Summer is here and it reminds me of a great perk that a past employer offered. They gave employees Fridays off during the months of July and August. Admittedly, most people didn’t use them; it was an advertising agency where seventy hour work weeks were the accepted norm. Time-off utilization was not a priority.
Employers pay a lot of lip service these days to paid time off which, as a reminder, is time we’re paid to NOT work. The proof is in the pudding though. As I’ve written before, unlimited time off policies often aren’t enforced with a minimum time-off policy or the likes.
One challenge in time-off utilization however has to do with an employee’s own perception of what time off is used for: an ideal, multi-week vacation. A lot of employees end up hoarding their time off, like money, to spend it all at once. Alas, work and life get busy and before we know it the end of the year rolls around and employees start unloading time off. Get this, more than seven million days were left on the table in 2018 alone.
Employers can do a few things to encourage employees to take smaller, frequent breaks from work – a practice that both staunches the holiday bottleneck and keeps your workforce even-keeled throughout the entire year.
Give more time off and monitor time-off utilization
Get away from accruals, and increase the minimum amount of time you give. Just like unlimited time off policies lack a finite value, small policies do the opposite: they’re too precious to use. If you do use accruals, Kin is a great way to forecast accrued balances in advance of a time off request.
Manage time off before it’s too late
Minimum time off each quarter is a good way to enforce a policy of routine time off. You can get started by reviewing time off utilization reports in Kin monthly to see how everyone’s doing by incorporating it into the end of each month’s administrative cycle and, boom, half the work is done.
Communicate that PTO isn’t just for vacation
A day off for house maintenance projects, taking kids to a waterpark, or simply having a day spent doing nothing does wonders for one’s psyche, and it gives coworkers a chance to cover off for us. Believe it or not, names matter – ensure your time-off policy names are more inclusive to time off other than vacation (we call ours “Personal Time Off”).
If you haven’t noticed, work expands to fill the amount of time we give it. Scheduling regular time off, even in small increments like a half day, combats that reality. It also ensures employees don’t leave time off on the table at the end of the year which is literally the same as throwing money out the window (of your office!).
You may never be able to get one hundred percent time-off utilization across your organization, but the effort to get close will prove valuable in improving both productivity and employee retention.