Battle of The Benefits: The Work Perk That Actually Works

Life is cyclical. Each life phase seems to come in waves. Social media feeds fill up with engagement rings, digital baby books, and all the other life things, all at once. As a somewhat recent college graduate, job and career talk seem to be the main conversation among people my age. 

The story is often the same: Whenever someone is job searching, or contemplating potential offers, we compare the benefits offered by our various employers. A company car here, a nap pod there, and an office ping pong table later, our council of friends assists the transitioning member to settle on a job option. While the fun perks and quirky benefits seem to change with the seasons, vacation is the constant benefit that is usually the deciding factor. 

Vacation is important to people, even if it is just the idea of it. The value of an allotted number of days is so much more than a pass to the office gym or team kombucha classes. Vacation time is a representation of possibilities. Each day of potential paid time off makes our daydreams seem even more real. A vacation day is an opportunity to be defined by something other than work. Because no matter what you do with a day off, it is a day designed by you.

Most recently during a battle of the benefits conversation, a friend of mine (who always, always works on vacation) shared that she had 5 weeks of paid time off. With so much available vacation time, I asked her why she rarely uses it.  Her response, “I could never actually take all of my vacation time and keep my job. Could you?”

Let me give you a moment to process that.

I know it's my job and all to promote the value of time off... but that aside, this kind of thinking is just silly.

Vacation is a powerful benefit. Companies use it to recruit talent and as means for negotiation. Employees rank it as a top benefit, second only to healthcare. It's connected to increased happiness, engagement, and productivity. But once we get hired and on-boarded, vacation moves to the bottom of everyone's to-do list. We push it aside with the same thinking as my friend. 

It's treated differently from other benefits. We don't skip the doctor because it would mean using our health benefits. We don't walk to work because we worry what our boss might think of using transit benefits. Of course not. That would be ridiculous. So why do we skip vacation? Silence.

Two-thirds of employees say they hear nothing, mixed messages, or are discouraged from taking time off. Which is mostly confusing because managers overwhelmingly (95%) believe in the importance of vacation for themselves and their employees. Vacation is a valuable tool, arguably the most powerful benefit a company can provide, we just need to tap into its potential. Maybe instead of reinventing the wheel or debating what flavor of La Croix goes into the stocked kitchen, we just need to start talking about the benefits we have (and aren't using). 



November 8, 2016