In American society, what we do for a living plays a major role in how we identify ourselves as individuals. Rightfully so, considering so many of us spend the majority of our waking hours at the office, and often have trouble stepping back and mentally shutting out work once we’ve returned home in the evenings. Even so, taking time away to mentally recharge is so important to a person’s ability to think creatively, tackle obstacles with enthusiasm and avoid burning out. As an employer, it is your responsibility to make work-life balance a part of the company culture, and create an environment that encourages vacation time for all of its employees.

Vacations Boost Productivity

Ample evidence points to the benefits of taking sufficient vacation time throughout the year. Employees return from time off with a boost in creativity and productivity, engage more with coworkers and demonstrate more enthusiasm for their work. Disconnecting from the job and focusing on personal time decreases stress, improves overall performance throughout the year, and keeps your best people from losing steam.

In many ways our culture discourages time off, limiting vacation days and giving employees the impression that wanting personal time to recharge is a sign of weakness or laziness. Putting a stop to this attitude is the first step towards encouraging your workers to take time for themselves. Discuss the benefits of vacation time with employees, and remind them that it’s not just for their own mental and emotional health; it’s also what’s best for the success of the company.

Help Create a Healthier Work Environment

Communicate with your employees one-on-one. Maybe someone feels that they are too overworked to take time off this year, or isn’t sure who would cover his or her tasks during vacation. Establishing open communication will allow you to determine who within the company is most in need of a vacation, and gives you the opportunity to work with people individually to make sure these vacations happen. If possible, consider flexible work hours to give employees the freedom to balance their work life and personal life in the way that best suits them. At the very least, having these individual discussions will give you a better understanding of how each of your employees is handling his/her workload, and it will let you know if anyone seems at risk of burning out.

Verbally encouraging your employees to take time off is a good thing, but don’t forget to lead by example. The tone of the company is set by its leader, which is why it’s so important to put your words into action. If you aren’t taking advantage of vacation days, you may be sending mixed messages to those who work for you. Everyone needs time to disconnect and recharge, including you!