Be Generous with Employee Time Off

Tick Tock
The day after Thanksgiving my whole family convened at my mother’s house to get a first glimpse of the newest member of the clan – seven week old Grace.  It was a fun afternoon, not only because little Grace was amenable to being passed around like a weighted ball during PE class, but also because everyone showed up.  That meant I had the opportunity to catch up with some nieces and nephews I don’t get to see very often.

One of my nieces is in “development,” fund raising for some of Boston’s oldest institutions.  Most recently, she took her skills to higher-ed with a management position at a university.  “So, how do you like your new job, Kaitlin?” I asked.  (The recruiter in me just won’t stop.)  “I really like the job.  It was a good move,” she replied, “but I LOVE the time off.  It’s truly the ‘golden handcuffs.’  I don’t know that I’ll be leaving there for a long, long time.”

It turns out Kaitlin has a work schedule that, while not exactly fitting the academic year, is more liberal than most corporations allow.  For example, Kaitlin will have almost two weeks off for the Christmas/New Year’s break.  And she commented to me that she feels badly for her friends who “only” have three weeks of vacation a year.


I have written about this before.  I believe there is simply nothing a manager can give to an employee that is a cheaper contributor to ROI than having a liberal time off policy.  And here’s why . . .

  • We’re All Working Harder – This is true for most of the people I know and the candidates I interview. I can honestly say that I don’t know anyone who is not working harder than their fathers ever did – either growing a business, managing a division, changing a business model, introducing new products to the market – whatever. We are all working very hard – and, in some cases, too hard and without a break.
  • Performance Suffers – When we work hard for long periods of time without taking a physical or mental break, we lose our edge and our perspective on the job. So, the decisions we make may not be the best for ourselves or for our businesses. We also lose the important creative juices that keep us fresh and give us the ability to see our jobs in new and different ways. What happens when we get caught in a trap of overworking (and it is a trap!) is that eventually our performance suffers.  It’s called “burn out.”


When you give a sales quota to your team, that quota has to be met or exceeded, regardless of how much vacation time the salesperson takes.  And your marketing team has to introduce products on time and keep those critical lead generation programs going regardless of how much time they take for vacation. They know this – they “get it.”  You have the power to ensure that your employees don’t burn out and remain as excited about their jobs and your company as they were on the first day they came to work.  Here are a few simple suggestions:

  • Vacation Policy Update: Review your vacation policy. If it’s not in the 21st century, you had best get it up to speed. Many, if not most, companies now give three weeks of vacation time as standard from the start of employment.
  • Birthday Time Off: Nothing says “Happy Birthday” better than getting the day off.
  • Holidays:  There are 10 legal holidays in the US plus whatever state or local holidays may be observed (such as Patriots Day in Maine and Massachusetts).  Be sure to give your local holidays as well.
  • Mental Health Days: One client of mine gives one day per quarter for “mental health.” The company is growing rapidly and everyone is under quite a bit of pressure to perform. This means their employees don’t have to make an excuse when they just need a day off.   Everyone loves it and, guess what, not everyone uses it – but it’s there.
  • Friday Afternoon in Summertime: From Memorial Day to Labor Day, everyone is anxious to get the weekend started. (If you’re in sales, you know it’s a pretty “dead” time of the week, as well.)

I pity the recruiter who calls Kaitlin with a potential new job.  She has a good work-life balance in her new job. She works very, very hard when she’s there (and that includes evening fundraising events).  AND she plays very, very hard when she’s not!


The German Government is considering legislation that would prohibit companies from contacting employees after hours and on vacation.  Audi and Volkswagen already have enacted this type of policy. Is this going too far or does this policy acknowledge that companies have “over-reached” by expecting employees to be available 24/7?  Leave a comment below to let me know what you think.

This entry was posted in Retention/Keeping Your People. Bookmark the permalink.