Manufacturing

4 Ways to Shake up Your Company’s Vacation & Travel Practices for the Better

Our thoughts on the industrial workforce, tech, SaaS, augmented reality and startup culture.


Vacation policies and work-travel practices are dramatically transforming partly due to the wanderlust spirit of millennials. Workers don’t want to wait till they retire to travel the world anymore, they want to do it while they are young and in good health. If you’re in a traditional industry like manufacturing, your company’s vacation policies and travel practices may be the same as they were when millennials were born. To stay competitive, you need to not only match what’s trending, but do better. 

In part three of our blog series “Retain Your Manufacturing Workers With These 7 Modern Benefits,” we will explore ways to revamp your vacation policies and travel practices rulebook so you can increase employee retention rates. We’ll go over four tactics:

  1. Extended Vacation Days
  2. Vacation Buy-Back & Sell-Back Plans
  3. Work-From-Anywhere Technology
  4. Work-Travel Programs

Not all these tactics are right for your company, so it’s important to take the temperature of your company culture, listen to feedback and implement only the necessary changes. The end goal should always be to increase employee retention rates.


1. Extended Vacation Days

Two weeks vacation is no longer enough. The new standard is 15 days. When people are looking for work, 63% don’t even look at jobs with less than 3 weeks of paid time-off (PTO). And if you’re looking at your current team, consider this: 22% of employees not only negotiated vacation time but stated that’s why they’re sticking around.

Extended vacation time also increases your team’s productivity. The New York Times reported from an Ernst & Young study that “for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their year-end performance ratings from supervisors...improved by 8 percent.”

Source: Groove (customer support platform)

Globe Manufacturing Co., a manufacturer for firefighter apparel, offers their employees a generous 22 days paid vacation, and naturally, that contributes to their low employee turnover (SHRM). A larger manufacturer that adopted a modern vacation policy is General Motors; they offer three to six weeks of paid time off and 16 paid holidays each year. 

Now, you may have heard of companies adopting unlimited vacation days, and you just might be wondering how on earth do they pull that off? How does a company maintain productivity when everyone is on vacation? It’s because unlimited vacation day policies have an unexpected outcome. Since no parameters are given on what’s appropriate to take off and what’s not, employees are afraid to take off days for fear of judgment by their peers or managers (ADP). Workers take less vacation and become more stressed. Not a great solution. 

2. Vacation Buy-Back and Sell-Back Plans

Young people typically want more vacation days, but people close to retirement usually want more money. Create a trade so workers can choose how to use their PTO. These vacation buy-back and sell-back plans can also solve critical problems that arise from either use-it-or-lose-it policies or PTO accrual policies. 

A use-it-or-lose-it policy is problematic because many people hold onto PTO and end up using the remaining days at the end of the year along with everyone else. This causes a jam in productivity, especially when the weeks preceding the Christmas holiday are incredibly busy for manufacturers. With a vacation buy-back or sell-back plan, employees can choose to cash in their remaining PTO in December instead of taking days off just because they don’t want them to go to waste.

A PTO accrual policy can be problematic because employees might hold onto their PTO for decades and cash out a massive amount of PTO at their final salary when they retire. This can lead to balance-sheet liabilities when veteran workers retire unexpectedly and cash out their accumulated PTO. PTO Exchange, a benefits platform, says, “Accrued paid time off liabilities can be significant, totaling hundreds of millions or more in large employers. Further, every CFO knows this liability grows organically each year as base compensation levels increase. Reducing accrued PTO is good for employees and good for the company.” With a vacation buy-back or sell-back plan, employees will sell their remaining PTO at the end of each year at their current salary, instead of holding onto it.

That’s all good and well for those wanting to sell their PTO, but as we’ve learned, younger generations value time off and want to buy more vacation time. USG Corp., a drywall, ceiling and flooring manufacturer, caters towards millennials’ wanderlust and has a very successful PTO buy-back and sell-back plan. They let employees buy or sell one week of vacation and 40% of employees do just that. Shelley Green, senior vice president at USG, tells SHRM, “It’s one of the most widely used benefits that we have. People love time off.”

If you’re interested in vacation buy-back and sell-back plans, SHRM describes a PTO buy/sell program through a cafeteria plan and why you should offer it: Read about it here.


3. Work-From-Anywhere Technology

An alternative to offering vacation days is offering remote working policies that allow employees to travel and work. In the past, it was impossible for anyone who worked in facilities to work remotely because you needed to be hands-on to either operate equipment or show someone else how to operate equipment. Thanks to video calling enhanced with augmented reality, if you’re guiding someone else through a workflow, you no longer have to be there in person. You can be traveling and providing guidance...as long as you have a mobile device and data connection. 

At Ario, we want facility workers to be able to work remotely just like office workers can. We’ve developed a two-way video calling app, Ario Connect, that allows experts to share hands-on instructions remotely and guide teammates through complicated workflows using augmented reality.

With Ario Connect, you can:

  • Draw lines in space to describe what you’re saying in quick, easy strokes
  • Place directional symbols in space to give live instructions extra clarity
  • Drop your 3D models into your call to indicate or explain specific parts of equipment
  • Chat in-app. Communicate clearly no matter the noise level

When remote workers are 13% more likely to stay in their job for the next 5 years than onsite workers, it’s a no brainer that you should explore tools that let your teams work remotely. 

What’s more, you’ll also be saving money on travel expenses because you won’t have to send your experts on flights to project locations to fix problems with equipment. The Global Business Travel Association claims that the manufacturing industry spends $10 billion on work travel. Why book a flight, a hotel room and cover meal expenses, when you can use a Ario Connect, an app that’s a fraction of traveling costs. 


4. Work-Travel Programs

As mentioned above, your older and skilled manufacturing employees travel for work more than your young and inexperienced employees because the experts are traveling to sites that require equipment repair or maintenance. However, the young ones are the ones that actually want to travel. They can’t use an app to do their work remotely, so how can you give them opportunities to travel and work?

Work-travel programs are similar to job rotational programs, except employees aren’t rotating within one facility, they can rotate to other location sites. They can perform their same job at your facility in Richmond, Virginia, that they can perform in your facility in Seattle, Washington for a month. You can develop a program for young workers who can swap jobs or places to live, just like exchange student programs. 

While work-travel programs will be complex to develop logistically and legally, they are great incentives to not just attract and retain workers, but develop your workers confidence and skill set. By opening doors and presenting them with new challenges, your workers will develop personal and professional growth. 

Frequency of traveling correlates with income (Statista), so giving frontline workers who make less income than executives the opportunity to travel and work is an authentic way to show you care for your team and are investing in their lives. Not many manufacturers have tapped into this resource. Abbott Laboratories, a medical device manufacturer, offers a Manufacturing Professional Development Program that allows entry-level workers to rotate locations, but it’s only reserved for college graduates. It’s time to open up these opportunities to skilled trade workers. 

Now that you’ve read four ways to reinvent vacation policies and work-travel practices, you can explore which tactics would be most effective for your company. An easy way to gather feedback is to poll your employees and thoroughly investigate whether these tactics will 1) beneficial for your workers 2) help you retain workers and 3) help your bottom line. 



For more useful tips, visit our other blog posts in the series “Retain Your Manufacturing Workers With These 7 Modern Benefits.” You’ll discover unexpected ways to foster company loyalty and keep your best employees on board. Next, we’ll be taking a look at flexible hours and location policies.


Retain Your Manufacturing Workers With These 7 Modern Benefits

Table of Contents: 

Part 1: Family Benefits & Incentives

Part 2: Career Advancement Programs & Tools

Part 3: Vacation Policies & Work-Travel Practices 

Part 4: Employee Engagement Activities

Part 5: Flexible Hours & Location Policies

Part 6: Wellness Stipend & Mental Health Benefits 

Part 7: Access to Innovative Technology


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