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Quick: would you pick more time off or more pay?

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20% of “Canadian workers prefer vacation time to a small increase in pay”, according to Mercer’s recent global survey (cf. Janet McFarland’s November 28, 2012 article in the Globe and Mail).

Canada was the only country of 10 where time off was the top choice.  The 9 other countries chose the pay increase.

This is intriguing because one of the challenges HR professionals deal with is ensuring employees to use the vacation time they already have as part of work-life balance initiatives!

The purpose of vacation is to take off meaningful blocks of time to relax and refresh but we every year we see employees:

  • Requesting a payout at the end of the year for vacation earned but not taken (the intent of vacation is not to boost base salary!)
  • Requesting carry over of unused vacation into the next vacation year (most employers have adopted a “use it or lose it” policy because generally accepted accounting principles don’t support carry over)
  • Taking vacation 1 day at a time, often to create more long weekends (these employees feel taking a longer chunk of time may mean working too much overtime before and after vacation because there’s no one to pick up the slack)
  • Using vacation for child-elder care (particularly in situations where there are no designated personal days for such situations) 
  • Checking in via phone or e-mail while on vacation to check what’s happening (defeating the whole purpose of stepping back and relaxing !)
  • Getting sick because they haven’t had regular R&R (this raises absenteeism rates, decreases productivity and client satisfaction while increasing the costs of short and long term disability programs)

Taking vacation at least 2 weeks at a time is a best practice:  1 week to decompress, 1 week to chill out.  If you can take 3 weeks, so much the better;  that provides an extra week to re-boot.

With today’s changes and pressures at work, it’s more important than ever to take time off, step back, pay attention to good health (nutrition, exercise, sleep) and really relax (think yoga). 

Do Canadians need more vacation time or do they need support in ensuring the vacation time they do take is meaningful?  I’m betting it’s the latter. 

In 2012 many employers will close at noon on Monday, December 24, mark public holidays on Tuesday December 25 (Christmas Day) and Wednesday December 26 (Boxing Day) close on Thursday December 27, Friday December 28 and, perhaps on Monday January 31 and then mark another public holiday on Tuesday January 1 (New Year’s).  To your good health…no checking e-mails and voice mails!