When you offer paid time off (PTO), you’re giving employees new ways to choose how they use their time away from work. They might use it for vacations, a personal day, when they’re sick, when they want to volunteer at their child’s school…the list goes on and on.
PTO can also give your organization a chance to experiment with different types of flexibility.
Some organizations offer unlimited PTO, and let employees work directly with supervisors when they need to request time off. Others create PTO banks to bundle sick and vacation days, and let employees use time off without designating it for reason thing or another.
All in all, PTO can be an exciting benefit—as long as employees use it.
Encouraging Workers to Use PTO
Employees earn PTO based on hours they work during the week. They can even keep track of their PTO accruals, depending on the type of workforce management tools you use. Still, even with their PTO accruals staring back at them, some workers would rather not use it, choosing instead to stockpile their PTO for a rainy day that never comes. When they do, it can have detrimental effects:
- Workers who don’t take time off can be susceptible to burnout.
- Some workers might decide to power through illnesses, rather than taking a day or two off to rest and recover when they’re sick. This can make their situations worse.
- Sick employees can spread illnesses to other workers.
There are also plenty of cases where it’s not about workers hoarding PTO. Instead, some environments actually encourage workers to overlook illnesses, or skip out on vacation time.
The way your organization handles PTO, and prioritizes time way, might be at the heart of how your people use this benefit—or explain why they don’t use it. Below, we’ve included three key questions to ask as you look for ways to encourage workers to use PTO.
Many employers offer PTO to give employees new flexibility when it comes to scheduling time off. A cloud-based benefits administration tool like BeneTrac can also help employees engage with their benefits in new ways. Learn more.
PTO and Organizational Goals
As an organization, PTO can help you cut down on unscheduled absences, and create an atmosphere where employees engage with their benefits differently. Consider these questions when it comes to encouraging employees to use PTO:
Is your PTO policy consistent, easy to follow, and aligned with legal requirements?
Your PTO policy is an essential piece to make sure employees understand your rules and expectations when it comes to taking time off.
- Your policy can help minimize confusion or misunderstandings about PTO, especially when you explain the steps that a worker must follow to request leave.
- Your policy can also communicate the process that your organization follows in cases when you must prioritize overlapping requests.
- When managers and leaders stick with the policy across the board, employees see that all workers are on the same playing field.
Keep in mind that you can restrict the way employees use PTO, as long as it is within the scope of legal requirements, and does not contradict federal, state, or local paid sick leave laws. For instance, you might have peak operating times, during which employee absences would create a hardship. Therefore, you might want to limit the reasons employees can use PTO during these times to accommodate workflow.
You can do so as long as:
- You are consistent.
- You do not discriminate.
- The leave in question is not protected by law, such as FMLA leave.
Also, when you make changes to PTO requirements or restrictions, check your state’s requirements when it’s time to announce and implement new policies. Some states may require organizations to provide a specific advanced notice, before changing a benefit.
- Do you give employees a reasonable chance to use PTO benefits?
Offering PTO can help boost your retention and recruitment efforts, especially in an era when job seekers put more emphasis than ever on benefits. However, what happens when benefits look great on paper, but don’t work in a way that employees can actually use?
- For instance, if certain restrictions are too stringent, employees might get dismayed every time management denies their time-off requests.
- The same is true if your policies are unclear, and/or employees don’t feel empowered to take ownership of the process.
Some organizations go so far as to inform employees of the best times of the year to take time off.
- Doing so can work as a motivator, especially for people who might not otherwise take time away.
- When you highlight times that are good for PTO, you’re also reinforcing the fact that taking time is an okay thing to do.
- Is taking PTO culturally accepted at your organization?
Framing the way that employees can take time off is one thing. Giving them the tools to do so is another. But turning the idea of taking time off into a cultural norm is an entirely different conversation. In fact, it might be multiple conversations, depending on the sub-cultures of various departments and workgroups.
- Do team members step up and fill in for workers who take time off? Or, do they shame these workers, and make things difficult for them when they come back from vacation?
- Do workers come back from time away feeling rejuvenated and renewed? Or, do they feel guilty, or fall under the weight of work that piled up in their absence?
If taking time off feels like it wasn’t worth it, trying to get people to take advantage of the benefit can be a losing battle.
One way to overcome the cultural piece of the puzzle is to make taking time off a part of your organization’s way of being.
- Managers and leaders can emphasize the importance of taking time off by citing burnout, even talking about situations they’ve seen or experienced in their careers.
- You can also point out how important it is for workers to take care of themselves they’re ill, and how a few days away can actually improve productivity in the long run.
Openly discussing these topics in group settings, or focusing on them as part of your larger benefits communications strategy, can help shift the dynamic at your workplace.
You can’t force people to take PTO. However, you can encourage them to take advantage of this and other benefits. Contact a BeneTrac representative, and find out how cloud-based, benefits administration software can help your people engage with benefits in new ways.