Employee PTO Banks are Overflowing – It’s Time to Keep it in Check
One of the unique challenges the pandemic is creating for employers is the build-up of employee PTO or vacation days.
The causes are obvious. Travel bans and travel disruptions were a primary cause of fewer time-off requests this year. Not everyone is a fan of the “staycation”; some figure if they are going to have to stay home, they might as well work. And many people still just aren’t comfortable traveling on airplanes, staying in hotels, or dining out.
Zenefits, an HR software company, reported that workers at roughly 3,000 companies submitted 63,000 requests to take vacation in April and May of 2020, versus 120,000 during the same period in 2019 (that’s 47.5% less). Granted, as state Stay-At-Home orders and restrictions started lifting in June and July, the vacation requests started trickling in, but overall requests year-to-date are still far below levels.
So, what’s the problem?
Too Many Time-Off Requests at Year-End
Some employers have a “use it or lose it” policy for their vacation or PTO, or only allow a limited number of carryover days. This can become problematic when everyone is requesting more vacation time than usual in the last quarter of 2020. This can cause companies to be stretched in terms of their workforce vs. workload, or to have to deny some requests as others have gotten in line first.
If you’ve ever had to deny a reasonable and earned vacation request, you understand how unpopular this is!
Vacation and time away from work are important for everyone’s overall well-being. It’s a time to recharge, rejuvenate, and to get a well-needed mental break from the stress and pressures of work.
With many employees still working from home (or at least partially), the lines have blurred between work time and personal time. We tend to check our emails more now, regardless of the day of the week or time of day. We want to help our company run as efficiently as possible, so many have taken on a more 24/7 approach. This is particularly true when employers have allowed some flexibility in work schedules. Appreciative employees find they end up working more hours outside of normal business hours than they even realize.
Working from home is not a vacation. Employee burnout still exists.
Recommendations for Employers
In order to prevent the end of the year crunch, take a look now at unused and accrued PTO for all of your employees. Talk with those employees whose PTO accruals are building up and encourage them to take some time off. Start an open discussion about the holidays so that your employees understand that not everyone can save up all of their PTO for the end of the year. Collaborate with your company or department on the PTO request calendar so that there are no surprises as the holidays draw nearer.
You may also want to consider making some changes to your PTO policy. If you have a “use it or lose it” policy, consider offering some days of carryover into the next year. Or, you can offer a pay-out of up to a certain number of unused days, but with the remainder being forgone to still incentivize employees to use most of their accrued vacation time.
2020 is an unusual and unprecedented year – for both employers and employees. Providing some needed flexibility, where possible, with your company’s time-off policies can make a big difference with employee morale.
- Grossman, Matt. “No, Really, Your Boss Wants You to Take Vacation – Now.” Wall Street Journal, 16 August 2020.
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