Insights & Trends
Why Managers Should Encourage Early Vacation Planning

Why Managers Should Encourage Early Vacation Planning

Rich Laws

23 Feb 2023
5 minute read
why managers should encourage PTO planning - woman in yellow shirt against a teal background

Pop quiz: Do you know when your employees are taking PTO this year?

At the beginning of each year, I sit down and lay out exactly when I’ll be taking time off. It’s a practice I’ve found beneficial for many years and one that I encourage all of my team members to do as well.

The end goal is simple: Planning ahead for vacations gives our team time to plan for absences, and it gives employees the agency to take the time they need to rest and recharge.

Sound obvious? I think so, too. But the reality is that the U.S. has a real PTO problem. American workers regularly leave half of their annual leave balances on the table — even though job seekers consistently rank paid time off (PTO) as one of their most-desired benefits. 

So for those of you who clearly need some convincing, here are a few reasons managers should get on the early vacation planning bandwagon.

Making Time for Time Away

In today's fast-paced and highly competitive world, taking a break from the daily grind is more important than ever. Burnout is not just a pandemic problem: More than 40% of people with desk jobs now say they feel burned out at work.

Our working environments always seem to get busier, especially at a hypergrowth company like Navan. Priorities shift, responsibilities add up, and — let’s be honest — there’s always something to do. 

If employees don’t use intent and set time off goals at the beginning of the year, months can easily go by without a single day off.

On the other hand, with the whole year laid out in front of them, employees can plan vacation time around both work priorities and what matters in their personal life. It might mean coordinating around spring break or religious holidays, adding a leisure extension onto a planned business trip, or taking advantage of company holidays and quiet weeks.

No matter how employees chooses to use their PTO, the company will have plenty of time to prepare. Even better, the employee won’t wait until they feel burned out to put in that time off request.

A Boost in Employee Morale — and Retention

Personally, I enjoy having all my vacation time on the books at the beginning of the year because it gives me something to look forward to. The anticipation helps get me through the day-to-day grind, and thinking about my upcoming time off can boost energy and positivity.

Studies show that this is a universal truth. Simply having a vacation planned makes us happier. Knowing that there will be time off in the days ahead helps motivate and engage employees, and that knowledge can get them through intense or demanding work periods. 

Admit it: Who hasn’t counted down the days to their next trip?

More broadly, encouraging employees to plan vacations at the beginning of the year is a retention strategy in itself. More time off increases life satisfaction and decreases burnout, and that in turn boosts job satisfaction. It’s a win-win-win.

Better Resource Planning

Does an annual surge of last-minute time off requests during the summer months and at the end of the year sound familiar? Then you know how these panic-mode absences can cause stress and anxiety.

By having visibility into employee vacation schedules in advance, teams can utilize resources and manage workloads more effectively. This can help ensure that projects are completed on time and that business operations continue smoothly, even when key team members are away. 

Recent studies have found that 60% of employees report working while on vacation, and nearly 1 in 4 employees said they “have too much work to take a vacation.” If everyone on a team plans vacations ahead, there’s a better chance employees can switch off from work. 

Navan employees are also Navan customers and can leverage corporate discounts for personal travel. I recently found a great deal — far in advance, of course! — to Lisbon, and my partner and I spent a week enjoying seafood and Portuguese wine. And I did it completely uninterrupted because I knew my team had me covered.

That’s the power of advanced vacation planning in action!

Fostering a Culture of Work-Life Balance

The term “work hard, play hard” is thrown around a lot these days. But too often, company culture does not encourage employees to take time off. In fact, around 80% of employees say they would take more time off work if they felt supported and encouraged to do so by their employers. 

A simple way to combat what I’m now calling FoTO (Fear of Time Off) is for managers to check in with employees about when they plan to take their PTO. And managers should lead by example by planning early and taking time away, too.

Many times, we’re so heads down in the day-to-day work that we forget to play. The irony is that our playful selves positively influence our work selves; research shows that exposure to new and different experiences — like those often encountered when we take time away from work — lead to new ideas and insights.

Navan CEO Ariel Cohen exemplifies this. He takes purposeful time away and continually comes back with bright new ideas that drive the company forward. His latest aha moment while on vacation led the company to announce a new category: Business Software Designed for People

Ariel takes his time and expects Navan employees to do the same. But it’s up to individual employees and their managers to stay accountable to their PTO practices.

The ultimate goal for many of us is in finding work-life balance — which, by the way, is more important than compensation for many employees. Intentionally taking time off is only one piece of the work-life balance puzzle, but it’s important. If managers fail to proactively encourage their teams to set aside time for time off, they miss out on a simple way to foster a positive and productive work environment.

Rich Laws is the Vice President - Head of Talent Acquisition at Navan. This year, he plans to take trips to London, Porto, and Hawaii, in addition to tacking on a day or two to a business trip. When he’s not on vacation, he’s cooking, skiing, or gardening. Rich lives in the Bay Area with his partner, as well as his cat Tucker and dog Oscar, and he often escapes to a cabin near Lake Tahoe where he maintains a large garden.

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