Elizabeth Anderson

By Elizabeth A. Anderson, Jumpstart:HR


Is There Such a Thing as Too Little or Too Much Time Off?

There are two current trends being seen in workforce concerning available employee vacation time. Some companies are seemingly not offering enough, while others are starting to offer what appears to be too much. So what’s the best policy to adopt? Is there such a thing as too little or too much time off?



A report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 20 years ago, employers were offering their employees more paid vacation time than seen currently. In 1992, 82% of workers were given paid vacation leave, but compare that with only 77% in 2012 receiving the same benefits. According to a May 2013 study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, it was found that the U.S. is the only country in a group of 21 economically affluent countries in which it is not a requirement for employers to provide their employees with paid vacation time. There is some positive current research results found from BLS. In 2012, it was found that 61% of employers offer sick leave, 37% give personal leave, and 11% allow for family leave. Compare that to 20 years ago and there is a clear increase in these areas of employee paid leave. In 1992, 50% of employers gave their employees sick leave, 15% gave personal leave, and only 9% gave family leave.


It seems the trend has been to give employees paid leave in areas other than with vacation time. Although 26% of employers currently offer consolidated leave plans, there still seems to be a gap in when, or why, to offer vacation time. However, the companies that do offer paid-time-off (PTO) packages do so to encourage their employees to manage their time and to potentially decrease the number of unplanned absences. A major contributing factor to this PTO trend is that employers are seeing that on-the-job stress leads to employee dissatisfaction. Incurred work stress directly interferes with employee’s family and personal time, which makes for unhappy workers.  A 2012 Gallup poll found that 40% of American workers described themselves as very or extremely stressful at their current workplace. 1 out of every 4 view their job as the number one stress factor in their life, 35% state that their stress interferes with their family and personal time, and 66% suffer from stress-related health issues.  Another statistic found was that 52% of employees call in sick when they are not really ill. When asked why, 62% stated it was due to work stress. So the question to be asked is: are employees over-stressed at work and is doling out paid vacation time the answer?



There is another workforce trend that is emerging in the area of employee paid vacation time. Opposite to some employers not giving enough vacation time, some companies are adopting unlimited vacation time policies. Yes, that’s right…unlimited vacation. The reason for this trend is that some companies believe that this is a way to entice the top talented people to work for their organization. The question to be asked with this trend: is this viable for small businesses? Some things to consider in stretching a company’s vacation day policy to one of an unlimited nature are if it fits with company culture, will it be combined with flextime or telecommuting options, are there staff members available to fill in for absentee employees, and do employees need to be in-office or can they work independently on their own time in order to meet deadlines and accomplish company goals.


Some businesses are finding that even with giving vacation time to their employees, they’re just not using it. Also, the people who do use their allotted days end up choosing to continue with work-related tasks even though they are on vacation leave. And with the advent of emerging, convenient technologies, people are bringing devices with them on their vacation, despite the “time off” from the office. They continue to take calls, check emails, and conduct business. So the school of thought is that if employees are starting to personally manage their work/life balance by assuming work responsibilities during personal time, why not extend their availability to have time off from work with the assumption that they will still be able to get things done? The benefits to this include: boosting employee morale by employers showing they have confidence in their employees to get their work done, providing workers with a more balanced life, increasing productivity, and giving employees incentives to accomplish work in a more effective way which leads to more personal time off. The key to adopting this kind of open vacation policy is to hire people who will not abuse the flexible schedule. Finding passionate people who identify with their work is an essential necessity. As with anything, there are also associated risks. These risks include: tracking and paying overtime accrued, treating everyone fairly and equally in order to avoid potential discrimination claims, and continuing to comply with FMLA, ADA, Worker’s Compensation, and other legal leave laws.


Adopting this trend begs the question: does this take away the advantage businesses have in offering more annual vacation time the longer an employee stays with their company? Or, do employees feel more loyalty towards employers who value and respect their time, giving them the responsibility to personally manage the balance of their work life and personal life?


Do businesses give their employees enough vacation time? Is there such a thing as too much vacation? What are your thoughts?