On Monday we posted about how Americans don’t take as much vacation (or get as much vacation) as their peers in other countries. We also shared statistics that said top performers often take more days off than low performers. Now to add to the data surrounding our vacation habits comes a survey from Spherion Staffing showing that 41 percent of workers would accept more paid vacation time in lieu of a pay raise if given the choice.
“As businesses face greater pressure than ever to retain top workers, job satisfaction factors that employers previously may have overlooked, such as vacation time, play a greater role in shaping where employees decide to work,” said Sandy Mazur, Spherion Division President. “For companies that cannot afford to offer substantial raises at the moment, extra vacation time – or flexibility that allows workers to take time away without feeling connected to their job – can elevate morale, increase retention and build positive perception of their workplace.”
According to new data from the 2017 Emerging Workforce® Study (EWS) several compelling disconnects around paid time off policies were uncovered. While 70 percent of workers consider paid vacation time a right of employment, rather than a benefit, a significantly lower number of employers (58 percent) share that view. Additionally, more than one-third (39 percent) of workers consider their organization’s paid vacation plan inferior to that of comparable industry competitors. These gaps underscore the critical connection between vacation time and job satisfaction, and the importance for employers and employees to find a mutually-beneficial compromise.
Although employees clearly are interested in obtaining more time away, the EWS also found that vacation remains a taboo topic and a source of stress for a significant segment of the workforce. Nearly one-third (30 percent) of employees say they feel guilty requesting paid vacation time, while 42 percent say they have hesitated to take paid time off for fear of disrupting their team’s workflow. EWS findings also point to a troubling trend in many workplace cultures where employees cannot truly escape during their scheduled time off. More than one-fourth (28 percent) admit that their organization expects them to work while they are on vacation, a practice that 22 percent of employers likewise agree with.
Nonetheless, while both parties move toward a vacation compromise, employers appear open to other strategies that grant workers a break from the daily grind. The Study found that just under half (43 percent) of employers occasionally allow their staff to devote time during the workday to community service projects. A similar number (47 percent) notes that their organization offers sabbatical programs that allow employees to take an extended leave from the office, up 10 percent from the 2016 Study.
Employers and employees alike have long debated the merits of and best practices for vacation time, flexible schedules and other programs that contribute to better work/life balance. In fact, only 20 percent of workers say their organization has improved its benefits and perks package within the last 12 months, and worker satisfaction with time and flexibility scored lower this year than in the previous four years. Yet, employers still rate the positive impact of work/life balance programs on worker satisfaction, recruitment, retention and engagement higher this year than in each of the past four years.
While employers continue to struggle with defining work/life balance programs for their employees, one thing is clear: workers increasingly want a more seamless divide between their work and personal lives. In fact, according to the EWS, 88 percent of workers say work/life programs heavily influence their decision when considering a new job.
To learn more about the Emerging Workforce® Study, and review data and messages from previous Studies, visit spherion.com/ews.