When you own a small service business, it's tempting to look on employee vacations as a necessary evil. After all, when your income is from employees getting paid for doing work, every vacation day represents lost revenue. On top of everything, when you run a business you're probably not taking much vacation yourself. Given all this, it's easy to fall in love with an employee who doesn't take any PTO, but this behavior hurts your business more than it helps. There are a lot of reasons why employees don't take vacation, but there are four reasons you need to watch out for:
There's a problem at home.
One unfortunate reason an employee doesn't use their vacation time is because there is something wrong at home that they are avoiding. It could be a financial issue, a problem in a marriage, or substance abuse. It's great to have people ready to jump in when someone is out sick or you need to meet a deadline, but watch out for employees who come in early and stay late all the time and who use very little holiday time.
They don't think the company can run without them.
Sometimes a person thinks that nobody else can do their job. This manifests in a number of ways and it’s a sure sign of a morale problem in the organization. People who feel this way tend to think less of co-workers (and you) and can try to gain political power. This behavior can also be seen in employees who develop complicated processes that ensure they have job security. If you think someone in your organization is truly irreplaceable, I suggest you read my post on hiring decisions which I hope will change your mind.
They are afraid you'll find out they're bad at their job.
Always being in the office means no one is likely to check your work and find out its substandard. A person might be doing a great job but has a self-esteem issue. Progressive coaching and clearly stating your expectations can help address this issue. Alternately, a person might really be doing a bad job, exposing issues that also need coaching. Either way, talking to the employee about time off time is a great way to start the conversation.
They are afraid you'll find out they're stealing.
Once in a while you'll find that an employee isn't taking any PTO because they are doing some bad stuff. Being in the office means less chance of getting caught. When an employee is REALLY adamant about not taking time off, it’s a gigantic red flag that something is wrong.
What can you do?
I believe that restings and recharging helps people gain perspective and return a better worker. It's simply not possible to do this when vacations are made up of half days and long weekends. I think it's a good rule to require all your full-time staff to take a minimum of one full week of vacation once a year. This helps the business in a few ways: It makes the employees recharge, it gives you an opportunity to make sure you are process-driven instead of people-centric, and brings to light potential employee issues that you can address
About the Author:Co-founder, COO at Field Nimble. For over 20 years, Steve been passionate about putting the right people in the right seats and giving them the tools to make amazing things, profitably. Steve is the co-founder of Algonquin, SWRemote, and VCAMP. He loves bringing his experience in residential home services, professional services, SaaS, and mobile to bear with humility for successes and a hard, honest look at failure. Steve is an active angel investor and spends time working with and mentoring young entrepreneurs.