How to Manage PTO So Your Team Stays Happy

Paid time off is a key component of your employee benefits package. But if your organization isn’t managing it well, time off balances can easily accrue. This overloaded PTO bank can lead to resentment and burnout for your employees and potentially lower-quality work and disengagement.

As if the human factor wasn’t enough, stacked PTO balances also represent a liability for your organization. Depending on your payout policy, you may be on the hook for paying out weeks or even months of PTO. When an employee leaves on good terms, employers are often required to pay out their time-off balances. While the employee fairly earned the time, accounting teams must allocate a portion of the budget for this future obligation. Avoid this accounting nightmare and employee burnout by revamping your PTO management plan this year.

Track Balances and Approvals With Solid Tech

Small business owners have a ton on their plate — so when an employee mentions something like upcoming vacation days, it can be easy for managers to forget or lose the request in their inbox. One solution is to manage the PTO processes with an online payroll service that can make it easy to keep track of your team requests.

Many platforms show staffing levels, vacation requests, and approved time off — all in one dashboard. Payroll services with time tracking can help you figure out which employees are available to fill gaps in the schedule so you won’t miss a beat with any customer needs. Also, most tools are self-serve, so both managers and employees can review their PTO and streamline approvals.

Cross-Train Your Team So Projects Are Covered During Absences

An employee’s once-in-a-lifetime vacation shouldn’t put your team’s production schedule on hold. Prepare for PTO by cross-training your team. This practice is an essential way of managing workload even without PTO in mind.

Expand your team’s knowledge base to allow them to cover for one another when project loads get heavy. Create a training protocol to guide your employees through the basics within one another’s roles. Establish shared tasks so your team members can work together before an absence arises. When a sick day occurs or a vacation is scheduled, your team will be ready to cover for the absent teammate without stress.

Develop a Fair Approval Protocol for PTO-Heavy Seasons

It happens every year — you get an avalanche of PTO requests in late October in advance of the holiday season. Your team looks to you with hopeful eyes, prematurely sharing their exciting plans ahead. Now you’re in the position to ruin their holidays, fulfilling every cheesy movie’s villain-boss character arc.

Avoid the headache and the heartache of having to say “no” for the sake of staffing. Buck the practice of “first come, first served” and set an expectation of a submission deadline. Open up PTO submissions on a pre-established date to strive for fairness.

Longtime employees may have larger balances, so be mindful of your approach. Depending on your business, you may have to tell your team that not everyone will get the days surrounding every key holiday off. Take note of employees who don’t request time off and make a point to encourage them to submit before the deadline. Then assess the submissions and make the best call considering your organization’s needs during popular PTO time frames.

Create a Culture Where PTO Use Is Encouraged to Reduce Burnout

For years, professionals have been rewarded for hustling, doing more, and maxing out. Since the pandemic, employees’ feelings about work — and overwork — have shifted. With remote work becoming more common, efficiency and autonomy are appreciated. With that, employees are realizing the value of their free hours and taking time away from work to recharge. Set the standard in your team that using PTO is an expectation, no matter one’s role.

In 2020, Americans left 33% of their PTO hours unused, and this practice can quickly compound into a larger issue. When people don’t have time to clear their mind and refresh, it taxes their decision-making skills. This fatigue can lead to poor judgment calls on the job, potentially reducing productivity and the quality of work.

Set an example for your team by including a discussion about PTO plans at team and one-on-one meetings. Talk widely about your own vacation plans and celebrate others’, creating a culture where vacations and time away are encouraged.

PTO: An Essential Practice for High-Performing Teams

Time away is an essential benefit that all workers should have and use without guilt or hassle. Since PTO is part of an employee’s compensation package, not using it effectively reduces their income. Instead of providing employees with cash, time away can give them relaxation and the opportunity to pursue passions and nurture relationships. These are all valuable components of the human experience that no one should miss.

Let your team know that using PTO for vacation is not their only option. Encourage team members to dip into their balances for more than just trips. Employees can leave early on a beautiful day, volunteer at their child’s school, or take a mental break.

Time away from work can give every worker perspective on their lives, potentially recentering them on what’s important. When they use PTO to recharge, they can come back to work fully present, ready to get good work done.

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