Great Vacation Policies: Ideas, Tips and Advice

April 27, 2017 Jennifer McClure


One of the key responsibilities of talent advisors is to maintain continual awareness of trends related to the changing needs and wants of the workforce. This is necessary to ensure the companies they work for are able to attract, recruit and retain the talent needed to meet business needs.

And just what is it that the workforce seems to want these days (beyond more pay – which few would turn down)? According to research conducted by Accountemps, employees want more time off, ranking “more vacation days” ahead of better benefits, more schedule flexibility, additional training and free food at work.

While it’s probably not surprising that employees say that they would like to have more time off, a study conducted by GfK Public Affairs and Corporate Communications, in conjunction with Oxford Economics, revealed that Americans are actually taking less vacation time than at any point in the last four decades.


The study also revealed that more than 40 percent of employees in the U.S. fail to take advantage of all of the paid time off they’re granted each year, increasing the potential for burnout and workplace stress:


There was a clear correlation between those who have more unused PTO [paid time off] days and those who reported feeling ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ stressed at work, particularly for those employees who leave more than 11 days unused.


So, how are business leaders and talent advisors getting creative in an effort to address the fact that employees desire more time off — but seem reluctant to take it?




  1. Unlimited Vacation
    Popularized by Silicon Valley startups and some high-profile companies, only a small percentage of companies have been brave enough to offer unlimited vacation time — a situation in which employees can take as much time off as they want, as long as their work gets done. And while there have been some spectacular and highly publicized failures, quite a few companies have also reported great success, including Netflix, Virgin America and several others.
  2. Mandatory Vacation
    Unlimited vacation may sound like a simple concept, but some employers have reported that employees feel pressure to take less time off than their boss or others on their team. To address this, they’ve provided guidelines in regard to how much time is “typical” or “expected,” or have moved to requiring or incentivizing minimum vacation time amounts. For example, Hubspot has a mandatory two-week vacation policy (in addition to unlimited vacation) and Evernote encourages employees to take at least a full week of vacation at a time by offering a $1,000 bonus for doing so.
  3. Paid Vacation
    If your employees are super stubborn and still won’t take time off, follow the lead of companies like FullContact, which pays employees $7,500 to go on vacation (on top of their paid vacation) – but only if the employee commits to disconnect and not work while on vacation. Or Moz, which reimburses employees up to $3,000 of vacation-related expenses each year. Moz’s founder and current “Wizard of Moz,” Rand Fishkin, wrote that the benefits to the company and to the employee outweigh the costs: “…it’s in all of our employees’ great interest to take time to do what they love with friends, family, whomever (we’ll pay their vacation expenses too so long as you go with them) and disconnect for a few days, or a few weeks.”
  4. Summer Hours
    If your company is not ready to go all of the ways with unlimited or paid, paid vacations, another popular option is to offer summer office hours for employees. Our friends at CareerBuilder have seen great success with a summer hours benefit – offered during the months of July and August – which allows employees to shorten their workweek and have Friday afternoons available for relaxation, personal hobbies, or time with family or friends. The shortened summer workweek is a popular benefit mentioned in annual employee engagement surveys and is well received by potential candidates who are considering the company as a place to work. To attract and retain top talent today, companies have to continually evolve their pay and benefits offerings and consider how they can build a workplace that not only facilitates employees being as productive as possible while on the job, but that also encourages them to disconnect and recharge in order to maintain their sanity, relationships, and enthusiasm for the work. Considering how your organization can meet the desire for more time off – and actually get employees to take it – may be the ticket to increased productivity, profitability, and success!

Jennifer McClure is a sought-after Keynote Speaker and Executive Coach. She combines her experiences as a Business Leader, Human Resources Executive and Executive Recruiter with an engaging, entertaining and informative style to help Leaders unleash their potential and create massive positive impact. Jennifer has delivered over 200 keynotes, workshops and corporate training classes, where she shares a blend of inspiration, “how-to,” best practices and strategic discussion based upon her 25+ years of experience leading human resources and talent acquisition efforts and working with senior executives.


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