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WORKSPAN
WORKSPAN DAILY |

It Pays to Take PTO

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Employees at PwC have hundreds of reasons to use up their vacation time in the next 12 months.

As part of its effort to thank workers for their dedication and resilience over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, the “Big Four” accounting firm will give its employees $250 each time they take a full week’s vacation throughout the next year.

In a LinkedIn blog post, PwC U.S. Chair and Senior Partner Tim Ryan described the additional cash as a way to provide workers “with resources and enhanced benefits to help support their mental well-being, and equip them with tools to help them manage the blurred lines between work and home life.”

PwC’s 284,000 employees “are the heartbeat of our organization, and their well-being is the most important thing for us to look out for,” wrote Ryan, noting that the program could be extended beyond a year “if we see wide adoption.”

COVID-19 has certainly underscored the importance of employee well-being, and the pandemic has reinforced the value of taking time away from work in order to maintain mental and physical health.

And, whether it’s by offering additional time off or additional rewards for taking the PTO that’s already available to them, employers are reacting accordingly.

In July 2020, Workspan Daily Managing Editor Brett Christie authored a piece analyzing the effect that providing extra time off in the midst of COVID-19 has had on employee experience and morale. Christie also detailed some of the ways that organizations are urging employees to use their PTO to regroup and recharge.  

For example, the human capital management software provider Workhuman implemented an initiative that encouraged all employees to take at least five days off before the end of August last year.

Sarah Hamilton, senior director of human resources at Workhuman, told Workspan Daily that many members of the organization’s executive team took a week off shortly after the initiative was announced to employees, as a way to demonstrate the company’s commitment to the new program.

“It put everyone in the same boat, and that made people feel less stressed about taking the time off,” said Hamilton.

Christopher Goldsmith, SPHR, CCP, CEBS, vice president and senior consultant at Segal, foresees more companies offering generous PTO or vacation arrangements — unlimited time off or extra cash, for example — to help their employees disconnect from work.

Of course, there are a few factors to weigh before implementing a system that provides bonuses or other financial incentives for using PTO, he said.

“Before offering incentives to encourage vacation, companies should consider studying the correlations between vacation use and vacation forfeiture with key human capital and productivity metrics [within your organization]. Take a look at job satisfaction, intent to stay, unscheduled absenteeism, sick leave use and if your employees would recommend the company as a great place to work. Then make an informed decision.”

Past research has shown a link between using vacation time and being a happier, more productive worker. For example, one study has found employees who took vacation slept better and were in better moods for more than one month after coming back to the job. Another revealed that taking vacations — especially in warmer climates — led to increased productivity and less exhaustion among employees after they returned. 

Thirteen-plus months of the coronavirus pandemic has sent employee stress levels soaring. Mental health issues are on the rise within the workforce. Given the correlation between time off and better overall health, now would be an opportune time to revisit the design of the organization’s vacation and PTO arrangements, said Goldsmith.

“The typical work day, especially for remote workers, is no longer partitioned into ‘work,’ ‘leisure’ and ‘sleep’ portions. The same can be said of the typical work week. This blurring of allocated time by remote employees will continue past the active days of the pandemic.”

Goldsmith suspects that more organizations will consider a “results-only” work environment model in the future, with unlimited vacation arrangements becoming more prevalent in companies “that can effectively measure individual and team performance.”

He also predicts a mix of approaches within organizations and industries that require onsite work.

“Some companies will offer tantalizing incentives to use vacation while others will reduce accrual caps and carryover opportunities. In the next couple of years, we may see many companies introduce vacation sell arrangements for any use, and vacation exchange arrangements to reduce student loan debt and other types of debt,” said Goldsmith. “Coupled with the vacation exchange arrangements will be debt refinancing opportunities that add additional economic value for the employee.”

About the Author

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Mark McGraw is managing editor of Workspan.


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