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AllWork.Space: Will The Future Of Work Require Mandatory Time Off?

Originally posted on All.Work Space by Hannah Foote on November 4, 2022.

With businesses looking into requiring time off, some are starting to financially incentivize their employees in an effort to increase productivity and minimize stress.

  • Companies including Goldman Sachs are exploring mandatory time off for their employees.
  • From benefit packages to company policies, required time off through financial incentivization is not a new practice, but it could become a new normal.
  • Webex Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Aruna Ravichandran explains why business culture could be impacted by this change and how it could affect the future of work.

Businesses like Goldman Sachs and We Are Rosie are looking into opportunities to ensure employees use their time off — in an effort to help improve productivity and reduce stress. While there are a variety of methods to achieve this, two approaches gaining popularity are mandating and incentivizing time off.

Some companies are already doing this through benefit packages or company policies that require a certain number of days off per year. Incentivizing time off is not a new concept in the work world, but many businesses are finding that this may be effective for attracting and retaining talent.

According to new Zippia research, 55% of Americans do not use all of their time off. In fact, 28 million Americans do not receive any PTO or paid vacation days, with the United States being the only advanced economy without guaranteed time off.

Studies have shown that taking time off can improve employee productivity and help with mental health, according to Psychreg. By mandating time off, businesses can improve their bottom line while also providing employees with much-needed relief.

The benefits of taking mandatory time off include improved mental and physical health, increased job satisfaction, and increased productivity, the publication wrote. However, many fear taking time off because they worry that their absence will hurt their business’s bottom line.

But the truth is that giving your employees time off can actually benefit your company by increasing employee morale and attracting high-quality talent, which in turn boosts productivity and reduces turnover, Corporate Wellness Magazine reported.

Webex Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Aruna Ravichandran shared her insight on financially incentivising and mandating time off for their employees.

Allwork.Space: Is the possibility of mandatory time off a trend just for the U.S., or could other countries be adapting this as well?

Aruna Ravichandran: At Cisco, we instituted a company-wide shutdown between Christmas and New Year’s Day a few years ago, and mandated the use of PTO for certain days between the paid holidays. At first, people grumbled a bit about being told when to take time off, but after that first year, all that went away. Now, it is something all our employees look forward to.

There’s something to be said about time off when everyone is off — no messages or emails come through, and it’s much easier to come back to work! Of course, there are countries where this is not allowed, so we ask employees to consider taking time off if they can. It comes down to company culture — it must be understood that everyone is off, and non-critical work is not expected. But of course, local regulations play a role as well.

Allwork.Space: With more than half of American workers not utilizing their time off, how does this impact worker mental health? 

Aruna Ravichandran: It’s easy to become so subsumed by work that life outside the job seems inaccessible. Maybe it’s thinking you’re indispensable: “the team needs me!” Or you’re working towards the next deadline: “I’ll take off once this is done.” The reality is that the work will always be there.

I’ll go back to culture — a company must value time off for its workers as much as it values their presence at work. Failure to recharge your phone means it operates at low power, leading to reduced efficiency.

Your body and mind function the same way. When you invest time in yourself, you keep your battery charged and can be more productive. Webex can help streamline your work life, giving you more time to focus on your personal life. And time off increases your productivity during work hours; mental and physical breaks provide more clarity and focus.

I pencil in time for activities that let me recharge, like hiking and gardening. I reflect on the people and priorities I want to invest in, from friends and family to hobbies and health. Self-care is essential to work-life balance, so I make sure to schedule “me time.”

Allwork.Space: Would mandatory time off actually promote rest and prevent burnout? With large workloads, how can businesses assure their workers that they are able to take their time off without worrying about their workload?

Aruna Ravichandran: We launched our first-ever Global Hybrid Work Index that taps into core platforms, analyzing millions of anonymized customer data points from collaboration, networking, internet visibility, and security. We found that the well-being of employees should be a core concern of any organization.

73% of global hybrid workers are happier and more motivated in their roles through the ability to work wherever they choose, and 61% said their relationships with teammates have become stronger.

I’m not surprised to share that strong evidence supports the connection between hybrid work and talent retention. I have long argued that great technology can benefit a work environment and culture in which there is no divide between in-office or remote workers, so I was excited to see that a clear majority of respondents agreed.

78% of executives and 66% of workers overall believed that with the right technology, work could be done virtually without any loss of productivity. Another 61% of hybrid workers across the globe and across generations have seen improvement in the quality of their work.

Allwork.Space: Some businesses are financially incentivizing employees to take time off work. What impact could this have on the future of work?

Aruna Ravichandran: Organizations discover through trial and error what policies do and do not work. The challenge is to learn from positive experiences and disregard the negative ones. If an organization decides that providing financial incentives for employees to take time off works for them, that’s great!

Regardless, providing good conditions and resources is essential to ensure a safe environment in the workplace, both digitally and physically. This trend of organizations implementing new policies for the benefit of their employees points toward a future workplace that is inclusive, accessible, and innovative.