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Should Companies Force Employees to Take Vacation Time?

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on August 16, 2017 1:58 PM

Tom Hanks, portraying a stranded survivor on a remote island, looked at a portable toilet siding and said: This could work.

Forget that he was talking to a volleyball. It was his insight that a piece of plastic could be repurposed as a sail. It literally, at least in the fictional tale of "Cast Away," saved him.

So what does this have to do with mandatory vacations? Stay with me here, it's about the journey.

The Journey

In another life, I was a sailor. On my last adventure, I took a vacation from the law to rediscover my moorings. It changed my perspectives about many things.

In the business world, and especially for corporate counsel who deal with their clients' businesses, vacations are beneficial to both employees and employers. They may even be necessary.

One company decided to make them mandatory. SimpliFlying, an airline marketing firm, forced employees to take time off.

"In fact, we designed it so that if you contacted the office while you were on vacation -- whether through email, WhatsApp, Slack, or anything else -- you didn't get paid for that vacation week," Neil Pasricha and Shashank Nigam wrote for Harvard Business Review.

It Could Work

After 12 weeks, the company saw creativity increase 33 percent, happiness rise 25 percent, and productivity go up 13 percent. It was an incremental improvement, but remember that was achieved by making employees stay away from work.

Like sailing, progress in business can be slow but -- conditions permitting -- sure. On a long journey, a crew rotates so that someone is always on watch.

Others have to sleep, typically in shifts, so that they are fresh when it's their turn to pilot the ship. It works and can even save lives.

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