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Pros and Cons of Unlimited PTO

From balancing time off to discussing financial gains and PTO limitations, here are the top 3 insights shared by HR professionals on the pros and cons of unlimited PTO programs.

August 16th, 2023


As work-life balance has become paramount, the concept of unlimited Paid Time Off (PTO) programs has emerged as an intriguing solution. Offering employees the flexibility to take time off without strict limitations seems like an ideal way to foster trust, well-being, and productivity. But what happens when the enticing allure of "unlimited" encounters the practicalities of implementation?

To better understand the implications of implementing an unlimited PTO program, we reached out to HR leaders and executives for their firsthand experiences. From balancing time off to discussing financial gains and PTO limitations, here are the top 3 insights shared by these professionals on the pros and cons of unlimited PTO programs.

Balancing Freedom and Time Off

Our company has indeed experimented with an unlimited PTO program. The biggest advantage we've found is that it gives our employees a greater sense of control and trust. They have the freedom to decide when and how they want to recharge without the pressure of a fixed number of days. This freedom also tends to lead to increased job satisfaction and morale.

However, this program does come with its challenges. One of the main issues we've encountered is that, paradoxically, some employees end up taking less time off. They're sometimes unsure about how much time off is “acceptable” and, as a result, might hesitate to take the break they need. 

We've tried to counteract this by fostering a culture of open communication and encouraging employees to take time off when necessary.

Martin Potocki, CEO, Jobera

Track PTO Usage for Balance

Unlimited PTO sounds like the promised land, but it can often do the opposite of what it's meant to. The problem when a company switches to unlimited PTO, is that it also means managers and employees stop tracking PTO.

You would think that this would lead to excessive use of PTO, right? Well, the opposite actually happens. In a recent LinkedIn study, it was found that most people actually take less PTO when they're given unlimited time off.

With rising rates of burnout and work-from-home stress, this can be hugely detrimental to the morale (and retention metrics) of a company.

In my opinion, it's okay to have unlimited PTO, but you should still track PTO usage. At our company, we even have PTO goals for employees to make sure everyone is resting and recharging when they need to.

Bogdan Zlatkov, Lead Instructor for HR and Hiring, Growth Hack Your Career

Financial Gains and PTO Limitations

Unlimited PTO seems like an enticing factor, but I would say the outcome reached through this is not that different. 

First of all, it does not mean complete freedom for the employee to take days off. There are still plenty of factors in play, which probably transfer into pros and cons. In our company, in terms of the positive result, I would say it has a financial gain. The accrued hours that are supposed to be paid to an employee who leaves are not taken into account here. With no hours at play, no balances remain, thus benefiting the company. 

But, a real con that we did warn employees about is it is not completely unlimited. Apart from the earned aspect for an employee, they have to have a valid reason. This is often decided according to their performance, pending deadlines, any huge conference, and so on. Though it is not denied for any reason, the timing and conditions should be apt. 

Overall, we still have a headway of progress to make here.

Marco Andolfatto, Chief Underwriting Officer, Apollo Cover

Final Thoughts

It is evident that while unlimited PTO carries the potential to empower individuals to recharge on their terms, it demands a delicate balance to ensure that the freedom doesn't morph into hesitancy or burnout. As organizations adapt and refine these policies, it's clear that successful navigation hinges on fostering open communication, nurturing a culture of self-care, and embracing the fluidity that comes with this innovative approach to time off.

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