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Financial Friday: Almost 1/4 of workers don't take time off for the holidays

It may seem like everyone takes a week off in December, but one survey indicates, it's actually much less.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — When it comes to taking time off, it looks a bit different for everyone. Even people in the same workplace, or in the same business could have very different schedules and days off, especially around the holidays. 

The staffing firm Robert Half conducted a survey recently and found that 77% of people in the U.S. plan to take time off during the holidays. That's not entirely surprising until you think about the 23% of people who weren't planning to take time off. 

According to the survey, 27% of people said they weren't taking time off because there is no one to cover for them, and 14% said they have too much work to do to take any time off. 

That can be a problem for employees and for employers going forward.  

Why is it important for professionals to take time off? 

  • Taking a break is essential to recharging and bringing a fresh approach to business projects and challenges. 
  • It’s important to take regular vacations to avoid burnout.  
  • Planning ahead can help professionals feel confident about taking vacation days. Let your manager and team know ahead of time when you will be out of the office and ask a few trusted colleagues to take on different projects while you are away.  
  • Try to tie up as many loose ends as possible before you leave and make sure your point person has everything needed to keep things on track while you’re out. It’ll make it easier for you to relax rather than worrying about work. 

Why is burnout a concern?

  • Burned out employees can have detrimental effects on the department or company, including decreased morale and productivity, and increased turnover.  
  • When employees are experiencing burnout, it can lead to lack of focus, procrastination, tiredness, mistakes and bad attitudes that can have a negative impact on their performance and contribute to a toxic work environment.  
  • Professionals who are burnt out may find themselves searching for new career opportunities to escape and achieve better work-life balance.  
  • By fostering a healthy work-life balance for employees, companies can competitively attract and retain skilled talent in today’s hiring environment. 

How can managers cultivate a vacation-taking culture in the office? 

  • Create a clear vacation policy and encourage staff to take time away from the office.  
  • Often, the culture of an organization is set by its leaders’ behaviors. This is another reason it’s important for managers to lead by example and use their vacation days. 
  • As a manager, it’s important to encourage staff to take time off and be unbiased about how employees choose to do so. Vacation means different things to different people. 

What are the key takeaways for managers?

  • Consider hiring temporary workers - Count on unexpected/unplanned absences happening and consider hiring temporary professionals who can help with critical projects and fill in for folks who do take time off. 
  • Expect the unexpected – Plenty of unplanned absences happen around this time of year. The flu, bad weather and flight delays could pull staff out longer than they thought. Make a plan and have a buffer to meet year-end deadlines.
  • Clarify needs to check in – Who needs to check in and for what projects? Are check-ins necessary? Tell staff if/when you will check in.
  • Be realistic about projects – Are your year-end goals attainable? Does your staff need extra support to complete them?
  • Do something special – For staff working over the holidays, bring in breakfast, take the team to lunch or think of another kind gesture for them.
  • Remember to thank your team for their hard work throughout the year. Recognition and gratitude can go a long way.

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