Why it ‘pays’ to be more relaxed about paid leave?

- Worker Happiness

by Luke Doyle

Wherever in the world your business is based and particularly if it’s international, managing your team’s expectations regarding time off is a careful balance of statutory rights and your own business culture.

We know that different places in the world have different quotas of leave available to their workforce. The bottom line is that you get what the government determines. On top of that some companies offer more in order to tempt the best talent to apply, and because it’s actually a really good idea.

Some companies even offer unlimited paid vacation because it fits better with today’s lifestyle and work patterns, and results in more engaged, accountable employees who actually want to be there. At Management 3.0 we can attest to this. One of the things we truly value is unlimited vacation and while it’s not necessarily all paid (we perhaps lower our commitment level during that time), we trust each other and don’t worry about who’s taking which days when — as long as the work gets done and we communicate about it.

It might not work for the average supermarket HR team, but if you hired the right individuals for jobs that they care about, a more relaxed approach to HR can work great.

Unfortunately, when businesses take what they believe to be the most direct route to healthier profit margins by minimizing leave, they end up making false economies, which can result in a sick, tired, and disengaged workforce. We become less caring, community-oriented, and generous when we feel exhausted and exploited.

Approaches to the question of vacation time differ according to cultures, but it’s notable that one of the few things that Japanese and American business cultures have in common is that they are both characterized by workforces which take short, incomplete periods of vacation, resulting in societies that are plagued with stress and isolation.

In France, on the other hand, quality of life is valued highly, and not only are workers offered more statutory leave, but they are more likely to capitalize on a high proportion of it. By contrast, Americans on average use only half of what’s offered to them.

Nine out of ten French people take their entire allotted annual leave of 30 days. They return to work healthy, relaxed, and more productive.

The culture is richer and the French ‘way of life’ is envied around the world.

[W]hile Americans may pride themselves on their hard work and dedication,” said Emma Seppälä, science director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. “Research suggests that we will actually work harder, perform better, and have greater health, stamina, and enthusiasm for our work if we take time off.”

A new interactive data visualization shows just how statutory vacation, sick leave, and parental leave compares in different parts of the world. Of course, when some workforces don’t even elect to take their full quota, the numbers only tell part of the story. But it’s an interesting way to look at how different countries treat the well-being of their workforce, and the difference you can make to your company with a more engaged approach to time off.

Photo Credit Chen Zo on Unsplash

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