5 Ways Companies Benefit When Employees Travel for Leisure

5 Ways Companies Benefit When Employees Travel for Leisure

It's well known that corporate travel helps build relationships and propel business goals, but organizations also benefit when employees travel for fun. It’s one thing to send employees on the road to conduct corporate business. There are sound growth-related reasons to do that, and you can calculate the financial and intangible ROI. But your company also benefits when providing employees travel opportunities for personal adventure (as an employee engagement activity).

What’s in it for your business and bottom line?

  1. Employees who take advantage of vacations and other PTO are healthier, which reduces absenteeism and out-of-pocket health care expenses.
  2. They are also happier in their jobs, which can significantly reduce expensive turnover.
  3. Personal growth and development makes people well-rounded, more skilled employees.
  4. Employees who use time off to relax or enjoy new experiences return to work refreshed and more engaged. Learning new things helps spark imagination, making employees more creative. They are excited to do more, sell more, and brainstorm more.
  5. Employees who have broader exposure to the world are more likely to understand the value of diversity in building your business, from employee population makeup to openness to new ways of thinking.

Employees themselves benefit, too, both personally and professionally. In a Canadian survey of young adult travelers:

  • 75% reported increased confidence and said they feel better-equipped to multi-task effectively
  • Nearly 60% reported higher job satisfaction

These are all good things. You could say it’s a People Ops bonanza for your company when employees engage in personal travel. But there’s a problem here.

They don’t take time off!

New statistics from the US Travel Association reveal that last year, Americans took 1.8 billion leisure trips within the US alone, yet they abandoned 768 million paid time off (PTO) days they were entitled to. More than half of employees (55%) fail to use their vacation time, and that number is trending upward. Workers actually take fewer vacation days now than they did decades ago, despite the fact that the average PTO have increased. That makes the disparity even greater. Perhaps even worse, 66% of American employees say they work while on “vacation” — an alarming statistic made even more alarming when you learn that this number was 61% just three years ago. Clearly, if leisure travel brings so many benefits, we are headed in the wrong direction. Your employees need to get out of the office more, and they need separation from their work while they’re away. We could all agree that, while staying home to paint the house has merit, travel is a more valuable way to spend PTO. And certainly more relaxing. So what can you do to help?

Give them a push in the right direction

  • The US Travel Association notes that a key barrier to employee leisure travel is the cost. You’re paying their wage for the time they take off, but they still incur expenses for airfare, hotels, etc. One simple way you can help alleviate this concern is by allowing your employees to use your corporate travel booking platform to book personal travel. This is an employment benefit everyone can appreciate, because it saves time and money, and assures quality bookings.
  • Some companies shut down their entire operation for a week during a predictably slack period, like the end of December, forcing everyone to take a break.
  • The US Travel Association pays a $500 bonus to every employee who actually uses their allotted vacation. This is a good way to encourage employees to take time off who might not normally, in order to cash in on their un-used PTO at the end of the year. 
  • You could offer unlimited PTO. A few organizations have done this, with admittedly minimal success. Offering more doesn’t address the fact that employees are hesitant to leave in the first place. In fact, it can exacerbate the problem, leaving employees afraid to take any time, for fear they will be seen as over-doing it.
  • Or you could force them to take the PTO they already have. SimpliFlying, an airline marketing consultancy, tried this with interesting results. Ratcheting the concept of a sabbatical down to manageable size, they mandated that every employee would take one week off at regular intervals. After studying their own results, they concluded that one week off every eight weeks is optimal. This is essentially the same concept schools activate with regularly-scheduled recess.
  • Underscore the rewarding nature of travel by using it as a performance reward. Present a one-week, all-expenses-paid vacation to the destination of their choice to this year’s employee who achieved the highest sales, uncovered a monumental cost saving, or had the biggest ah-ha moment in your R&D department. Give them a cash bonus, and they’ll paint the house. Give them the trip of a lifetime, and off they go!

But there are other reasons employees don’t take time off, let alone choose travel when they do. Two of the most glaring are guilt over abandoning their team when work needs to be done. And on the flip side — fear of being thought a slacker by teammates or superiors. Yet employers have long seen that well-traveled employees are more confident, creative, and productive at work. And lest you think this wounds wacky, they measured increases in productivity (13%), happiness (25%), and creativity (33%). The best part? No guilt or worries about what someone else will think, because everybody is required to participate in the same way. (They even penalized anyone who dared to contact the office or co-workers in any way during their week off).

Make planning their next vacation a People Ops priority

Alert them to the fact that January 28, 2020 is National Plan for Vacation Day, specifically designated to encourage employees to plan their time off. Well-planned trips enable people to get the most relaxation, learning, or experiential action possible, says the US Travel Association.

About the Author: Jeanne Hopkins
Jeanne was the CMO of Lola.com from 2018-20.