Should You Force Employees
to Use Their Vacation Time?

We all know that regular vacation is important. It helps us recharge and we come back ready to do better work. But what happens when employees don’t use their vacation time? Should managers force them to do it and what might the consequences of that be?

Some companies are using drastic measures by literally making vacation mandatory. Let’s see what the positives and negatives of this approach are for both employers and employees.

The Pros

Let’s begin with the obvious benefit – taking time off from work is necessary for employees.

Business owners have realized its advantages early on and it’s now a practice every company promotes. Vacation time is closely related to less stress, increased employee morale, boosted productivity and motivation. Being away from the office also has health and economic benefits. It can improve mental well-being, workflow, and even increase the level of happiness of everyone on the team.

All this results in reaching the company goals sooner and having a productive and energetic team, which is good for managers too. So, all in all, it’s a win-win for everyone.

But this has a dark side too.

Employers are often required to pay for unused PTO if a worker leaves the company. While that’s a controversial topic and opinions may vary, firing an employee usually leaves you with a monetary loss because of the vacation time the person hasn’t used.

Additionally, to some employees, preparing for every next vacation is the biggest work distraction possible.

That tends to affect performance negatively: the employees get less motivated to be involved in the day-to-day work process, take up new projects, pay attention during meetings, and come up with new ideas.

This has a lot to do with the vacation system that’s part of the corporate world.

Does The Vacation System Work?

Typically, a vacation system involves accruing from two to four weeks of vacation per year. How employees structure that, when and for how long they are away from work, depends on the company they work for and its policies.

What happens most of the time is this: an employee takes vacation time and leaves everything behind. But during the period they are supposed to relax, try new things and do what they enjoy, they feel overwhelmed by the number of tasks that are piling up for them as we speak and the workload that will be awaiting once they are back.

That takes the satisfaction away and vacation time can become yet another series of days filled with pressure and work-related stress.

When that happens, the benefits we mentioned relating to health and getting energy and mental boost don’t apply.

A worker can even come back less productive and more distracted than ever, without any motivation to continue doing the work.

More and more companies are understanding this problem and looking for a solution. Some assume more vacation time will help employees recharge and finally let go of the problems and stress of daily life, but most of the time that doesn’t work either.

In fact, 40% of Americans don’t even plan to use all the paid time they are given. And adding more to it won’t change that fact.

You might be considering unlimited vacation policy, which might work for some time until it doesn’t.

What’s left then for employers? Making vacation mandatory.

Mandatory Vacations and Workplace Conflicts

Allowing workers to take time off from work whenever they want to provide flexibility and makes them feel in control. It’s also proven to make them satisfied with their job, and job satisfaction creates productive and disciplined employees.

One of the most amazing things about the unlimited vacation policy is that employees don’t take vacations more often than necessary, but the ability to do it when they feel like is all it takes to make them enjoy the work day more.

But that too will only get you so far. Soon, you’ll see people hesitating to take time off because they wouldn’t want to be the only one doing it. Meanwhile, others might abuse the freedom they’re given.

One major challenge with this approach is worth our attention. Not everybody is happy about having to take a vacation when they actually don’t want to, which can create conflicts at the workplace.

To prevent that, consider making vacation mandatory but setting some limits at the same time.

That means developing a mindful vacation policy that would encourage your employees to use their vacation time without overstepping the limits.

This will create a certain balance in the workplace that will allow you to see the benefits of unlimited vacation time, while it will prevent the conflict that same policy can also create.


In conclusion, find the solution that works best for your business and team. Don’t let employees go for a long time without taking a break, but also keep vacation time under control when there aren’t any strict policies in your company.


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