Some Companies Encouraging Employees to Disconnect During Vacation

Image: A woman looks at her phone as she rides her bike along the boardwalk in Venice Beach
A woman looks at her phone as she rides her bike along the boardwalk in Venice Beach, California, on March 1, 2017.Mike Blake / Reuters

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By Amanda Golden

If you're having trouble kicking back and unplugging during spring break, you're not alone: 45 percent of American employees regularly answer emails when they're not at work, according to a new study.

And companies are starting to realize that the "always on" mentality has its downsides — and they have to do something about it.

"Companies are increasingly aware of how burned-out employees are, and they should be," said Ellen Galinsky, a senior research adviser at the Society for Human Resource Management. She adds that two in five American workers feel worn down.

Angie Maddox, managing partner of Atlanta marketing company Seed Factory Branding, said she encourages her employees to fully disconnect during their vacation time.

"I think we work so hard every day, and when we finally make the decision to go on vacation, we better enjoy it," Maddox said. "We need to encourage everyone to just enjoy your whole time ... Don't think about work."

Why aren't employees making their most of their time off the grid? Well, it's simple: FOMO, or fear of missing out.

"I think it's this pressure that you are going to miss some information," Maddox said. "You're not going to have some nugget of news that your friends have. [But] at the end of the day, you're not really missing much."

Some companies are trying out ways to help their employees unplug. The automobile firm Daimler allows its employees in Germany to set their email accounts to an "auto-delete" mode while they're on vacation. The French have passed a law that requires companies with 50 or more employees to come up with policies preventing office emails from cutting into leisure time.

Seed Factory designer David Kim with his wife and two children during a trip to Niagara Falls. The company is among those encouraging workers to leave work behind while on vacation.David Kim

Olark Live Chat, a San Francisco-based messaging company, offers a $1,000 bonus for employees who take a five-day vacation. (Yes, you read that right.)

"Employees should feel comfortable taking time away from work and realize that even if they're gone, things will still carry on without them," said Karl Pawlewicz, head of communications for Olark.

The vacation bonus incentives employees to fully detach from the daily grind, and Pawlewicz said it does improve their overall wellness when they come back to the office.

"We do a quick survey when people come back from vacation to see how do you really feel now that you've taken this vacation and fully unplugged," Pawlewicz said, "and 100 percent of the time people come back saying they feel refreshed, they feel relaxed, they feel encouraged to get back to work."