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Encourage your employees to travel – it will make them happier and more efficient

President of Contiki Canada, arranging social travel for 18– to 35-year-olds.

Ask a lot of young Canadians in the workforce about the vacations they're taking, and you'll probably be surprised by the answer: they're not taking any. That's right. Despite being part of a generation that supposedly only ever shares photos of themselves on pristine beaches or shopping along European cobblestoned streets, young professionals are just not taking advantage of their vacation hours.

Whether it's a feeling of guilt for not "pulling their weight" or a fear of missing out on opportunities of advancement, studies have shown that Canadian millennials aren't spending a lot of time away from the office – the most recent poll suggested almost half of them are not taking their full allotment of vacation days.

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As soon as I gained independence as a young adult, I found my own ways to explore the world, from taking a year off before university to live in the British Virgin Islands, to living in Vienna for a semester. I wanted to create my own adventures and see new places. I carried this love to travel through my professional life, and I learned more about myself and the world every time I got away. It's a shame more young professionals don't think this way, since travel has been shown to increase productivity at work and helps build confidence through broader life experiences.

To uncover the incredible impact travel has on young, working Canadians, Contiki recently conducted extensive research, polling young people from across Canada, in hopes of exploring the powerful and lasting effects travel has on making them the best versions of themselves. The results of The Power of Travel study are amazing. Almost 75 per cent of young travellers said they feel more confident and feel they can multi-task more efficiently, while almost 60 per cent are more likely to be satisfied with their employment.

It's critical for companies to create a culture around travel and reap some of these benefits. Here's how you too can see an upswing in the morale and productivity of employees who might feel discouraged about travelling.

Offer unlimited vacation as a work perk

This sounds daunting and as though offices will be deserted, with only rolling tumbleweeds to check e-mails, but trust me. While this option might not be feasible for every industry, you'd be surprised how few employees will actually partake on a never-ending jaunt around the world. The mere mention of unlimited vacation time will be enough to send their spirits through the roof, with their productivity following closely behind. Using vacation days for travel should be seen as an investment in one's personal growth by the employee and their employers, because that's how it will manifest itself noticeably.

Offer a fully-paid vacation for a top performance

What's that old saying about a horse and water? Sometimes, employees need a little bit of a push to really take advantage of vacation time. So, instead of doling out the usual tidy sum to a top-rate worker, why not force their hand with a truly wonderful trip where all expenses are taken care of? Letting an employee knock a destination off their bucket list is one of the easiest ways to let them know how much they are appreciated and how much you encourage them taking a well-deserved break. In a week's time, you'll be welcoming back a well-rested employee determined to earn another trip through hard work and dedication.

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Integrate an program offering discounted packages

Not all vacations need to take a chunk out of a person's bank account, especially a millennial new to the workforce. Breathtaking vacations can be achieved at a fraction of the cost thanks to partnerships with companies such as Venngo or Perkopolis that offer an array of discounts from movie tickets, to hotels, to trips to Europe. Offering discounted packages will encourage young employees to turn off Netflix and actually spend a few days away from the grind. Watercooler chatter will be elevated from the sighs of a staycation wasted, to the excited exclamations of a week spent enjoying a life-changing experience in Italy at a discounted price.

Use an in-house agency for maximized vacations

Even with fantastic vacation packages, some young workers might be hesitant to take days off if a trip doesn't seem worth it, or if their spending will far outweigh the money they're earning. By partnering up with a travel agency, you'll be able to ensure that your young employees will get the best travel advice possible and will be maximizing both their time and money for the best trip they've ever taken. Ensure that only the happiest and most satisfied workers come back from their vacation by providing them with the tools they need to make it happen.

While it's exciting to think of the different strategies companies can choose to implement, creating an office culture that encourages breaks, time off, and taking all of one's vacation time is what's important. This will make employees feel supported about stepping away from work and will lead to a more engaged and healthier workforce.

Executives, educators and human resources experts contribute to the ongoing Leadership Lab series.

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