By Cliff Stevenson, Principal Analyst, Talent Management and Workforce Management
Although Memorial Day itself is a day for remembrance and honoring the fallen, it also is paradoxically associated with happier times: cookouts, family and friends, parks and the beach or shore.
What Memorial Day is not associated with is work, although many companies either by necessity or tradition remain open on Memorial Day and have workers who are unable to take the day off. This is unfortunate not just because they are missing out on time with friends and family but because taking (preferably paid) time off is an integral part of wellness and well-being in the workplace. Though we can’t shut down the fire department, police and hospitals each time a holiday rolls around, we can be more aware of how important it is to take time off for mental and emotional health.
Many employers already know and recognize this; if you have any paid holidays at your work, it’s because your employer has decided to include that benefit as there are no federal laws requiring time off or paid holidays (the U.S. is rare in this regard, but not alone). When you hear of “federal holidays” they mean just that — holidays for federal employees but not mandated for everyone else.
This is why paid time off is considered part of a full wellness and well-being program; it is an optional benefit but one that organizations have come to view as not just necessary but also a way to improve their connection to the employee. In Brandon Hall Group’s 2018 Wellness and Well-being research, we found that organizations with a dedicated wellness/well-being program are, on average, 31% more likely than organizations without such offerings to improve their employee engagement and retention (and as an added bonus, their customer satisfaction and retention as well).
This is one of those happy convergences where doing the right thing for people also means doing the right thing for your business. It’s no secret either, which is why there is a growing number of organizations offering unlimited PTO (although in terms of the overall population, still very few), and why there has been a rise of apps and programs teaching mindfulness at work.
As you go into this long weekend. I do not recommend dwelling too much on the benefits this time off is having on your worker productivity. Instead, do what you would normally do, but when you return on Tuesday, maybe take a moment to review your organization’s time off policy and make sure it adequately provides for all employees in a fair and just manner. Everyone deserves a break now and then.