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The Importance of Employee Travel

Although research has determined that 70% of offices have adopted a hybrid approach at work...

it appears that employees’ stress levels aren’t improving in response to the added flexibility.1 The American Institute of Stress found that 83% of employees say work-related stress has negatively affected their lives2. What’s the leading cause of this work-related stress? Employees have mountains of work and no way to disconnect from it.

For today’s employees, leaving the office at 5 p.m. on a Friday or boarding a plane to Madrid is not the relief it once was – employees need a way to make life more enjoyable while continuing to engage with their professional responsibilities. But what’s the right solution for the nearly 60% of employees who feel burned out because of work in the last year?³

At Dónde, we believe employee travel benefits are key to changing people for the better.

60% of employees experienced burnout in 2021

What we mean by “employee travel”

When addressing employee travel, we don’t mean work-related travel. Research from Morning Consultant found that 39% of business travelers have quit business travel altogether. This is another reason why employee travel is so essential.

Employee travel is vacation. It helps employees step out of their comfort zones (and out of the office) to create new memories and expand their horizons. In too many offices, policies or norms stand in the way of these opportunities. Companies need to change how they approach employee travel, and that change should start with PTO.

The importance of PTO

Effective PTO helps prevent burnout and disengaged employees. Employees don’t want staycations—they want to travel.5 The American Psychological Association concluded that even a three-day vacation could significantly improve the mental health of working professionals.6

sunflowers with woman walking dog

However, there’s a problem in the modern workplace: Nearly 55% of workers report they do not use their allotted PTO.7 Even though 91% of Americans say it’s important to use PTO for travel,8 they aren’t using it. Employees have been allowing their accrued or allotted PTO to roll over into the next year for additional time off or a payout after leaving their companies. However, employees bottle up their time off for other reasons, too.

91% of americans say it's important to use PTO for travel and 55% of workers report they do not use their allotted PTO.

The PTO problem: why employees don’t take time off

In a study from the U.S. Travel Association, 68% of non-managerial employees claimed they had negative or mixed feelings about the PTO culture at work. New employees have noticed that their peers don’t take time off because of these concerns:

  • High workloads
  • Unclear policies
  • Culture of silence or gossip
  • Fear of appearing replaceable
  • Planning stressors
  • Increasing travel costs9 10

The PTO problem and these listed concerns are often an extension of negative cultural norms in the workplace. So, how does negative company culture restrict employee travel?

How company culture affects employee travel

According to SHRM, 58% of employees quit their jobs primarily because of toxic or dysfunctional workplace culture.11 In addition to the high cost of making up for employee turnover, companies are accruing costs of disengaged employees. A Gallup study found that 64% of employees are disengaged from their work12 and cost companies up to 34% of a disengaged employee’s annual salary.13

workers around a table

While offering a competitive PTO plan for employees may seem like an unwarranted expense, nothing tops the cost of burned-out and disengaged employees.

To address this concern, businesses may need to analyze their company culture, alter employee benefits, or simply turn toward a people-first approach to engage employees through travel benefits.

Rethinking your PTO policies to promote employee travel

When it comes to rethinking your company’s PTO policies, you will have innumerable options to consider. However, you’ll want to focus on empowered PTO strategies that encourage employees to take time off and provide resources to help maximize the returns on their (and your) investment. To help you, we’ve picked out four empowered PTO strategies to promote employee travel without starting from scratch:

1. Offer more PTO

As simple as it may seem, offering a greater number of base or accrued PTO has a few benefits for your company and employees. Most employees (88%) would like to be offered more paid vacation than they currently are. Currently, the national average in America is between 6 and 10 days per year14 and employees would like an average of between 11 and 15 days per year.15

Is it worth offering more days of PTO in the long run? Based on the research so far, we’d say yes—with a few exceptions.

More PTO doesn’t translate to increased utilization—that needs to come from internal policies and expressed communication, especially at the manager level. In a company-wide, all-hands meeting, you may need to announce the benefit as something to be used, not observed. Encourage employees to take advantage of their newly bolstered benefits. If you take anything away from this article, we want you to understand that time away from the office is a productivity multiplier, not a productivity loss.

2. Add company holidays

Company holidays are a simple, quick way to release employees from their professional duties. For example, a company-themed holiday between Labor Day and Memorial Day may help to break up the 14 weeks of regular work.

While we’d like to say that everyone wants a Friday off from time to time, this isn’t always the case. No research suggests an irregular one-day break has significant benefits for employees. Instead, a single day off may result in a weekend of catch-up or a tight week following the break. So, what should you do?

Add company holidays with a purpose in mind. Instead of merely adding two company holidays, include vouchers or offers for your employees to take advantage of. A trip to the spa, meals out, hotel discounts, or tickets to a local attraction could make this time off more rejuvenating than a typical day of PTO.

50% of american workers prefer unlimited PTO over higher salary

3. Consider unlimited PTO with caution

A shocking 50% of American workers prefer unlimited PTO over a higher salary.16 While unlimited PTO seems like the most flexible option for employers to adopt, it has many downsides. Employees may take fewer days off in this model because they feel guilty for leaving work to their peers and managers.17 This ties into another concern of “policing” cultures within the office. Managers will need to monitor for both scarce and excessive time-off utilization.

So, while unlimited paid vacation sounds phenomenal, it has many strings attached. One final concern of this approach is that, on its own, it does very little to promote employee travel through benefits or other programs.

4. Adopt employee travel benefits

When companies offer additional PTO or paid holidays, they may wonder what employees will do with their time off. In 54% of cases, employees spend their vacations feeling guilty for not being at work.18 Instead, businesses can incentivize employee travel with cash bonuses, matching travel contributions, and travel planning services.

woman backpacking in the mountains

This empowered PTO strategy can support employees’ hobbies and allow them to experience a much-needed disconnect from the office. At Dónde, for example, we can tailor a solution to match your current PTO policy, which means fewer headaches and paperwork for your HR people.

Empower your employees with an employee travel program

With Dónde, employers can offer travel as a benefit through tailored discounts and services. Dónde works with you to drive company revenue goals, tailor travel experiences for your employees, and emphasize the importance of PTO. Taking a people-first approach to employee travel doesn’t have to be hard. Contact us today to see how we can help you attract, retain, and recharge employees!

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