It sounds like living the dream if you are permitted to take as much time off work as you wish. However, there are a few particulars to review before you begin offering unlimited PTO at your organization.

Unlimited PTO became a trend that started in the tech industry within the last decade. Currently, this trend has become more commonplace, with companies competing for top talent due to the “great resignation.” 

But what does it mean to have unlimited PTO? This article covers the pros and cons, and strategies to create the perfect paid time off policy for your business.

What Is Unlimited PTO?

Paid time off (PTO) is a benefit an employer provides their employees to receive payment when they take off work for vacation, personal days, holidays, and sick time. 

A company’s PTO policies establish the guidelines that determine when and how an employee can receive payment for time off work.

Unlimited PTO means that employees can take time off at their discretion and utilize it whenever needed. Manager approval is often required to ensure there aren’t too many employees requesting it at the same time during high workload demands. 

Pros of Unlimited PTO

    • Great Recruitment Tool – Even though unlimited vacation is gaining popularity, many organizations still haven’t implemented it. Therefore, those with this competitive edge show they value and trust their employees.
    • Saves the Company Money – Unlimited PTO began with silicon valley start-ups. Tech companies wanted to keep employees’ vacation rollover off the books while providing an extraordinary benefit. Now many organizations are taking advantage of not paying out unused vacation at the end of the year or when employment ends, simplifying cash flow management as less liabilities are accrued.
    • Less Paperwork – Monitoring paid time off creates a lot of work in approving requests, tracking, and reporting. When a business incorporates unlimited PTO, all administrative burdens go away—removing the additional tasks and paperwork for managers and human resources
    • Boosts Morale – Employees feel more satisfied when given the autonomy to take their leave as they wish. If your employees are engaged, you might see up to a 21 percent increase in profitability.

Cons of Unlimited PTO

    • Employees May Abuse the Policy – When a business has established unlimited PTO, there is the risk of employees taking advantage of the policy. Some may use more time off than others without fear of their employment ending. Most studies suggest this is very uncommon; however, some individuals may exploit this policy.
    • Not Truly Unlimited – Obviously, under this policy, workers cannot take off months at a time. If this consistently happened, unlimited PTO would become a costly failure. Because of this fear, many organizations have developed specific parameters around appropriate use. Requiring manager approval, 4-6 week limits, or making it performance-based are all stipulations you may want to convey in your policy.
    • Might Lead to Burnout – By far, the most common problem associated with unlimited vacation is that employees end up self-limiting the amount of time they take off. Underuse can be a bigger problem than overuse. The worst-case scenario is that employees end up getting paid less with no value attributed to their PTO while companies gain more of their employees’ productivity. Overall if employees do not take enough time to rest and recharge, there is the potential they will suffer burnout at work.

Solutions

Businesses should be transparent about using unlimited PTO within their organization before hiring. At the same time, job seekers should try and get precise details about the company’s policy prior to starting their employment.

Many companies will encourage employees to take time off to prevent employee burnout. Some will even make it mandatory, such as two-week vacation minimums when working in this environment. 

Conclusion

A successful unlimited vacation policy can have a positive impact on your employees. You can build a culture of mutual trust which will boost both productivity and morale. A genuine interest in employee well-being and happiness motivates these employees to work harder.

An unsuccessful unlimited vacation policy lacks guidelines around how much time off to take. Employees that are unsure how many days is “too many” will likely default to less or follow the norms set by individual managers, who might not be taking enough time off themselves.

Finally, companies need to ask if they’re making these changes for employees or their bottom line. If employees use 100 percent of their PTO and the employer wants to reduce their small business expenses, then perhaps such a program makes sense. However, if the main reason to offer unlimited vacation is a marketing tool for recruitment but is severely underutilized, you might want to consider a different approach.

 

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