Paid Time Off (PTO)Employees have had enough and are leaving their jobs at unprecedented rates. This has been dubbed the “Great Resignation” caused in part by employee burnout. Workers want a break and are taking new jobs for a change of pace. What about offering a change of pace with time off?

A recent survey found that most American workers receive a set number of vacation days. Only 10% benefit from an unlimited vacation policy. Full-time employees average 18 days off per year counting Paid Time Off (PTO) and paid holidays. But many would like 25 days of vacation. Before you cry “impossible,” you should know that most European countries offer at least that many days to their workers. And in these times of Great Resignation, providing more PTO might be attractive enough to keep employees who have considered leaving. Just a thought!

Promote healthy vacation practices in your organization. Touch base with your workforce. Encourage conversations around vacation planning. Ask employees what they have on their personal calendars and coordinate with coworkers to ensure continuity of operations.

1. Set Expectations on PTO

Having PTO and actually using it are two entirely different things. Almost 1 in 5 employees have avoided taking time off because they felt they couldn’t or had too much work. 

Do your employees finish the year with unused PTO? Some employees like to “bank” their PTO for a big trip. Others like to take their PTO to the bank if unused time off is paid off at the end of the year. However, vacation time is necessary to stave off burnout and promote overall mental health — and that includes busy professionals and leaders. Set an example by scheduling, preparing, and taking time off yourselves. 

Few companies actually enforce the use of PTO. Mandating the use of PTO can prove beneficial. Employees with a mandatory PTO policy rate their happiness at work higher than workers who don’t take much PTO. Employees with mandatory vacation days are also more likely to experience good or excellent mental health, compared to those without.

2. Reset Paid Time Off Practices In The New World of Work

Remote work launched on a massive scale in 2020 is having lasting effects. Expectations around work attendance have shifted in the mind of your employees. Have your practices adjusted?

Lines between work time and personal time have become very blurred for many professional workers. It might be time to specify what a flexible work schedule looks like.

Some questions to consider (and answer):

– Can employees work from anywhere, at any time? 

– Can work be done remotely while traveling for leisure/vacationing? 

– What situations require employees to request (and log-in) PTO time? 

One guideline could be to re-affirm the need to request time off and not assume it will be approved. Another is to make sure PTO gets used whenever employees are off. For example, unless employees are able to work a solid 4-hour period without interruptions, PTO hours must be taken. So going to a medical appointment while answering texts from coworkers probably requires time off.

Conversely, the PTO policy (and practice) must draw clear lines: when on PTO, employees are not expected to attend Zoom meetings, text with colleagues or respond to emails. 

3. Possible Addition To Paid Time Off

 It can be a challenge when employees accumulate large amounts of PTO. Unused, it represents a liability on your balance sheet and can put a strain on cash flow when it’s paid out usually at termination. New platforms have come in to help organizations turn unused PTO into fungible assets. The value of PTO can be used to contribute towards retirement accounts, student loan payments, leave-sharing, and even charitable donations.