Would You Settle for Extra Time Instead of Money?

Over the past several years as rough economic times emerged, many companies looked to tighten their budgets and find ways to cut costs. Being salaries and benefits are one of an employer's largest expenses, unfortunately for the worker when cutbacks are made, this is usually one of the first areas of expenditures employers traditionally look to in order to scale back on expenses.

Cutting back the expenses associated with employees often comes in the form of layoffs, no raises or permanent job cuts. Although some companies work to try and save jobs to avoid layoffs. Instead of offering raises, they will offer extra vacation (or compensation) time.

Punching in
Credit: Marcin Wichary on Flickr/CC by 2.0 with Attribution

Punching out from work for extra time in lieu of money is often preferred by employees. If so, this could be a win-win as it saves money for cash-strapped employers.

The problem is many employees don't use the vacation already offered. A survey published in Oct. 2014 showed American workers only use 51 percent of their eligible time off (paid); a separate survey in 2014 showed 4 in 10 Canadians aren't using their designated paid vacation time. That being the case, would they really take the additional time and use it if offered?

Probably not. But is this the right way of thinking?

Extra Vacation Days in Lieu of a Raise

Offering employees extra vacation days is not a new practice, but it is one way some employers may try and reimburse their workers in lieu of a raise or for overtime hours worked. How people feel about this practice is divided; some workers prefer the money while others view a few extra days off as a welcome relief.

Another, perhaps unintended benefit is how this practice affects productivity. According to media reports, research is showing people actually perform better and are happier in their jobs when they have flexibility with extra vacation or time off. A raise does not necessarily bring the desired results. A study reported by the Washington Post in 2013 stated:

"A growing body of research shows that, in some cases, paying people more not only fails to change their behavior but actually makes them perform even worse." 2

Businesses and other organizations obviously want productivity to remain at healthy levels, and still save on their budgets, so offering additional vacation days could potentially be a win-win for them.

While providing time off is good for the employer, it can also be good for the employee.  There are many other reasons why settling for time instead of money could turn out to be a worthy alternative. Forbes reported in 2014 that extra time off (this time includes vacation, maternity/paternity and a 4-day flex time week) were some of the most popular perks shared by employees who were surveyed. 3

If given the choice of extra vacation / compensation time as a bonus or in lieu of a raise, there are several advantages to this type of perk.

"Companies that encourage vacation-taking say they benefit by having happier employees." (USA Today)

More Flexibility When Needing Time Off

Compensation time is extra hours or days off you can take that is not related to your original vacation plan (or taking personal days for appointments). One of the worst frustrations people often experience with the amount of time they have is finding they have run out of leave and have to take an unexpected day off without pay (and if you have kids you'll know how it is to have to take unexpected days off to stay home with a sick child or made an unscheduled trip to the pediatrician). Comp time is hours, or days, you can typically take for any reason you want with greater flexibility. I used to love it when my former employer allowed me to take comp time instead of my filing for overtime (which sometimes ended up taking a chunk in taxes anyway).

While many employers offer it as flexible, it is good to keep in mind sometimes employers sometimes give a window for the time to be used while others leave it more open-ended. If you are given extra hours, be sure to use it during any potential designated window of time so you don't lose your bonus hours earned. If the time is given as vacation time, these are days that can be used for a variety of reasons and likely have far more flexibility.

Extra Time to Take in Some Relaxation

Everyone needs a battery charge now and then. Receiving time off is a great opportunity to take some "me" time and use it anyway you see fit. While money is typically usually welcomed in the form of overtime or a raise, it is a commodity and there is opportunity to pursue money in the future. On the other hand, time is precious. Once it is gone you cannot retrieve those hours or days lost. Employer-given time off can be viewed as an opportunity to make the most of time and do something relaxing for yourself; this can yield many rewards.

Cheryl, Office Manager extraordinaire
Credit: Tebewebb/Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:UCSCheryl.JPG

People who get extra vacation time are often both very productive and happy in their jobs.

People who don't have time to unwind often end up with health issues. This may be due to being stressed out or feeling run-down, and additional time off can be perceived as an asset to help maintain your health.

Sunrise on Long Beach Island, New Jersey
Credit: Leigh Goessl

Taking a relaxing week or even a long weekend can do wonders for relaxation. When you return, it's likely to boost your productivity too.

You Can Put the Extra Time to Work

If you aren't stressed out and relaxation is not on your mind, you can opt to use any newly-awarded days off constructively. Maybe it's a good time to initiate new projects you've been thinking about, or catch up on other tasks you've wanted to do but never had enough hours in the day to complete. Obtaining time instead of money is a great motivator to catch up on all those things you feel you've neglected. Not to mention, you can save the money by tackling DIY projects instead of hiring someone else to get the project(s) done. 

If home improvement or organization doesn't float your boat, your days off can also be utilized to pursue extra income for short-term assignments or freelance work. Or perhaps you have some other types of interests which have been sitting on your "to do list" for months? 

[Related reading: Writing as a Work From Home Job, or Combination of Office and Home ]

While raises from an employer are without a doubt appealing, sometimes that isn't going to be an option due to budgetary constraints or other reasons. Being granted extra vacation days can be a valuable alternative. After all, time typically equates to money in some way, shape or form. Use it and reap the rewards of compensation time.