Time management

Incentivizing Time Off to Create More High Performing Employees

Employees are not Energizer Bunnies. They need breaks and down periods, otherwise they burn out. Incentivize time off to create high performing employees.


I bet you might be wondering why on earth would you want to incentivize time off to your employees? It’s the employee’s discretion to take their time off if they feel the need to take it right? Let us explain why this ideology might actually be hurting your company. 

We’ve had previous research that low-performers take about 14 days of vacation on average, whereas high-performers take about 19. That might seem paradoxical on the face of it — wouldn’t a high-performer generally be in the office more? But it speaks to the idea of the value of rest and recharge. Employees are not Energizer Bunnies. They need breaks and down periods, or otherwise, they’ll burn out and probably recycle the same ideas. Which is why we recommend drafting a plan to incentivise time off and create high performing employees.

This concept of a vacation making sense to get the most out of people has been backed up on data connecting more frequent vacation-goers with a higher rate of promotion, including this section:

In The Happiness Advantage, I describe research that shows that when the brain can think positively, productivity improves by 31%, sales increase by 37%, and creativity and revenues can triple. In fact, the conclusion of my HBR magazine article, “Positive Intelligence,” which was based on a decade of research, was that “the greatest competitive advantage in the modern economy is a positive and engaged brain.” To be truly engaged at work, your brain needs periodic breaks to gain fresh perspective and energy.

The expression “greatest competitive advantage in the modern economy” should interest you as an employer. And look at those increases in both productivity and sales. Who wouldn’t want that?

The other wrinkle

Take a look at this:

description about redistribute work more evenly

Now add everything together.

You want people with positive, engaged brains — which come from vacations.

High performers take more vacations.

And when high performers are in the office, they tend to get slammed with more and more work because of their competence.

At this point, wouldn’t it make sense to actually gamify or incentivize time off for your employees?

Does anyone actually do that?

For sure — many companies.

FullContact is a good example.

The company has a three-week minimum paid vacation policy, and employees can take more if they need to. Additionally, employees receive $7,500 to go on vacation, with one catch: They must disconnect completely from work. If they check in through email or do any work-related activity, they don’t get the money.

a quote from the Founder to CEO the quote is from Bart Lorang saying: "Being Awsome with people and being vulnerable creates profitability for fullcontact" "

“At FullContact, the core value is ‘Be Awesome with People.’ Since ‘worldly’ is the ‘W’ in AWESOME, we encourage people to travel the world,” says Bart Lorang, co-founder, and CEO. “As a result, I get more productive, happier employees. I would rather have them super-productive and super-charged when they’re working rather than constantly at a 70 to 60% state.”

SEO platform Moz, based in Seattle, does something similar. Employees get four weeks of paid time off and $3,000 in vacation reimbursement per year. “We do it to incent employees to unplug from the day-to-day and take time away to recharge and refresh,” says Angela Cherry, Moz’s director of communications. “We find that ‘paid’ paid vacation is a big motivator for getting employees to take time away from the office to go on fun adventures and spend time with loved ones.”

Airbnb does this too — they offer a $500 quarterly travel credit that employees can use to book accommodations on Airbnb. “This gives all employees a chance to regularly use the product and get closer to our host community,” says Brittany Cornejo, a public relations specialist with Airbnb in San Francisco. “Also, by providing the credit, we encourage employees to make the most of their paid time off because we understand how important it is to decompress from time to time.”

It can be simpler, too: LinkedIn gives almost everyone the July 4th period off, which makes some sense — how much work is really getting done in U.S. offices around July 4th?

Kabbage offers unlimited PTO and a six-week sabbatical program, and Ericsson has been called by one employee (on Glassdoor) as “probably the best vacation policy in the U.S.,” with a vacation plan that begins at three weeks and can be incentivized relative to the region.

So as you can see, companies do incentivize time off to their employees.

Why not do this yourself?

You could start small:

    • Offer an overnight nearby to those achieving some performance metrics; even pay for babysitting
    • Mandated July 4th out-of-office time for 1-2 days on each side of the holiday
  • Offer to extend trade show attendance into a weekend getaway

These are doable elements, and they’ll energize your employees and connect them more directly back to the company — they’ll feel cared for, and will care back and do good work (yes, compensation is also a piece of this puzzle; but if you can’t increase base compensation for all, this is a great way to keep people engaged until you can boost their base).

How do you incentivize time off for your team? Let us know in the comments below, or feel free to tweet us @PurelyHRsoft.

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