How to maximize Paid Time Off Policy (PTO) in organizations

A paid time off (PTO) policy combines vacation, sick time and personal time into a single bank of days for employees to use to take paid time off from work. A PTO policy creates a pool of days that an employee may use at his or her discretion.

When an employee needs to take time off from work, the PTO policy enables a certain amount of the time off to be paid time off. The employee may use the PTO at his or her discretion. Whether they need the time for doctor’s appointments, kid’s school conferences, to pick Johnny up at the bus stop, to wait for a furnace repairman, or to recover from the flu, the time use is no longer the business of the employer.

So, employees who may have lied or made up stories about how they were using their time in the past, have the right to take PTO at their discretion to support work-life balance and flexibility. This has allowed employers and employees to stop the practice of adult employees needing permission from their manager to miss work.

To protect the company workload and customer service, you’ll want to require that employees request PTO with at least two days prior notice unless the employee is truly sick. Establish other guidelines, as needed, for employee sickness, vacation, and personal time before you adopt a PTO policy.

(Employees tend to react unfavorably when a new system is adopted and the rules and guidelines dribble out later after the policy is in use. So, think carefully about the ramifications of the decision and make every effort to fully inform employees of all related policies and guidelines prior to its adoption.)

Speaking on innovative Paid Time Off strategies, Wesley Middleton (a Baker Tilly partner in Houston, USA) said: ‘We implemented what we call “open PTO” and commonly hear “unlimited,” so we use the word “open” because it’s truly not necessarily unlimited, it’s open. And we implemented it a couple of years ago, and so we have learned some things along the way that are really important to making that program successful. First of all, you have to maintain accountability, and so people still have to go online and request the time off. We have blackout dates. And so accountability is an incredible part of maintaining a great system. And then rather than focus on what you don’t want people doing, we focus on what we do want them doing, and what that means is, we must define exactly what we expect from our team in order to have this benefit. And so whether it’s billable hours or training or development, whatever that may be, the firm, the leadership will have to communicate very clearly and concisely exactly what’s expected from the team members.

‘Another thing we actually found was that there is a common fear that, oh once we do this, nobody is going to want to work, everybody is going to take time off. What we found was the opposite of that, was that people actually would not take time off. So we went back and added that you must take off, you know, five business days in a row, just so that we sort of force this process.

‘And then the last thing I think that’s important is, the leadership, the partners of the organization, whoever that may be, they absolutely have to embrace this, and they have to live it, because if the team members look at a policy you have and you say it’s your culture, but then the people at the top don’t take advantage of that, I find that they just don’t buy into it. And then we also take the time to celebrate the people’s time off, and so the pictures, the social media, where you at, what are you doing, so we really actively promote that time off, because it’s so important that people do take the time off to be with their families and relax and sort of restart.’