Wisdom//

Want More Productive Employees? Pay Them to Go Offline

Discover three reasons encouraging employees to take time off increases productivity.

Westend61/Getty Images
Westend61/Getty Images

Our company, Acceleration Partners (AP), rolled out a new vacation policy earlier this year, and the announcement took some people by surprise. That’s because we weren’t adding restrictions or imposing rules. We were letting everyone know we would be reimbursing employees up to $750 for staying offline for the duration of any vacation.

Why would we do this? Isn’t a good thing to be able to reach team members at off hours? And aren’t people going to go on vacation anyway? Surprisingly, the answer to the last two questions is: No.

AP created the new policy because, while it’s not good for people to work nonstop, a lot of people do it anyway. Here are three reasons that this policy makes a ton of sense for every company–and employee.

Employees need time off to recharge.

A few years back, Marissa Meyer, former CEO of Yahoo, came under intense scrutiny for asserting that 130-hour work weeks were the key to her success–and to the success of the companies where she’s worked, including Google. She said she could determine the potential success of a startup by who is at the office on weekends.  

I am all for hard work, but I think it’s ridiculous to mindlessly pile up hours. The best results come from working smart and being outcome-oriented. Unfortunately, we have reached a crisis point in the United States where companies are celebrating individuals for inputs alone–handing out rewards for putting in face time, logging in late and working during vacations. Studies have clearly shown that performance and health suffer considerably when people work beyond 55 hours a week. Stress and exhaustion make things worse.

People need quiet time to think and be creative, yet Americans are taking fewer and fewer vacation days. You might think this would translate into more success at work, but a 2016 study reported in the Harvard Business Review found the opposite is true: “People who took fewer than 10 of their vacation days per year had a 34.6 percent likelihood of receiving a raise or bonus in a three-year period of time. People who took more than 10 of their vacation days had a 65.4 percent chance of receiving a raise or bonus.” The data is in: More time doesn’t mean better results.

Delegating tasks builds capacity company-wide.

At AP, we’ve found that what’s good for our employees is also good for the company. One major benefit of giving your team paid time to unplug is that it forces people to delegate.

Many people find they can’t stay offline while they are on vacation because they have no confidence that the work will be done well without them. This is a problem for the company, because no business process should be totally dependent on a single individual.

Delegating is a tough lesson to learn, and it means accepting that no task will ever be accomplished exactly the way you would have done it yourself. But that’s OK. If your team can produce 85 percent or 90 percent of what you want without significant involvement from you, that’s a big win.

Our new policy of incentivizing employees to vacation offline forces our team members to design systems and processes that anyone can employ to keep work going smoothly. This, in turn, makes it possible for junior employees to step up to cover vacations and gain some practical experience at a higher level–a great proving ground for future promotions, and for filling prolonged absences, such as a maternity leave.

Creating an incentive to build this capacity at AP has proved a win-win for employees and the business. 

New experiences generate new perspectives and ideas.

Seven hundred and fifty dollars is not a lot of money, but it can make the difference between an employee staying home during a vacation and taking a trip. When people get out of their regular environments, conversations change. New surroundings stimulate fresh perspectives–and that can translate into new ways of thinking about work.

When people are too comfortable in what they are doing every day, they run on auto-pilot, and their world-view narrows. When you travel, your routine is disrupted. As you face these new challenges, you gain confidence and a fresh outlook. At AP, we’ve found people come back from vacations full of new ideas.

Admittedly, it’s hard to ignore email, Slack, text messages and all the other siren calls of work. But it’s worth it for everyone to take real breaks. So, instead of chaining your employees to their desks, try the opposite approach and encourage them to rest and recharge, delegate tasks at work and get out of the office to experience new things. There are real benefits to be gained–for everybody.

Originally published on Inc.

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