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Lead Your Team Managing

'Use It or Lose It': Getting Employees to Take Time Off

'Use It or Lose It': Getting Employees to Take Time Off
Credit: Cukrov/Shutterstock

As summer winds down, there is a good chance large numbers of employees still have numerous vacation days stocked up.

Fear of being replaced, having work pile up and poor employer support and communication are among the top factors keeping U.S. workers from using all the paid time off they have coming, according to a new study from GfK Public Affairs and Corporate Communications (GfK) and the U.S. Travel Association.

The research revealed that overall, 40 percent of employees will leave vacation days on the table this year. Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, said part of the problem is that many Americans suffer from a work martyr complex.

"In part, it's because 'busyness' is something we wear as a badge of honor," Dow said in a statement. "But it's also because we're emerging from a tough economy and many feel less secure in their jobs."

The study discovered that 40 percent of employees say returning to a mountain of work is the main reason they leave paid time off unused, while 35 percent feel that nobody else can do their work. In addition, more than 20 percent of workers are concerned that taking time off will make them be seen as replaceable by those in charge. [Would Unlimited Vacation Fly at Your Company? ]

Company culture may also play a  part. Despite 95 percent of senior business leaders recognizing the importance of time off, two-thirds of workers indicate their company says nothing, sends mixed messages about or discourages using their paid time off. Additionally, one-third of senior business leaders never, or rarely, talk with employees about the benefits of taking time off.

Researchers say business leaders may be unintentionally sending employees mixed messages when they take their time off. Nearly half of the managers surveyed respond to emails while on vacation, while 29 percent return calls from the office during their time off.

The study's authors said this sends a signal that it is not acceptable to be away from the job.

Chris Moessner, vice president of research at GfK, said the key to encouraging employees to take more time off is by abandoning policies that allow workers to roll vacation time over into the following year.

The study found that 84 percent of employees with a "use it or lose it" policy plan to use all their paid time off in 2014, compared with less than half of workers who can roll over, bank or be paid for unused vacation time.

"Use it or lose it policies are tremendously effective at getting employees to use the time off they have earned," Moessner said.

Dow said in the end, employees will suffer by not taking more time off.

“Unfortunately, workers do not seem to realize that forfeiting their vacation time comes at the expense of their overall health, well-being and relationships," Dow said.

The study was based on surveys of 1,303 American workers working at least 35 hours per week, including 235 managers.

Originally published on Business News Daily.

Chad  Brooks
Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.

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