Did PTO usage hit a healthy amount for your employees this year? If your employees underutilized their PTO in 2022, they aren’t alone. 55% of Americans don’t use up their paid time off, leaving 6.5 days of unused PTO on average. Although it feels nice to have a full staff on hand every day, it comes at the cost of increased rates of burnout and worsened employee mental health. So how can you turn that around in 2023?
PTO usage should be encouraged throughout the year. Your employees have those days off for a reason, and it’s critical that they take them. Though it may seem counterintuitive to leave yourself shorthanded, especially as a smaller business, it pays off in the long run. According to SHRM, employees are 68% happier when working for employers who encourage them to use their PTO.
Moreover, there’s a direct impact on performance. Vacation improves focus in 78% of employees and alleviates burnout for 81% of them. Essentially, pushing PTO usage is imperative for the long-term success of your business. That’s why in 2023, we recommend you make a concerted effort to prioritize PTO for your employees.
In this blog, we’ll present a few strategies to increase PTO usage in 2023. If you focus on these tactics, even your most committed #NoDaysOff grinders might take a few to recharge next year.
Why aren’t employees using their PTO?
It may come as a surprise that employees leave so much PTO unused. After all, who doesn’t love some time away? However, the issue often isn’t a personal one. Rather, it may reflect your company’s culture and the broader mindset of workers in the U.S.
Employees may feel pressure to overwork themselves so they can celebrate their hustle and hard work. This is often misguided. Hard work and good work don’t always run hand-in-hand. Make sure your people know they need to take care of themselves so that when they work, they deliver their best possible results.
Additionally, many companies keep their staff fairly lean. While this is an efficient cost measure, it can make it difficult for your team to take time off. They’ll spend their vacation worrying about the mountain of work awaiting them when they return. Whether your departments run smaller or not, you need systems to make PTO usage less of a burden on everyone involved.
Of course, there are more factors contributing to low PTO usage. Whatever is holding your employees back from taking their paid time off, we recommend the following tactics to address it.
1. Don’t ask for explanations for PTO usage
Let your employees know that their PTO is theirs to do with as they please. By not requiring or expecting any explanations for PTO usage, your employees will feel less pressure when submitting requests. Otherwise, workers might worry about what constitutes a “good” reason to take time off. At the end of the day, the “why” isn’t important.
What matters is open and timely communication between employees and their managers. As long as workers submit PTO requests with reasonable notice, there should be no problems accommodating them. Though, some instances only allow for a little heads-up. Still, do what you can to approve the request and resolve any issues that pop up in the meantime.
This approach builds trust with your team, and makes it easier to ask for much-needed time off. Although you must make some considerations on a case-by-case basis, PTO approvals shouldn’t be stressful for employees.
2. Implement strategies to keep work covered
Instead of figuring out how to fill gaps on the fly every time, build a strategy that keeps your team on track when employees are out of the office. One standard tool is the out-of-office email. Set your OOO email to direct outreach to a relevant coworker who can help with specific tasks. Of course, make sure that’s coordinated with that employee beforehand.
If your employee planned the PTO ahead of time, you should be able to add time on the calendar for a handoff meeting before the trip. Discuss your current work with your team and see what can be covered while you’re away. While they may not be able to cover it all, this can reduce the stress of work piling up during PTO.
3. No work during PTO policy
66% of U.S. workers said they worked during their paid time off. What’s the point of encouraging PTO usage if your employees aren’t actually stepping away from work? It’s admirable that they want to help during their trip, but it defeats the purpose. There may be little harm in checking emails or handling a quick task here or there. However, if you notice an employee actively working during PTO, send a quick message gently reminding them to step away for the day. If you’ve handled step 2 on this list, they should be able to do that confidently.
4. Make sure management leads by example
Any cultural change starts at the top. Managers need time off too! Encourage management at your company to lead the way on PTO usage so their employees know they mean business when it comes to relaxation. Additionally, consider the kind of praise your managers dole out. Perfect attendance is not the goal; excellent work is.
Praise employees for getting their work done at a high level, especially when they balance that with proper PTO usage. PTO positively impacts performance. Make sure your team understands that. Finally, managers need to build strong relationships with their employees. If you identify an employee struggling, suggest taking time off to recharge!
ADDA helps you put your people first!
Most businesses value their employees, but some struggle to show it. ADDA’s company culture experts build workplaces that put people first. Also, some employers are too busy handling back-office work to take time off themselves. If you want an environment where you and your employees can boost their PTO usage worry-free, schedule a call with us today!