Blog Post

Should Your Company Close for Two Weeks?

More American workers are leaving vacation time on the table – and it doesn’t bode well for business, experts say. According to research by Project: Time off, more than half of employees nationwide – 55 percent – left a total of 658 million vacation days unused in 2015. It’s the largest number of under-vacationed Americans that the organization has ever reported, far exceeding the previous estimates of 42 percent of workers forfeiting 429 million vacation days.

The resulting stress and burnout that employees experience by skipping much needed breaks can prove a major financial liability for companies – upwards of $300 billion a year collectively according to the American Psychological Association. That figure is the price tag hung on health-related absenteeism, reduced productivity levels and employee turnover, not to mention higher medical and insurance fees.

Yet, the benefits of well rested employees are clear. A 2011 Intuit Study showed 82 percent of small business owners who took a vacation experienced an increase in job performance upon returning to work. The study also showed that a majority – 72 percent – of managers polled agree that encouraging time off makes their employees more willing to put in the long hours when really needed. And a full 84 percent of managers agree that when employees take time off, they return to work with improved focus and creativity.

“Freed from the daily stresses of my working life, I find that I am more likely to have new insights into old problems and other flashes of inspiration,” Virgin Group founder Richard Branson once wrote. “Maintaining focus on having fun isn’t just about rest and recuperation: When you go on vacation, your routine is interrupted; the places you go and the new people you meet can inspire you in unexpected ways.”

There’s certainly substantial anecdotal evidence to support Branson’s theory:


  • Instagram founder Kevin Systrom says the filters that made the social media site a blazing success were inspired during a walk on the beach with his fiancé while vacationing in Mexico.
  • Lin Manuel Miranda, creator of Broadway’s surprise hit “Hamilton”, came up with the idea for the musical on vacation.
  • Starbucks, founded in 1971, was sold to former manager Howard Schultz in 1987 and underwent a major rebranding inspired by Schultz’ trip to Verona, Italy. That move led to the company’s initial expansion outside of Seattle and helped make it the $84.6 billion icon it is today.
  • And Dropbox founder Drew Houston says he also was vacationing when he developed the idea for the company that was valued at almost $10 billion in a private fundraising round in 2014, making it a rare example of a startup carrying 11-figure valuations (known as “decacorns” in Silicon Valley).


Why, then, are so many valuable vacation days forfeited each year? Surveys reveal that employees often are unsure about vacation offerings and afraid that asking may send a message that they’re less than committed to their jobs. Some worry that their duties won’t be adequately handled in their absence and others say they’d rather work through a would-be vacation than face an imposing stack of backed-up work when they’re back in the office.

To help alleviate such pressures, some businesses have implemented company-wide closures.   Adobe shuts down for two, one-week periods during the summer and in December; and TED, the idea-generating nonprofit made famous by its short video talks, closes for two weeks every summer – even shutting down phones, email and office Wi-Fi.

“We all return feeling rested and invigorated,” said TED Executive Producer June Cohen. “What’s good for the team is good for business.”

Apex HCM offers multiple proven solutions to help streamline management of employee vacation and other benefits, including MYGO, a proprietary mobile application with a Time Off feature that allows your clients’ employees to request time off or view PTO balances from their smart phones or other mobile devices. Learn more by calling 877-750-2739 to speak with an Apex representative or request a product demo online.