As we enter the New Year, many people are furiously updating their team vacation calendars with planned time off. As PR professionals, we’re expected to be “in the know” when it comes to current events, pop culture, health and lifestyle trends, etc. (see Chris Tambo’s blog post). So, could an unlimited Paid Time Off (PTO) policy – one that gives us the freedom to unplug and recharge at our discretion – work without compromising our ability to be experts in our respective fields? I think the answer is… maybe.
Empowering employees with vacation discretion can be both risky and rewarding. But for some well-known companies, like General Electric (GE), Netflix, StitchFix and Twitter, an “Unlimited Vacation” policy seems to work. Below are some pros and cons to implementing this type of time-off policy.
Having unique benefits like unlimited PTO helps entice, and retain, top talent.
Coyne’s mission is not to be the best agency, but the best one to work for. If we’re the best place to work, we’ll retain the best people. If we have the best people, we’ll attract the best clients. If we have the best people and clients, how can we not be the best agency?
Nielsen research shows employees who vacation are happier with their jobs, more engaged and less likely to quit than their nonvacationing peers. Coyne offers a generous and competitive PTO package, and while not “unlimited,” employees can accrue up to 30 days of vacation time based on level and tenure at the company. Other unique benefits like Work from Home, Summer Fridays, in-office snacks, office happy hours, etc. can help entice top talent, while also keeping employee morale high.
Work-life balance isn’t a myth.
Most examples of successful unlimited PTO policies I read about said employees were even more motivated and productive at work because they were able to compartmentalize their lives better. Work-life balance has a different meaning for everyone, so PTO is used at different levels. Volunteering at your kids’ Pre-K in the morning? No problem. Oh, and no need to stay late to make up the extra time. Feeling under the weather? Stay home and don’t infect the rest of the office with your germs! Planning a three-week dream vacation to South Africa? Go for it! Unlimited PTO relieves the pressure of constantly being “on”. It allows employees to be fully present in all aspects of their lives which, in turn, makes them more effective and efficient at the office.
Real-world experiences can bring interesting, creative perspectives to the workplace.
It has become easier than ever to travel, and not just to the Jersey Shore for the weekend. Airbnb has made it possible for us to find a home in any part of the world. Apps like Hopper can track flights to desirable locations and alert us when prices drop. There are millions of travel influencers sharing pre-made itineraries and Instagram-worthy destinations for us to add to our bucket lists every day. Being able to explore these places and expand our world-view can make us even more dangerous in creative brainstorms. Traveling to unfamiliar places can give us a unique perspective and a creative edge, not to mention a broader network of connections.
Unlimited PTO takes additional coordination.
Coyne’s Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Clara Heffernan, sees the added coordination as the greatest barrier to implementing an unlimited PTO policy. Having countless vacation days or flex-hours does not equal a free-for-all. In fact, it could mean even more coordination and communication to your team. Days off are still requested and approved by managers. Those trusted team vacation calendars? Yup, still a thing. Employees taking advantage of PTO – especially for an extended period – may need to brief team members, or draft emails/communications prior to being out. Any necessary work may need to be completed before leaving the office to ensure client service is still paramount and there are no hiccups with account management.
People take less time off.
When you hire highly accountable individuals, and Type A personalities (which is often the case in PR) you may find that people take less time off due to their work FOMO. And, by implementing flex time, it may mean employees have to take less PTO over the course of the year. Those who skip vacations are more likely to be depressed, and to dent office morale, so it may be necessary for HR to send frequent reminders to take PTO. They should also implement a minimum expectation for time off so that employees don’t get burnt out. Just because you don’t have an epic vacation planned, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be taking days off to unplug.
Unlimited vacation policies are still the exception, but the idea is spreading. At Coyne, Tom’s philosophy is for all employees to take at least an hour per week and give it back to themselves – whether that’s through training, going for a walk with a co-worker, meeting a potential client for coffee, sweating it out in the gym in our building – whatever it is, it’s part of the culture instilled in Coyne to take the time to recharge. So, be kind to yourself this New Year by unplugging and enjoying time off when you can. Work will still be waiting for you when you get back.