Time for a Break?

May 2022 |

Why vacations are good for you—and your team.

When you envision the ideal day at your hospital, the one where everything runs like clockwork, you likely imagine a day when the entire team shows up for their regular schedule. Certainly, having essential functions covered is a must for making a workday hum. But, it turns out, having someone not be there can be equally useful.

Research from multiple scientific studies finds that taking a vacation is crucial to both mental and physical well-being. But American workers let millions of vacation days go unused. Consider these reasons to encouraging everyone at your practice to take some time off:

1. It reduces the risk of stroke. A study of more than 600,000 people published in The Lancet medical journal found that people who work long hours (defined as 55 hours or more per week) have a higher risk of stroke than those working standard hours. This may be, in part, because those who work those hours have less time to eat right and exercise regularly. Those who work longer hours also tend to have higher consumption rates of alcohol.

2. It fights off heart attack. The Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial, a national study of more than 12,000 men at high risk for coronary heart disease, found that those who took annual vacations had a reduced risk of dying from a heart attack.

3. Productivity increases. Just as taking a rest after physical exertion helps bodies heal, taking a breather after taxing mental work can help minds refocus. A study published in Harvard Business Review suggested that people who take vacations work faster and more efficiently when they are at the office.

Unlimited PTO

While it sounds, at first, like an unrealistic dream, recent years have given way to a workplace trend of unlimited PTO (personal time off). Companies across the globe are doing away with sick days and vacation days and letting their staff decide if they need to take an hour or a day or a week off.

The policy doesn’t mean staff can take off for 52 weeks and collect a check. Instead, the advantages of unlimited PTO are that staff feel empowered to get their work done and their responsibilities covered in exchange for the flexibility of being away from the office when needed. Also, people are less likely to come to work with a fever or other contagious illness if they don’t feel they need to “save” that sick day for vacation.

Unlimited PTO is new enough that there aren’t studies on its implementation, but anecdotal research suggests that staffers don’t tend to abuse it. Additionally, companies that implement such programs may not have to pay out for unused vacation when an employee leaves (this varies by state), as there is no time accrued.

Such policies may not work for small hospitals, but they can be a starting place for developing a program that works with employees’ desire for flexibility. Creating a PTO bank rather than specific sick days, vacation days and holidays is one way that veterinary practice owners can build flexible time-off plans for their employees.