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4 Forward-Thinking Reasons Companies Should Encourage Employee Vacation

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In the pre-COVID world, the majority of employees didn’t use all or most of their paid vacation days, and for those who did, many of them just stayed home or continued to work. According to MarketWatch.com in 2017, 80 percent of employees said if they felt fully supported and encouraged by their boss, they would take more time off.

It’s no secret that 2020 took an unprecedented toll on our mental and overall health. This came after years of enduring a workplace burnout epidemic. This is why it’s crucial that companies that are looking to rebuild and energize their workplace not only should but also need to encourage their employees to take their vacation days. 

Vacation is something that we all turn to for relaxation, a disconnect from our daily lives, a mental break, and quality time with our loved ones. Travel is healing and innate in us as human beings. We need travel to help us heal, deal, and feel in both our personal and professional lives. There have been decades of studies on the wellness benefits of travel, as well as the benefits that travel has on the workplace. Here are four important benefits:

Attract and Keep Valuable Talent

We live in a world where it’s easier than ever to work for yourself. In fact, there was a 74 percent increase in new business applications submitted in the U.S in 2020 than in 2010. It was also a 24.13 percent increase from 2019 alone, the highest increase across the entire decade, according to the 2021 U.S Business Formation Statistics. People also had a lot of time to rethink their passions and purpose in life over the past year and decide whether they want to return to the corporate world moving forward.

Pre-pandemic, workplace burnout was soaring. Stanford researchers found that workplace stress led to spending nearly $190 billion in healthcare costs and contributed to nearly 120,000 deaths each year, according to the Harvard Business Review. The World Health Organization also reported that 615 million people suffer from anxiety and depression worldwide, which costs the global workforce roughly $1 trillion in lost productivity each year.

If these are the numbers pre-pandemic, you can only imagine the mental and overall toll that people are suffering with today. This means that companies need to step up their game if they want to attract and keep valuable talent.

One way that companies can do this is to acknowledge and address people’s human needs for self-care, wellbeing, and personal fulfillment, all aspects that have lately been placed higher on people’s priority list.

People across multiple generations seek companies that care about their personal wellbeing, including their mental health. In the previous corporate world, various studies showed that employees often felt like their employers didn’t support their desire to take a vacation or that their overall health outside of the workplace was cared about. 

According to the U.S Travel Association, 85 percent of managers agree that encouraging employees to use their vacation time can dramatically improve morale and cut down on employee turnover, but there is a still a lot that can be done by tapping into the full potential of paid time off.

Improves Mental, Physical, Emotional, and Overall Wellbeing

Vacations are more than an opportunity to relax and feel refreshed. They also allow time for employees to focus on their mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, and overall wellbeing. 

Travel has been proven to improve our wellbeing so much so that travel is a key ingredient in almost everyone’s wellness toolkit. It’s important for companies to provide the proper resources and experts to help employees identify what kind of experiences they need in order to reach their specific wellness goals. 

Psychologists and neuroscientists have been studying and finding that travel has the potential to impact mental change. This includes improving brain health and boosting happiness hormones based on the planning aspect of a vacation and the constant changes in stimuli on a trip such as changing environments, languages, sights, smells, and sounds, according to The Atlantic.

Travel can also help decrease anxiety and stress. The Global Coalition on Aging stated that “women who do not take vacations are twice as likely to suffer from depression than women who do choose to go on a vacation.” Luckily, according to the U.S National Library of Medicine, “therapeutic landscapes like forests, mountains, and calming sea sides may help to decrease the risk of psychosocial stress-related diseases.” 

Some people may need time alone on a solo vacation to soul search and self-reflect, others may need more attention on their relationship with their partner, or some may have a physical health goal in mind after being in lockdown for a year and crave physical activity outdoors like hiking or biking.

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Spark Creativity and Inspire a Thriving Work Ethic

It’s one thing to attract and keep talent, it’s another to help them thrive. Oftentimes, a mental reset is needed to be able to return to the workplace feeling rejuvenated and ready to tackle work tasks. A surprising aspect of travel is its proven ability to spark creativity, innovation, and work performance.

What company doesn’t want that?

Travel breaks creative stagnation and helps get the creative juices flowing. The changes in environment and the exercising of your senses activates your neuroplasticity, resulting in inspired creativity, according to The Atlantic.

Being in nature, having time to empty the mind of stressors and overwhelming thoughts, breathing in fresh air, seeing new sights, exploring new places, discovering new problems and voids, and talking to new people all aid in sparking creativity that can ultimately lead to innovative ideas for the workplace. 

Creates a Happier and More Inclusive Company Culture

Travel experiences introduce us to new people around the world with different backgrounds, beliefs, cultures, and ways of living. We live in a world where the understanding and acceptance of others is extremely important, especially for company culture.

Not only do those who use their vacation days effectively and intuitively feel better about themselves and their wellbeing, but they are also excited to share about their experiences. Travel is known to turn us into interesting storytellers, resulting in boosted self-esteem and self-confidence.

When we are able to express compassion and understanding for others who are different than us, there tends to be a more positive and productive environment. 

People are craving new experiences, human connection, and social interaction now more than ever before. People want to feel appreciated and accepted for who they are as human beings, and travel is something that teaches us to be more compassionate and understanding of one another.

What Companies Need to Do

With the rebuilding of the workplace after 2020, companies need to think deeper when it comes to their corporate wellness initiatives. It’s going to take more than healthy meal options, yoga sessions, and wellness apps to draw in valuable talent and have a well-rounded and thriving workplace.

Employees want to travel. They want and need the opportunity to optimize on all that travel can provide when it comes to mental and overall wellbeing. 

A few starting points for companies include:

  • Assess your corporate wellness programs
  • Reevaluate your company culture and core values centered around travel
  • Revamp and update your travel and paid time-off policies
  • Integrate travel coaches and effective resources who can empower, educate, and guide employees with how to use their paid time off in a way that helps them achieve their specific wellness, personal, and work goals. Remember, not everyone is an avid traveler and may need help with everything from mindset, budgeting, planning, traveling with children, and more.

If you want to stand out among the competition, be forward-thinking, and respond to the needs of the future workforce by encouraging employees to use their vacation days. It’s an excellent way to ensure your company’s success. Remember, wellness is personal, as is travel. 

Looking for other ways to improve employee morale? Check out How to Authentically Lead Your Team Away From (or Out Of) Burnout to get tips for creating an inspired, motivated team.

About The Author
Sahara Rose

Sahara is a wellness travel coach and consultant for Sahara Rose Travels, LLC. After spending a decade traveling the globe solo to more than 84 countries doing in-depth research on the travel industry and its trends and realizing the scaling burnout epidemic in business travel and the workplace, she now empowers and educates companies on the wellness and work performance benefits of travel. Her mission is to reshape the wellness tourism industry and incorporate travel into every company’s wellness initiative.

Sahara is a member of the Global Business Travel Association’s Risk Committee, a published author, and a global speaker. She has been seen in various media outlets including Thrive GlobalForbesSkiftYahoo! FinanceUSA TodayCorporate Wellness MagazineBusiness Insider, and U.S News & World Report.