According to the US Travel Association, the average person does not use 4.6 of their available paid time off (PTO) days in 2021. This statistic has decreased – in 2020, the average was 5.6 unused PTO days per person – but still yields over six billion unused vacation days per year. This poses the question, why is it so important to take your PTO if we as a society leave that many days on the table?
Benefits of taking PTO
The benefits of taking your PTO go beyond balancing a schedule and an employee’s time for bookkeeping purposes – it is good for your health, wealth, and stability. Some of the top benefits to taking your PTO are:
- Work/life balance. When your life is balanced, you are more productive, have more boundaries with what you’re willing to take on, and can keep working on at work. Maintaining a healthy work/life balance allows you to foster more relationships, work on your personal growth, and take that spa day you so desperately need. Balance means less stress and a fulfilling life.
- Higher morale. When you have balance, use your time, and enjoy it, you are more likely to come to work with higher levels of engagement and passion. By taking time off, you can eliminate stress in your personal life, so you don’t bring it to work, and vice versa.
- Increased autonomy. When you take your PTO, you have more control over what you do. Use the PTO as a boundary to completely step away, regain your personal space, and breathe. Work will always be there when you get back.
- Avoid burnout. There’s nothing worse than working yourself to death – literally and figuratively. WHen you feel the burnout coming on – energy depletion, exhaustion, negativity, and cynicism – it’s a sign you need to step away from work. That is what PTO is there for – so use it.
- Maintain your value. When you do not use your PTO, you are basically throwing money in the trash can. Though it is not directly tied to your paycheck and other benefits, PTO is infact a benefit you work hard for. If you set aside $500 in your FSA for the year, would you not spend it by the December 31st deadline? You would, so why not take the same approach with your PTO.
- Live healthier. Time away from work can help decrease health issues that may arise from stress alone (hypertension, depression, anxiety, heart disease, inflammation, etc.).
You do not need to take a week every time you take PTO, but a day here and there can recharge the battery and get you back on your feet.
Encourage your employees to use their PTO
The culture of your organization starts with each and every manager, which is why it’s so important to encourage your employees to use their paid time off. Here are some ideas on how to do so:
- On a quarterly basis, communicate the company’s PTO policy to your team. Tell them how many days/hours they can carry over into the next year.
- Review the days used for each team member. If you are seeing employees who have not taken time recently or will have an overage (will lose the time) going into the next year, take note and discuss with them the benefits of taking PTO.
- Take your own PTO. Rather than do as I say, not as I do, take your time, disconnect during that time (keep lines of communication open, as there could be an emergency situation), and come back to work decompressed.
- Discuss PTO during team meetings. Transparency is key, and if you make PTO a topic that can be discussed, employees may remove the taboo label they may have associated with taking time off.
- Share any useful and relevant articles and videos that express the value and importance of taking PTO.
- When employees do use their time, bring a positive attitude and mindset to it. If your employees know it’s okay to use their time, even with an acknowledgement of it, they will more than likely be open to using more of it.
Leaving vacation days on the table is not a way to maintain a positive work/life balance. Use and appreciate your time – you’ve earned it!
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