In Denver, one boss puts a priority on work-life balance and even has gone as far as offering his staff incentive to use vacation days. Bart Lorang, CEO of FullContact, a technology company, has said he will give all employees a $7,500 bonus each year if they go on vacation and disconnect.
As the year comes to a close, Maureen Shea, chief financial officer of Florida and the Caribbean for Right Management, wants her employees to take their earned, guilt-free vacation days. “We encourage people to take time if they have it, but we realize that sometimes business gets in the way,” Shea says. “Because we’re a smaller business, we can be more flexible.”
Hiram Marrero, president and regional partner for Willis of Florida, says he sees a trend in more employers allowing workers to carry over up to five paid days off into the new year. At his company, the more tenure, the more time off employees are able to carry over.
Some companies, he says, will take stock in September and remind workers of their vacation balances. Others don’t monitor it and put the onus on employees to keep track — a route that often ends up with employees leaving vacation days unused.
Ironically, vacation remains a negotiated benefit in hiring packages, with most executives asking for at least four weeks of paid time off. “Vacation time becomes emotional, something executives hold onto even if they aren’t planning to take all of it,” says Angel Gallinal, a partner in the Miami office of Egon Zehnder International.
For executives, four weeks might be standard, but it’s more than the national average, which dropped this year. In 2012, Americans reported receiving 12 days of vacation, compared with 14 days last year, according to Expedia’s annual Vacation Deprivation study of 8,687 employed adults in 22 countries.
At the same time, a new trend of unlimited vacation as long as goals are met has been catching on in U.S. industries such as high tech, accounting and law. And, there’s a small but growing trend of companies that let workers sell their unused vacation days to their employers in exchange for compensation. These “buy-sell” programs let employees either buy extra vacation days for the following year or sell off unused days from the current year.
Gallinal says he doesn’t have to worry about jockeying to use up his vacation days before year end. His office closes after Christmas, putting him among the 5 percent of workers who will receive the entire week off between Christmas and New Year with pay. Even so, Gallinal says he no longer completely checks out — even when he’s supposed to be on vacation. “I make sure my clients know how to get in touch with me.”
Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal LLC, a provider of news and advice on how to balance work and life. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her columns and blog at worklifebalancingact.com.