Employee Engagement

Managing Holiday PTO: 5 Things to Keep In Mind

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For many HR professionals, the end of the year is more like a festival of stress than a festival of lights. From planning your company’s holiday party to managing paid time off requests, there’s enough extra work to make even the jolliest HR manager cry “Bah! Humbug!”

Reconciling employees’ expectations with your company’s needs can be a real challenge at the best of times. Throw in family obligations, traveling and immovable deadlines and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. So what can you do when everyone’s clamoring to take vacation all at once?

To help you stay sane this holiday PTO season, here are five things to keep in mind:

1. Time off is important for productivity

When employees fully unplug from work for a vacation or the holidays, they’re better able to rest and recharge. Time spent with family and friends (and away from their desks) improves their well-being and health, so that when they do come back, they’re happier and more productive.

Taking a break from the daily grind is good for your people and your company – in fact, 84% of managers agree that when employees take time off, they return to work with improved focus and creativity. (1)

2. Vacation transparency helps prevent disappointment

One way to head off PTO misunderstandings during the holidays is by ensuring everyone is on the same page. Providing clear, well-managed guidelines about your paid time-off policy is key, as is outlining the approval process and how far in advance requests must be made.

After reading your guidelines, employees should understand how to ask for vacation time, how long it will take for their request to be approved, and any steps to take after the approval (like updating a time-off calendar, creating an out-of-office reply, etc.).

3. A competitive PTO policy boosts recruiting & retention

Vacation time is the #2 ranked benefit contributing to employee satisfaction as ranked on Glassdoor, just after health insurance. (2) Which means your PTO policy can be a big attraction for job seekers considering working for your company.

Make it easy for potential candidates to better understand your company’s PTO policy by incorporating details into your employer brand communications. For example, you can include it in a benefits summary in your job descriptions and on your company’s website.

4. A PTO-friendly culture is worth the effort

In today’s always-on, Internet-driven work environment, many employees don’t feel like they can take vacation – even when they’ve earned it. In fact, 47% of workers have felt shame at work for taking their well-deserved vacation, while 47% felt they needed to justify their time off. (3)

Cultivating a PTO-friendly culture is just one more piece of the retention puzzle: when your people feel supported to take time off, they’re less likely to burn out. A culture that supports PTO starts with managerial support and modeling, so make sure that management takes time off, too.

5. Re-entry is easier when it’s planned

Returning to hundreds of emails and a brimming task list is no fun, especially after the holidays. While some employees welcome the return of their routine, others find it a little more difficult to get back into a rhythm. You can make re-entry easier for everyone with a plan.

Start by working with managers to anticipate the amount of time employees will need to catch up and scheduling projects accordingly. Helping everyone ease back into work after the holiday break is a simple way to boost morale.

To learn more about engaging current employees and attracting top talent with your vacation policy, check out our guide: Effectively Managing Employee Paid Time Off.

(1) Project Time Off, State of the American Vacation, 2016
(2) Glassdoor Economic Research, Which Benefits Matter Most?, June 2016
(3) Alamo Rent-A-Car, Vacation Shaming in the Workplace, March 2016

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