Year three of the COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented situation; one that sets itself apart even from the previous two years. The dramatic spike in cases with the Omicron variant early this year brought a wave of people testing positive, schools shutting down, and mandatory quarantines for many. The dramatic spike in cases and its impact on individuals, families, and businesses means that many employees used all of their paid time off (PTO) for the year within the first two or three months.
That leaves a lot of year left with no room for vacation or sick days. Many managers might just be saying “it is what it is,” but that is a risky approach. The pandemic has left employees at all levels of our businesses exhausted, and taking time off is critical for the productivity of workers and their health. Ultimately, the workers who are burned out are workers who are apt to quit and look for a better situation.
It’s time for businesses to rethink their PTO policies and see where they can get creative.
Some businesses put time off in different buckets for vacation days, sick days, and personal days. We have always recommended combining them into one general bucket of personal time off and letting the employee decide how to best use the days themselves.
Lately, we’ve been encouraging our clients that now is a great time to make the move to a more general PTO policy. When doing so, be sure the total amount of time off is equal to what is currently offered. For example, if you currently offer two weeks of vacation and two weeks of sick time, be sure to combine it to four full weeks of PTO.
Another way of finding relief for your employees is looking at PTO allocations throughout the company. Often, there is some PTO that goes unused, whether it was not used within the allowed window of time or an employee left the company with unused PTO. From an accounting standpoint, the company already has this time marked as PTO and has the money set aside to cover it.
Now is a great time to look back over the past two years, see what PTO may be previously unused yet still on the books, and reallocate it to employees who need it to cover their current situation. Taking this approach utilizes what you’ve already set aside rather than costing you extra in your annual budget.
Another option to give your employees some extra relief would be to add some paid holidays to the calendar to create some long weekends, though that approach does require having the budget available to award that time off. Still, some bonus holidays give all employees a break and show that you care about their well-being.
Ultimately, this is a situation with no easy answers, and we don’t have a magic solution that will fix everything. In many cases, it’s not feasible to give employees a lot of extra time off, but having the conversation and finding ways to be flexible says a lot to your employees. See where you can support your employees and how you can think creatively with your policies for paid time off as we continue with year three of the pandemic.
Need help evaluating and adjusting your current PTO policies? The WhyHR team is here to help! Reach out to us today to discuss our consulting services.