How to Encourage Employees to Use Their PTO (And Why You Should)

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Before 2020, employees typically used their paid time off to travel. They saved it for summer cruises and holiday trips to celebrate with family. Then they came back to work refreshed and energized from the break. While you might have had one or two staff members who never liked to take a day off, for the most part employees were happy to put those days to good personal use.

Now people across the nation are traveling much, much less, even for the holidays. Employees might need a mental health day more than ever, but they don’t feel like they should take one. Jobs are harder to come by, and workers don’t want to appear less dedicated. Plus, when you’re planning a staycation instead of a trip, you can fit it into a weekend since there’s no actual travel involved.

While the number of hours employees are putting in has soared, people aren’t taking time off to rest and recharge, so work quality and innovation aren’t what they could be. Now is the time to review existing policies, communicate changes and encourage employees to take time to use their PTO.

Communicate Empathy

Workers won’t feel comfortable taking time off if they think doing so might damage their chances for future employment or promotion. If they aren’t taking PTO, they may need to know you recognize the challenges and stresses they face.

Fully at-home employees might feel trapped and isolated by a work environment that was once considered a perk but be afraid to step away. Workers who deal with the public have the ongoing knowledge that they could be exposed to infected people every day but not have a way to decompress. No matter where they work, employees might feel pressure to perform which makes it hard to disconnect from their responsibilities. They become exhausted and depressed.

You can help by articulating your desire that they take care of themselves. Encourage them to use their PTO by letting them know you consider people your strongest asset and you’re aware of their hard work. Explain how statistically, taking vacation time results in less stress and greater productivity, so doing so is in everyone’s best interests.

Define Organizational Expectations

Even employees who aren’t fully remote have found ways to accomplish many tasks from outside the office. As a result the lines between business hours and personal time have blurred. Many find themselves staying available nights and weekends and responding to notifications every time they chime.

They might think work is no longer confined to the hours your business is open. Plus, they’re putting off travel until they feel like more options are available, and they think paid time off should only be used for actual vacations.

Encourage employees to think of PTO as time for improving their own mental and physical health or strengthening personal relationships, not just for travel. Redefine it as a chance to pursue a hobby or learn a skill that’s not strictly work related. Ask workers to share creative ways they relax like gardening, painting, woodworking or cycling.

Then, review leave policies and communicate individually with employees about the need to take some of their vacation time. Clarify your expectations for what constitutes regular business hours. Leadership should model expected behaviors by taking their own time for rest and self-care.

Don’t Interrupt Staycations

When workers do take time off, give them space. Managers and business owners who wouldn’t think of calling their staff members while they were traveling out of the country sometimes feel like it’s okay when they know they’re staycationing at home. Respect their time off no matter where they’re spending it. Let employees know if they receive work email or group messaging during that time they don’t need to answer until they’re scheduled to return.

Document Policies

Sometimes managers ask if they can force employees to take PTO. While taking a “use it or lose it” approach might motivate staff, it also has the potential to cause dissatisfaction.

It’s better to define PTO use going forward. For example, your revised policy might require that staff take at least 10 PTO days a year, with five of them being consecutive or allow them to use time in two hour increments when they need to come in early or late.

Some employers are concerned that there’s a “PTO bomb” ticking ominously in the background. They worry once travel restrictions ease everyone will want to take a vacation at once. Diffuse the situation by documenting your policy for prioritizing and scheduling multiple simultaneous requests.

At Brelsford Personnel, experience has taught us successful job performance is directly relating to matching the right environment with the right candidate. Let’s talk about how we can help fulfill your professional, administrative and temporary staffing needs when you get in touch.

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