What's most surprising about these employee engagement trends?

New vacation trends capitalize on the employee engagement potential of time off. (Photo via faungg’s photos, Flickr)

The latest trends connecting vacation and employee engagement emphasize time off in ways that may surprise overworked Americans!
Americans are taking less vacation time than at any point in the past 40 years, according to an Oxford Economics study for the U.S. Travel Association, based on an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data and a June 2014 survey of 1,303 workers.
Shockingly, shrinking vacation time is by choice! American workers collectively lose 169 million days of paid time off each year by choosing not to take them— a financial loss of $52.4 billion in benefits (averaging $504 per employee).
Do companies at least reap the benefits of a more productive, dedicated workforce? Not at all! The Oxford Economics study finds that unused paid time off is of little benefit to anyone.
Contrary to popular opinion, more time at the office does not correlate with employee or employer success. The more unused paid days off an employee has, the less likely they are to receive a raise or bonus and the more likely they are to be stressed — and stressed employees are a liability and hidden cost for employers!
“America’s work martyrs aren’t more successful. We need to change our thinking. All work and no play is not going to get you ahead — it’s only going to get you more stress,” says Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.
Current vacation trends follow this line of thinking and challenge traditional assumptions about time off and productivity. Read on to find out why savvy HR leaders are pushing for flexible, creative vacation time that actually boosts employee engagement.

How Vacations Fuel Employee Engagement

vacation can drive employee engagement - learn how!The up-and-coming generation of workers values flexibility and wants to make a positive impact on the world through their jobs, according to engagement expert Kevin Kruse in his Forbes article, “How To Win The Millennials With Paid Vacations.”
Companies are attracting younger workers with “travel perks” for employees. Tech company Evernote offers $1,000 in travel money for employees who take a full week off work, for example.
Travel perks are about more than free money. For our “chronically overworked country,” Kruse writes, travel perks send an important message to employees.
“While covering the expenses is certainly important, having your employer actually force a vacation is perhaps the critical piece of these programs. It certainly means the company walks the talk when it comes to work life balance,” Kruse writes.
Besides supporting healthy work-life balance, special vacations help develop creativity, confidence and resilience among employees, according to Kruse’s article. Employees return recharged and with fresh ideas to apply to their work.
thinkPARALLAX, a creative agency in San Diego, provides paid time off and a $1,500 budget for any employee to travel anywhere in the world for creative inspiration. The program, PARALLAXploration, also includes a “social good” requirement for employees to give back to the local community they visit during at least one day of their trip.
Another vacation trend, common among startups, is the promise of “unlimited vacation.” As Adena DeMonte writes for LinkedIn, unlimited vacation policies have advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, they offer coveted flexibility, build trust and save money; on the other, they don’t always support the true needs of employees.
Of course what works for a startup isn’t always best for an established, larger company. But across all industries, no matter a company’s specific vacation benefits, it’s important for HR to communicate the value of vacation and encourage leaders to model healthy work-life balance practices.
Care.com’s Patrick Ball suggests companies fit their vacation policy to company culture and, above all, “have HR explain the benefits of taking time off.”
Looking to spark a dialogue in your workplace about the importance of vacation to employee engagement? October is National Work & Family Month, a time for improving the work / life balance in the U.S. Celebrate by encouraging employees to take a new attitude to their paid days off — not as a personal sign of laziness, but as a token of gratitude from your company and a necessary time to recharge!
Smart vacation policies engage and send a message of gratitude to your employees. For an in-depth guide to Transforming Your Workplace with Gratitude, click below to download our FREE eBook and start today!
Download our FREE eBook, "Transform Your Workplace With Gratitude" TODAY!
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gThankYou, LLC (www.gthankyou.com) is based in Madison, Wisconsin. Contact: Rick KileyChief ThankYou! Officer, gThankYou, LLC at info@gthankyou.com or 888-484-1658.
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