We have all been there, deadlines are looming, piles are growing, and our emails are coming in faster than we can read them. We tell ourselves taking time off will put us so far behind, it won’t be worth it. So we push through. We choose to ignore the signs of burnout, forcing ourselves to work longer hours. Our PTO expires, and before we know it, we have given more of our time to work than to ourselves and family.
Vacation and sick time, or PTO, was created for a very specific purpose, to give employees an opportunity to rest, recharge, and spend time with their families. Things that are needed for a well balanced life. Yet somehow we have developed the mindset that more is better, the more we work, the better our careers will be. We choose to burn the candle at both ends, knowing that if we just give more and more, we will achieve our goals.
The truth is, we cannot be focused entirely on work. Nor can we continuously push through illnesses or miss family gatherings in the name of our careers. Slowly, but surely, this mindset will cause friction, anger, and eventually turn a job we love into something we hate. As employers, it is our duty to set the tone and environment of the office to be one where the expectation is to use PTO annually.
When I finally realized the value and importance of PTO, I made taking time off a priority. Because our jobs made it hard to take time off, we worked in afterschool and summer programming. I found creative ways to make sure my staff got time off. I closed the office on all major school holidays. And before we embarked on the adventure of summer camp, I made sure everyone took a week off. Before we started after school programming, we took a week off. In this environment, it was easier to close the office then balance PTO.
In my current position, scheduling time off is not so strenuous. The work we do is not so time sensitive nor does it require people to be present. Thus it is my responsibility, because we are small we do not have an HR department, to track employee PTO and encourage them to use it in full. It may seem odd, but when we set healthy boundaries, when we expect our employees to work 40 hours a week or less and use their PTO annually, we are setting them up for success.
Over the years I have learned that when we limit the time we have to work, we accomplish just as much as when we have a full day. You see limited time creates a sharper focus. And in the end, we want our employees to be focused, not to become robots automatically checking boxes. The more free time our employees have, us too, the more we can explore other interests. Which makes us more creative, relaxed, and better problem solvers. Having more time with our families also reduces our stress.
As we reemerge into a new world, a world where our employees have learned they can work remotely, juggle multiple jobs, and choose where they want to work, focus on making your office environment as PTO friendly as possible. Choose to focus on the wellbeing of your employees and not the bottom line.