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Topic-Tuesday: Employers who support PTO

Mary Ramirez Community Leader Oct 23, 2018

Personal Time Off, also known as PTO, is rarely taken by some and usually taken during emergencies by others. For many years, there's been a negative stigma towards taking time off of work. We now ultimately know not doing so causes employees to become "burned out."

Several employers have recognized the issue and have changed the PTO culture in their workplace. Changes include unlimited PTO, mental health insurance benefits, and complimentary yoga and meditation in the office.

1. Are these benefits worth negotiating in a new job offer?
2. Do you feel like it will make a difference in the employee's work?
3. What is something that employers can offer to support an employee who is stressed out?

4 comments

tom lister Community Leader Oct 23, 2018

By PTO, is that a US thing as opposed to holiday allowances we have in the UK?

I think one of the things that causes a lot of stress is not being able to manage your own time and workload. Sure there are times when circumstances demand your attention. But being able to be flexible and in control is essential for mental health.

I think many people in IT expect to have the flexibility to work remotely and it's a big plus for recruitment if you offer that.

Mary Ramirez Community Leader Oct 23, 2018

Hi @tom lister-

In the US, we usually have the standard holidays off (Thanksgiving, Christmas) and on top of that, we have PTO. Some call it personal time off or paid time off. 

Aaron Williams Community Leader Oct 30, 2018

Hey @Mary Ramirez I'm still not clear here; in the UK we have holiday allowance (normally somewhere in the region of 28 days plus for a full time employee, sometimes including bank holidays, sometimes those are above) - is PTO a new offering for the US or are we thinking of something different?

Mary Ramirez Community Leader Oct 30, 2018

Hi @Aaron Williams

PTO (Personal Time Off) are days used outside of the holidays for personal reasons. I usually use those days for doctor's visits or if I just need to just take days off. So it's PTO and holiday days off. 

Aaron Williams Community Leader Oct 30, 2018

Hey @Mary Ramirez, so what's the breakdown here?

  • How many holidays do you have?
  • How many allowed sick days do you have?
  • How many PTO days do you have?
Mary Ramirez Community Leader Nov 02, 2018

@Aaron Williams,

I have 14 days of PTO, 11 holidays and 3 sick days.

tom lister Community Leader Nov 03, 2018

I was pointed to a company octopus.com that offers unlimited holidays! It is genuine and is based on trust and honesty from staff. Wow! 

Mary Ramirez Community Leader Nov 06, 2018

Must be nice!

In NZ we have 11 public holidays (paid days off work), a minimum of 4 weeks annual leave, 5 days a year sick leave (for the employee or if the employee needs to care for a family member), plus 3 days a year for bereavement leave. These are minimums and some employers offer more than these days.

Employers have to consider un-taken annual leave as a debt on their balance sheet and it is paid out if the employee leaves so there is a financial incentive to encourage employees to have regular breaks.

1) I always encourage people to think about the wider picture when considering a new job. Everything from the commute time, to management style, wage/salary, working hours, etc all impact on your lifestyle.

2) Yes - we are people not machines.

3) An environment where people are able to ask for the help they need, whether it is lower-pressure work for a few weeks, flexible working hours, or extra gentle reminders to fill in timesheets, take breaks, and/or to stay on task.

Like Amanda Kirk likes this

Taking care of our mental health is crucial. I wrote an article in January for Bell Let's Talk Day with lots of great resources included. How can we take care of our teams, if we don't take care of ourselves. It's like that analogy of when the oxygen masks drops down on a plane, you need to secure your own mask before helping others.

"Taking care of ourselves so we can better take care of others"

https://canadiangovernmentexecutive.ca/taking-care-of-ourselves-so-we-can-better-take-care-of-others/

Like Amanda Kirk likes this

Not taking time off work not only causes burnout, but it seriously effects your health (both physical and mental) and decreases your productivity at work. Science now suggests that to have highly effective employees, you need to give them mental breaks. Not only does this include PTO, but also a culture of encouraging mental breaks during normal work days. For example, for every 52 minutes of work, take a 17 minute break. Providing these mental breaks includes policy and culture changes, but is ultimately better for everyone (win win situation!)

Mindsets do need to shift, as you mentioned, since hard work has been equated with success and the less breaks you take from work have been deemed the definition of "great work", which is directly connected to a feeling of personal worth for many.

I think free and accessible mental health services are a must for any company who wants optimal employees. Having a culture that encourages mental breaks throughout the day, mindfulness, and stress reducing techniques such as yoga, meditation, or breathing  exercises will also help tremendously. Anyone who has employed these techniques on their own will let you know how useful they are and may also know how awkward it can be to step away from the desk to "recharge" while getting snarky remarks upon return on how "millennial" you are.

There is a huge stigma around this topic that shines a negative light on those pushing these culture changes and demanding organizations provide such benefits and services. They blame it on a "lazy" and "spoiled" millennial generation and are at times unwilling to accept the science or "change", in general There should be nothing wrong with people caring about their own mental and physical health and also valuing their personal time. Life is not work. Work is a part of life in which you can either be passionate about or you can be burnt out about. Companies need to frame their HR models around this notion that employees should always make their personal lives their number one priority. A person who is attending to their personal needs (family, health, relaxation, fun) will be able to contribute full energy to a job when they are on the clock. Employees have pride in an employer who defends this boundary between work and personal life and will be much more loyal in the long run. Again, all of this is a win/win.

Things have come a long way with this (many more companies are providing this boundary and these benefits/services) but we still have a long way to go. A few things I can think of off the top of my head:

1) Flexible work time. In my opinion, PTO (let's say you get a few weeks a year) should be used to enjoy some time off with whatever you enjoy doing. 40 hour work weeks do not leave much time to do super fun things (as there is limited time and much adulting to do!). Though, most of us use PTO for adulting purposes. We need to catch up on all of the house maintenance or do our taxes or take our kids to the doctor. We should be able to flex hours to take care of some of these things that need to be attended to in our life (let me come in late on Monday so I can take my dogs to get their hair trimmed so this doesn't eat away the two days off I have this week!)

2) Another is mental health days. Sometimes we may be going through a rough time, whether it be a breakup, the loss of a loved one, or just some personal troubles that are debilitating. We aren't 100% there and honestly aren't very useful to anyone at these times. I disagree with anyone saying we should be using our precious PTO or sick days for these rough days. Some people deal with more anxiety, stress, or depression than others. We need to take care of one another and ensure everyone can take the time they need to deal with grief, trauma, or stress. One huge problem I have with society today is that we focus on physical health (providing sick days for them) but we do not treat things, such as stress,  as physical health, which in fact stress is the number one proxy killer disease today. Everyone is different so these mental health days need to be designed with that in mind.

Great topic, Mary, I am very glad we have everyone discussing this as it is definitely very important. Let's make everyone healthier and happier : )

Like Kat Warner _TechTime_ likes this

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