We Need Mandatory Time Off as We Get Back to Work

The office perk that could save your workforce

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As the world returns to normal and employees are called back to work, Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University predicts “The great resignation is coming.”

You’ll probably agree. 

As a society, we’ve had a lot of time to think about how we want to live, and one conclusion has become abundantly clear: The way we worked—and used our time—didn’t work. 

Rethinking work

People are reevaluating what’s important in their lives. In every urban market, there are countless stories of lifetime city dwellers buying farms on acre-sized properties or corporate ladder climbers pursuing their passions on the side. As employers reopen office doors, they’re going to face a reluctant workforce. Many employees are not going to give up their newfound time and freedom so easily. 

Ease the return  

We’ve heard of Flex Time Off and Unlimited Time Off, but what about Mandatory Time Off? MTO is the revolutionary new office perk that might give employers a chance at saving their workforce and change corporate vacation policies everywhere. 

The sad reality is, Americans get less vacation time than other countries. Those who have decent vacation policies don’t use it due to anxiety surrounding taking vacation and pressure from peers or supervisors. In fact, most employees take only half of the vacation days they are entitled to. 

Moreover, when employees do take vacation, they fail to turn work off, often responding to emails, and usually take shorter vacations due to feelings of guilt over being out of office.

What if employers required that every employee take the same amount of time off each year? Well, one company did. In 2017, a global aviation strategy firm of about 10 people called SimpliFlying conducted a small experiment where employees were required to take one week off every seven weeks. Employees did not get to choose the time they had off, so there was no guilt about taking it. When people were forced to take time off, they filled it with the things they never got around to doing, like completing side projects, checking off bucket list items and exploring new hobbies.

After 12 weeks, managers rated their employees’ productivity, creativity and happiness on a five-point scale, before and after the MTO. Though the experiment was small and the findings are only directional, the results are impressive. Perceived creativity rose 33%, happiness rose 25% and productivity rose 13%. In applying this policy going forward, feedback suggested a vacation frequency of every eight to 12 weeks rather than every seven, with a recommendation of staggering vacation to ensure a smooth hand-off between coworkers. 

The space to find things 

Without something to slow us down, hustle culture compels us to keep reaching for a moving finish line. As vaccines roll out and America rushes back into action, employers need to rethink work. Stop promising unlimited time off and start enforcing mandatory time off. It’s the post-pandemic perk both employees and employers need to make work work