Building a Pro-Vacation Culture to Create a Win-Win Scenario

5 min read
Jul 8, 2021


As the work world, as we know it returns to at least some semblance of “normal”, it is an interesting time to examine something that is likely on a lot of people’s minds this time of year: vacations. For many, the word vacation evokes fond memories of past adventures or relaxation and/or anticipation of ones to come. As it should; It is hard to imagine someone in their later years reflecting on their life and regretting that they spent too much time on vacation!

Vacation Trends

Unfortunately, the trend in recent decades has been that employees are using significantly less of their earned paid time off (PTO) than previously. The numbers are staggering: the most recently available data reveals that in 2018, American employees had 768 million days of unused vacation worth an estimated $213 billion, as 55%+ employees did not use all of their allotted PTO.

pros and cons of taking vacation infographicImage Source: TurnKey Vacation Rentals Survey June 2019

This trend is concerning for several reasons for all stakeholders involved. It is well documented that rested, refreshed employees are more focused and productive. Further, employees that are overworked can often be more irritable and impatient, creating a snowball effect that can sabotage an entire team’s ability to collaborate effectively.

Skipping vacations can also take its toll from a wellness perspective, resulting in increased sick time and potential strain on relationships outside of the workplace, creating a never-ending loop of negativity (or worse!) One study, conducted by Framingham Heart concluded that people that take infrequent vacations are significantly more likely to develop coronary heart disease and/or have heart attacks.

For employers, the impact of employees not using their PTO goes beyond wellness and performance impacts. A 2015 Wall Street Journal article reported that unused employee vacation time accounted for $224 billion+ in liabilities on the balance sheets of American businesses, a figure that increased to $272 billion in 2016 and continues to rise.

Strategies for Improvement

So now that we have established that employee under-utilization of vacation is a significant issue, what can organizations do about it?

Lead by Example

In any type of change management, leading by doing/showing always wins out over leading by instructing. If business leaders prioritize taking their own vacations, employees are significantly more likely to follow their example. The benefits of using PTO should be consistently cascaded down to managers throughout the organization to get their buy-in so they can also model the behaviour for employees in their own departments.

Create a culture where vacations are not only accepted and encouraged but celebrated! Expressing genuine excitement for a co-worker's upcoming or recent vacation helps to legitimize their importance. Employees want to work for an organization that fosters the type of culture that values wellness beyond only productivity and the bottom line.

Numerous articles cite the importance of leaders taking vacations as an instrumental tool in taking a step back from the grind of the day-to-day and gaining clarity on priorities. Some time away from the business serves as a refresher that accelerates performance and new ideas and prevents burnout. 

Leaders taking vacations also illuminates where opportunities for delegation in the short and long term exist, freeing up leaders’ time to focus on more strategic thinking and projects moving forward. Further, the team lead being away can serve to identify knowledge silos and functional gaps, informing opportunities for knowledge sharing, process documentation, and workforce planning.

Planning & Communication

Having clear, well-documented and accessible vacation policies is critical. Employees may not have a clear line of sight into carryover rules or other nuances within your organization’s vacation guidelines.

The benefits of using PTO should be consistently communicated, with a particular emphasis early in the year. It has been proven that when employees plan ahead, it is significantly more likely that they will actually use the time and make the most of it. Further, additional planning has been proven to make vacations more relaxing and refreshing. Planning ahead and communicating vacation timing to customers and co-workers in advance also removes much of the anxiety being away.

Remove Complexities and Barriers

Clarity into the “how” to schedule PTO is a vital component to maximizing vacation usage. If the vacation request process is not intuitive, adoption will suffer. This includes transparency into the workflow approval process and sharing of information within and among departments to ensure coverage; the show must go on, after all!

Potential complexities and barriers are compounded in companies with higher headcounts and/or additional logistical factors required to administer vacation in a transparent and equitable manner. The following section will examine reasons and strategies to deploy technology to mitigate these factors.

Intelligent Automation: Vacation Mapping

For large organizations and those in industries with additional workforce complexities (i.e. those that require shift work and/or have unions), an automated technology solution can facilitate the maximization of vacation usage while ensuring equity and drastically reducing stress for schedulers and employees alike. 

Intelligently digitizing the vacation booking process will provide employees:

  • Visibility into the likelihood of request(s) being approved (via quota)
  • The ability to make informed requests with a higher likelihood of approval
  • More of the vacation days that they actually want

In addition to providing an operationalized system to facilitate vacation hour liability reduction, a few of the benefits to the organization include: 

  • Immense reduction in processing time
  • Automatic recommendations on correct approvals based on CBA/quota
  • Increased transparency into the process and a reduction in employee grievances

Administering vacation processes, particularly complex ones in large organizations, is tedious and highly disruptive. There are an immense amount of resources involved that detract from an organization’s core areas of focus. By intelligently automating the process of vacation mapping, companies can reallocate these resources to more strategic functions that drive bottom-line results and growth.

How Andgo Helps

Vacation mapping is a complex process. With Andgo, employees are able to make informed requests with a high likelihood of approval; reducing manual processes and maximizing vacation usage.

Andgo vacation mapping module workflow graphicAndgo facilitates the entire vacation process online from end to end with highly configurable round-based vacation bidding that is easy to set up for non-technical users. Andgo automatically accounts for organizational rules/quotas in each round, with employee cohorts defined by configurable unit and occupation groupings.

Employees access a transparent calendar interface to guide informed vacation requests. Employees receive real-time insight into the likelihood of their vacation requests being approved before submitting. This likelihood is calculated based on available vacation banks and quota calculations determined from other employee submissions. Built-in email notifications keep employees apprised of the status of their request(s).

Andgo supports a multi-round, ranked-choice vacation bidding process. Employees submit a ranked list of their preferred dates, ensuring the vacation days awarded fit into their plans. 

Andgo presents intelligent recommendations to assist managers with vacation request approvals and provides the scheduling team with a prioritized dashboard for seamless processing. Approved vacation time can be automatically integrated with the customer’s existing scheduling system to ensure the most up-to-date changes are reflected.

sample Andgo customers vacation mapping metrics graphic


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