The Potential Downside Of Unlimited PTO

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Photo: Shutterstock/ Sebra

I believe in trusting employees to be responsible adults.
I believe in getting rid of unnecessary process and bureaucracy.
I believe in promoting work as a part of life and life as a part of work.

And so you would think I would believe in unlimited PTO.
And what I can tell you is, it depends.  It depends on the unwritten rules of your culture.

I’ve seen unlimited PTO result in guilt-ridden vacationers or burnt out teams who are afraid if they take time off, they won’t get the raise or the promotion.

This happens when a workplace culture:

  • Rewards the person who works the most hours
  • Publicly praises the person who arrives early and leaves late
  • Considers working on weekends a form of loyalty

And let’s be clear – it’s in your best interest for your people to take vacation.  Vacation inspires and motivates our work.  There’s a sense of working hard to earn the right, the opportunity, to completely chill and be paid while doing it.  Vacation allows your team to recharge, rejuvenate, and return to the rest of the team with cool stories of adventure and/or family connection.  And these experiences often lead to creative connections and innovation.

Know there are many ways to peel this orange besides unlimited PTO.  One company – who really gets the cost of turnover – recruits and retains talent by offering a two week sabbatical anywhere in the US for the employee and their significant other after 2.5 years and a month long sabbatical to anywhere in the world after 5 years: https://careers.epic.com/Home/Sabbatablog

Paradoxically, boundaries often create freedom.  And unless you have a workplace culture in which there is more collaboration than competition, and a focus on results over hours worked, be very cautious with unlimited PTO.

To explore compensation and PTO issues in more depth, check out Culture Works. Also available on Amazon.

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Kris Boesch is the CEO and Founder of Choose People, a company that transforms company cultures, increases employee happiness and boosts the bottom-line. She is a nationally renowned speaker and workplace culture expert.  Boesch is also the author of Culture Works: How to Create Happiness in the Workplace and developer of the Choose People 360° Culture Audit. Kris is also a proud mother, dancing diva and dog lover.

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Kris Boesch
Kris Boesch is the CEO and Founder of Choose People, a company that transforms company cultures, increases employee happiness and boosts the bottom-line. She is a nationally renowned speaker and workplace culture expert. Kris is also a proud mother, dancing diva and dog lover.Check out Kris's book "Culture Works: How to Create Happiness in the Workplace" at https://www.CultureWorksBook.com, for more fabulous leadership tips and tools.Learn more about Kris's company at https://www.ChoosePeople.com or book Kris to speak at your next event at https://www.KrisBoesch.com!