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As businesses both large and small seek to attract and retain top talent, many have adopted policies to support work-life balance, which may include extended paid time off (PTO) policies and flexible work hours. Some companies have gone as far as saying, “We don’t have set PTO limits. You can take time off whenever needed, as long as you get your job done.” In other words, they have an unlimited time off policy.

Sounds great, right? Time away from work is a good thing. It’s healthy. We want employees to recharge, to get out and do their own thing. We all need that time, so let’s give employees as much time as they need.

The problem is that such policies usually backfire. What often happens in those situations is that employees actually take less time off.

When employees don’t know what the parameters are, it can lead to anxiety and create tension among a team. Employees may want to take time off, but they’re not really sure if they can or should. After all, when is their job really ever done? It also leads to tensions among the staff when one employee regularly takes time off and others don’t. Those who take very little time off can come to resent those who do take time off because they feel the workload is uneven.

When you have a clear policy with parameters for taking time off, that’s not an issue. An employee who is gone is using their allotted time, and everyone understands that. Having limits around time off empowers employees to actually take that time and use it to recharge.

Personally, I’m in favor of all-inclusive time off policies. That means providing one bucket of time that employees use for vacation, personal time, and sick days. We’re not all made the same way, and some employees will need more sick time than others. To make it fair across the board, you create a single bucket of time off and people can use it however they need to use it.

Whether you’re using time off for a sick kid, a doctor’s visit, or just a day off to read in the park or play golf, that’s fine. It’s your time to use as you see fit, as long as you follow the policy guidelines for requesting and tracking time off.

So what happens if a company has an unlimited PTO policy and decides to put some structure around it? You can embrace the freedom of the unlimited policy and the need for structure to empower employees through a generous PTO allotment.

Most companies who say they have unlimited PTO really don’t, after all. If an employee took off between three and five days every month, would the company allow it? If not, then they don’t really have an unlimited PTO policy. So decide what works for your company, whether that’s two weeks or five weeks per year, and implement a policy for it.

Policies are good for business. The right policies create clear expectations and structure that allow employees to be the best employees they can be and empowers them to take time away from work.

If you need help creating a time off policy or other policies for your business, contact us today to discuss how we can help.

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