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Using Vacations As An Employee Engagement Tool

Offering short vacations or staycations at regular intervals can become an effective & fun way to prevent employee burnouts and keep them happy & motivated.

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“A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you’ve been taking.”  – Earl Wilson

In the hectic bustle of corporate life today, most organisations demand a 24/7 work culture, often unknowingly. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for employees to then delineate between work hours and family time. Long working hours, coupled with commuting time, stringent deadlines and stress at the workplace – it’s all leading to faster burnouts and earlier voluntary retirement. As organizations grapple with means to improve productivity and focus on employee well-being, they are constantly on the lookout for novel and creative ways to keep their employees happy and engaged. 

However, in this rapidly shrinking world where everything is available at the click of a button, what do you offer your employees to make them feel valued? What is it that will motivate them to stay loyal to you – and perform at their best? Flexi hours, work from home policies, health and fitness options at work – these are all par for the course now. Employees have access to almost everything they need, except one thing – committing time for themselves. Time to refresh, reinvigorate and reenergise themselves. Time to take a break and unwind!

This is why some of the smartest start-ups, and even larger organisations, have realised that vacations are one of the best ways to engage and enthuse their employees. Research suggests that job-related creativity fosters best when there is mental disengagement from work and that is best facilitated when one is physically away from the workplace. Many organizations have mandates for a minimum number of leave days that are to be necessarily availed by all employees during a specific period (say ‘6 months’ or ‘a year’). Vacations provide the much needed ‘unwinding zone’ and employees come back to work with renewed zeal and enthusiasm. Increasingly, companies and their HR managers are eyeing novel ways to harness vacations as an employee engagement tool. 

Making Vacations More Attractive

While you can force people to take leave, you can’t physically send them on vacations! Hence, the concept of travel gift cards as employee rewards or gifts - an attractive option that literally ensures employees go on that much-needed vacation. These cards are pre-loaded digital cards of specific denomination and can be used exclusively for the purpose of travel. The card can pay for a range of activities - from booking travel tickets and hotel accommodation to paying restaurant bills, adventure sports, transport hire and entry charges at tourist/sightseeing locations. Like with meal cards, most travel gift cards have vast digital acceptance system through tie-ups with designated partners. 

Traditionally given in the month of March, at financial year-end, travel gift cards offer employees the additional benefit of tax savings. Under the current income tax laws, gift cards given to employees are not taxable if the value of the card does not exceed ₹5000. Besides the potential tax savings on ₹5000, employees also stand to be incentivized from the multiple deals offered on travel gift cards across various travel and holiday portals. These deals can vary from attractive discounts on flight/train/hotel bookings to cash backs and other offers. From an organizational perspective, gift cards offer ease of administration and can be packaged with year-end vacations as a new - age tool of employee engagement.                

The role of employee engagement in the long-term sustainability of an organisation cannot be emphasised enough. Human capital being the most valued asset, organizations are getting increasingly cognizant of the fact that keeping employees happy and engaged can no longer be viewed as a mere HR tool, rather it needs to be well thought-out and perfectly designed. Offering short vacations or staycations at regular intervals can become an effective & fun way to prevent employee burnouts and keep them happy & motivated.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Suvodeep Das

The author is Vice President- Sales & Marketing at Sodexo BRS India, who is an industry veteran with more than 20 years of experience. Mr. Das in his current role has been instrumental in propelling the brand towards the next stage of digital transformation.

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