PTO They've Earned It, Let Them Take It
As an employer, taking paid time off may seem like a no brainer. Employees request the time, then take it off. Simple right?
Here’s the thing, it’s only simple if PTO is encouraged in the workplace and not discouraged - and it only happens if that message and culture permeates down from leadership, through mid-level management, and is hear by every individual contributor. Let’s navigate the world of PTO by looking at recent data, exploring the reasons why employees fail to take PTO, and putting forth strategies to encourage PTO in your workplace.
Who is Taking PTO? Who is Not Taking PTO?
In the U.S., data shows that many employees don’t fully use their PTO.
According to a 2017 survey by Glassdoor, U.S. employees forfeited almost half of their unemployment time. Only 23% of employees took all of their PTO time and 9% didn’t take a single hour of PTO time. Of those that do take PTO time, 66% of them reported working while taking time off.
According to the US Travel Association, in 2018, American workers gave up 768 million days of PTO, which is a 9% increase from 2017. This study also shows that between 1976 and 2000 Americans took on average 20.3 days off per year. If that happened today, that would equate to 447 million additional days of vacation used.
Why aren’t People Taking Time Off?
So, why are we seeing these numbers, when it comes to employees not taking PTO? There are many reasons, including a fear of getting behind, dropping the ball, or failing at the position. A company structure that rewards those who don’t take breaks and doesn’t incentivize or encourage taking PTO, also contributes to forfeited PTO time.
Fear of Failing
We work in a 24/7 bubble that doesn’t turn off. Employees have tasks to complete but can often times feel that taking time off is equivalent to not giving 100% effort. This could lead to the thought that they will look like they are falling behind on work or not trying hard enough. Employees are working hard to get a pay raise, promotion or simply to make sure their job is safe. If a discussion encouraging employees to take PTO isn’t held during the job onboarding process and isn’t celebrated by managers, an employee can be discouraged or even afraid to ask for PTO time. =
Company Doesn’t Encourage Vacay
It’s no secret that employee performance levels can vastly increase if they have time to recharge. Without a period to recharge an employee can be overworked, burnout, and will ultimately put in less effort at work. According to a report by the U.S. Travel Association, in 2017, Americans forfeited 212 million days, which is equivalent to $62.2 billion in lost benefits. If an employee’s PTO time is constantly rejected or questioned by a manager in Slack, the employee will feel pressured to not take the time. On the flip side, if an employee is praised and encouraged to take time off, they will feel more inclined to do it and come back refreshed, sharp and ready to work. Encouragement means incentivizing PTO by rewarding employees hard work with flight tickets, or a resort weekend, sharing photos of vacations at company meetings, having those in senior management lead by example by also taking PTO, and having policies in place that discourage contacting employees during PTO hours.
If your company presents PTO time as a benefit for employment, employees should feel comfortable and be encouraged to take the time off. Strategies that can make this happen include leading by example by encouraging lead management to take PTO time and celebrating those who take PTO rather than punishing those who take it.