.

Lead by example

Junior staff look to those in senior roles to set the tone for the team. Currently, roughly 70 per cent of workers between the ages of 18 and 34 say they’re putting in as much as 32.1 hours of extra work before and/or after their one-week vacations. If the leaders are putting in late nights before vacation and sending e-mails poolside, chances are junior employees will feel the need to do the same.

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Productivity through proactivity

Managers can demonstrate that team members’ vacation time is important by acknowledging them early and planning for them with the whole team. By taking an active role in the transitioning and coverage of work, employees will feel less overwhelmed and guilty about handing off their responsibilities.

Say no to unnecessary CC’s

There is no faster way to make an employee feel as though they need to stay connected on vacation than to include them on every e-mail thread while they are away. If they do check in and see an inbox full of messages they will likely keep their eye on the correspondence. Managers can respect an employee’s time away by waiting to update them when they return. Chances are those updates will be more productive coming directly from a team leader during a postvacation catch-up meeting than through drawn out e-mail threads.

In an age where we are constantly connected, it is important to be given the ability to disconnect from time to time. Whether this is to spend time with family, or to spend some quiet time relaxing in in solitude, vacation time is an earned and deserved right for all employees throughout an organization. Managers have the unique ability to do their part to ensure their employees feel empowered to not only take their time, but to enjoy it “tax-free.”

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