Mandating Vacations: The Next Trend in Employee Wellness

Current research shows that employees worldwide are more stressed, worried, angry, and sad than before the COVID-19 pandemic. 57% of employees in the United States and Canada report high-stress levels. These increased levels of stress, worry, and other negative emotions are primary indicators of future employee burnout (Gallup, 2021). To battle these negative emotions and potential burnouts, many companies are instituting mandatory vacations for their employees. How does mandating vacation improve employee wellbeing and how does it support the organization as a whole? Continue reading to find out.



Current trends

In recent years, employees worldwide have been affected by global pandemics, economic crises, racial and political tensions, and mental health crises. The pandemic has caused a ripple effect across employees and business leaders of every industry and in every location.


Workforce mental health

Currently, only 20% of employees worldwide feel engaged, involved, and enthusiastic about their careers, only 32% of employees feel that they are thriving in their lives, and a little over 40% of employees worldwide report experiencing worry and stress “during a lot of the previous day.” Since 2009, worry, stress, anger, and sadness have been increasing in the global workforce. There was a sharp increase in many of these negative traits during the COVID-19 pandemic (Gallup, 2021).


“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” - Anne Lamott

Employee burnout

The negative emotions and traits that have developed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic encourage the development of employee burnout. The Mayo Clinic defines burnout as “a special type of work-related stress.” Burnout is a “state of physical or emotional exhaustion” (Mayo Clinic, 2021). Other sources state that burnout is when an employee has “exhausted their physical or emotional strength” (Lab Manager,2009).


Burnout can be costly for companies; increasing expenditures on healthcare, reducing employee productivity, and increasing the likelihood of employee resignation (Lab Manager, 2009). Harvard Business School estimates that workplace stress and burnout are responsible for up to 8% of national spending on health care and contribute to 120,000 deaths per year (Blanding, 2015). Studies have shown that employees who are suffering from burnout are 63% more likely to take a sick day and 2.6 times more likely to look for other employment options (Wigert & Agrawal, 2018). Replacing these burnt out employees can cost on average 6 to 9 months of their salary (Merhar, 2020). For example, if a manager who makes $60,000 a year resigns, it can cost $30,000 to $45,000 in training and recruiting expenses to replace that one employee.


“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence, it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” - Peter Drucker

Corporations that have mandated vacations

In response to these increasingly negative statistics and the potential cost of replacing employees suffering from burnout, many corporations are instituting mandated vacations for their employees. The following corporations are some of the many that started mandating vacation.


NAMI - The National Alliance for Mental Illness

From August 1st through 8th of 2021, the National Alliance for Mental Illness established a corporate-wide “Mental Health Rest Up Week.” During this paid mental health week, all offices except an emergency mental health helpline, were closed for employees to focus on their mental health and wellbeing. In their press release, they stated that they are doing this to provide “a mental health break from what has been a tumultuous year and a half of virtual work caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.” CEO Daniel Gillison further explains this decision in his statement, “We have to be advocates for our own employees and give them an opportunity for self-care. Like many Americans, NAMI employees have been working tirelessly in changing conditions since the pandemic began, and we feel it is necessary to hit the pause button and give our employees a chance to rest. Our people are our greatest asset.” They hope that this mandated vacation will encourage other corporations to prioritize their employees’ mental health and wellbeing.


LinkedIn

LinkedIn employees worldwide were mandated a paid week off starting April 5th, 2021 (Vasel, 2021). Part of LinkedIn’s management procedure is quarterly employee surveys. In 2021, surveys started to reveal some of the weight that employees were carrying in light of the pandemic. Many employees reported feelings of burnout, “lack of self-care”, fam