Mandatory vacations: The next HR trend in corporate America?

Mandatory vacations may yield higher productivity and greater employee satisfaction than traditional vacation policies or unlimited vacations, according to a new study from Harvard Business Review.

Under traditional vacation policies, many employees feel pressure to maximize enjoyment from their two- or three-week breaks,, though the looming anxiety from work before and after their time away can make relaxation difficult. In recent years, many companies began to offer unlimited vacation policies, though some of those firms have found that employees are nervous about taking too much time off and don't want to be perceived as lazy. As a result, many employees end up taking less vacation time.

Neil Pasricha, director of the Institute for Global Happiness, conducted a study at aviation strategy firm SimpliFlying that forced employees to take a mandatory week of vacation for every seven weeks of work. If vacationing employees tried to contact the office during their time away, they faced financial penalties.

After 12 weeks of staggered vacations for the staff of 10 employees, managers filled out surveys about their employees. According to survey results, managers reported a 33 percent increase in staff creativity, 25 percent increase in happiness and 31 percent increase in productivity.

Though these results are positive, Mr. Pasricha noted the schedule of vacations must be carefully thought out to ensure vital tasks and group projects can still be effectively performed without certain employees.

Mandatory vacations are far from a perfect option, and the results here are those from a 10-person company. Nonetheless, the philosophy presents an interesting alternative for employers who want to make sure their workers are achieving an optimal work-life balance and are taking full advantage of their vacation time.

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