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PTO Balances: Encouraging Employees to Step Away Before the Year Ends

How you can encourage your team to take full advantage of their well-deserved PTO and why it’s important.

Nikhil Bendre

by Nikhil Bendre - September 12th, 2022

Paid time off is one of the benefits that employees should love to take advantage of. It puts our minds at ease, whether we’re away on a vacation or if life suddenly gets in the way of our plans and we need to take some personal time to figure things out. However, COVID has somewhat skewed our current definition of productivity, therefore affecting how people are using their PTO. Contrary to our initial expectations, the introduction of remote and hybrid work structures has actually resulted in higher productivity, leading to higher burnout.

According to Prodoscore, productivity has increased by 47% since March of 2020. This may be attributed to the lack of boundaries between home and work - are we working from home or living at work? Therefore, let’s talk about how you can encourage your team to take full advantage of their well-deserved PTO and why it’s important.

Moving the workforce to a primarily online format definitely has its pros and cons. Aside from proving how interconnected we really are, 24/7 accessibility has proven to have its downsides, mainly because people seem to feel the need to be on stand-by for work at all hours. As HR managers and business owners, it’s our responsibility to look out for our teams, spot signs of burnout, and offer a helping hand.

Here are some of the advantages of taking PTO! Keep these in mind and communicate them to your employees.

Health Benefits

It’s really not a surprise that time off is beneficial to our health. This study from The Lancet has directly linked working long hours to an increased risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. Sitting at a desk for hours on end combined with the stress that can come with the job definitely have their negative long-term effects. Encourage the use of PTO so that your team can implement proper work-life balance!

Productivity Benefits

Think about it - we feel more ready for the day after we get a good night’s rest. Similarly, we feel more ready to be productive after we’ve taken some time away for ourselves and recharged our batteries!

Creativity Benefits

It is so easy to fall into a rut when working nonstop with no breaks. Things can get mundane very quickly, so taking a break and returning with fresh eyes can result in new perspectives and ideas for work initiatives!

Getting the Most Out of Your PTO Policy

That being said, what steps can you take to ensure that your employees are getting the most out of their available PTO?

Stress the importance of PTO heading into Q4

Especially if your organization does not offer unlimited PTO, remind your team that we are nearing the end of the year and that they should take their time off while it is still available to them!

One tactic many businesses are trying: sending employees their PTO balances at the end of the year, if not more frequently.

"It may sound strange but often employees simply forget to take their time off, and this is why you should send monthly PTO balance reminders," says Matt Miller, Founder and CEO of Embroker. "Just like business owners, employees can get so caught up in their responsibilities, that that vacation time slips their minds, or they feel that their projects should always take precedence and so they put it on the back burner.

"However, by sending a monthly reminder that accounts for all of their remaining PTO, with an encouraging note to utilize it, you can remind them to begin to make vacation plans.

"In addition, if your reminders become a little more insistent and frequent as the year goes by, you can create a sense of urgency, or in essence, a call to action to utilize their vacation days. By sending monthly or even weekly reminders of your team members’ remaining PTO, you can successfully encourage them to take those needed vacations."

Internally promote your PTO policy

It’s possible that in the whirlwind of their workload, your team might just forget that they have PTO left to take. They are more likely to take their PTO if the option is kept at the front of their minds.

One way to promote your PTO policy to employees: organize regular company retreats.

"Many employees don’t have the time or energy to organize trips or vacations and never want to use their PTO for no reason," says Zachary Weiner of Finance Hire. "To encourage employees, you can organize company retreats where employees can travel together, enjoy a wellness retreat or just sit back and relax on the beach somewhere. When the trip or retreat is already organized and other employees are going too, they’ll be encouraged to use their PTO as they put it to good use."

Have company leadership set the example

PTO is not just for your team - it’s for you as well! By upper-level employees taking advantage of their PTO, your employees are more likely to feel comfortable taking advantage of theirs.

"Leaders who actually take their vacation days set a precedent for the entire office," says Melanie Edwards of Olipop. "Talk about how taking time off recharges you both physically and mentally. If you create a culture where taking PTO is not only encouraged, but expected, your employees will be more likely to follow suit."

Unfortunately, some employees are scared to take time off, as they want to avoid being seen as “slackers.” Show them that if you can do it, so can they and that nobody will hold that against them.

"Travel company Skyscanner revealed that only 57% of 500 Americans used their PTO and 58% of these vacationers were shamed for taking well-deserved holidays," says Jeff Goodwin, Vice President of Direct to Consumer and Performance Marketing at Orgain. "Inform every person in your company that imposing guilt on any co-worker who uses their PTO is unacceptable."

Make the process for requesting PTO as easy as possible

With GoCo, you can customize your own Workflow to optimize employee PTO requests and make it fit the needs of your specific team like a glove! Also, our Time Tracking Kiosk allows you to keep track of your team’s PTO with no effort at all.

Make sure that you are actively discouraging overworking

The first step to this is understanding that overworking leads to burnout which leads to subpar results. Implement workplace boundaries, such as strictly respecting people’s calendars and declared availability and avoiding working past actual business hours

One way you can discourage employees from overworking: discuss unused PTO during their performance review.

"Performance reviews often take the approach of focusing on how an employee’s performance affects the overall business, yet rarely is it the other way around, and thus the business does little to help their team members use the vacation days to achieve balance," says Adelle Archer, CEO and Co-Founder of Eterneva. "by including an employee’s PTO status as a part of the performance review, you will be communicating that you are not only concerned about their well-being, but also that they have an obligation to take that time to help keep them as fresh and as strong a contributor to the team as possible. In using the employee performance review process to emphasize the importance of your team utilizing all their PTO, you are formalizing the concept and will encourage them to make it a part of their employee priorities."

Encourage employees to take shorter, more frequent breaks each year

It is imperative that we have the time to recharge when we truly need it, not just on federal holidays or pre-planned trips.

With the end of the year quickly approaching, it’s important to remind your team about their PTO if they still have some left. We’ve talked about the benefits of PTO and how you can do your best to encourage it, so we hope that both you and your team are able to get some much-needed rest before your PTO expires (if you don’t offer unlimited PTO) and the next year begins!

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