woman enjoying pto

7 Steps to Creating a PTO-Friendly Culture

There’s a big difference between companies who offer up great PTO policies in theory while fostering an unspoken cultural stigma around taking time off – and companies who proudly tout their PTO package while building its acceptance into the fabric of their cultures.

Two-thirds (65%) of employees reported that they hear nothing, mixed messages, or discouraging messages about taking time off from managers, while 80 percent said if they felt fully supported and encouraged by their boss, they would be likely to take more time off.

Related: The Pros & Cons of Unlimited PTO: Fear and Loathing or Unbridled Joy?

The most generous vacation packages are meaningless if the culture does not support taking time off. A culture that supports PTO starts with managerial support. Because managers may be overburdened themselves, vacation should be a topic that is discussed openly in 1-1 meetings and performance reviews.

Here’s how to support vacation transparency to build a culture that supports PTO:

1. Encourage company leaders to mention their own vacations and publicly encourage others to take theirs as well.

2. Position managers’ vacations as growth opportunities for staff.

3. When planning performance goals and projects, build in vacation time considerations. Simply asking, “Who is going to be on vacation this quarter?” can help set expectations for a project team.

Related: How Employees Use Vacation Time

4. Provide guidelines for the notification time required before vacations, particularly for longer absences.

5. Help employees to plan for vacation coverage, and encourage them to support colleagues during their vacations.

Related: How to Get Employees to Actually Take Vacation

6. Set clear expectations around answering email and phone calls on vacation. Encourage employees to set out-of-office replies or use an app such as Thrive Away, which deletes emails received during vacation.

7. Plan for re-entry. Returning to hundreds of emails and a burgeoning task list is no fun. Anticipate the amount of time employees will need to catch up, and schedule projects accordingly.

Culture Tip: Host a series of employee focus groups to find out how employees perceive the current PTO plan and determine how they can be supported for more effective vacation planning.

For everything you need to know to design a vacation policy that draws top talent while keeping current employees energized, engaged and happy, download Glassdoor’s Guide to Effectively Managing Employee Paid Time Off.