5 Tips for Encouraging Your Employees to Take PTO

Americans have a hard time taking time off. A recent study found that 56% of employees haven’t taken a vacation in the last 12 months. Employees cite several reasons for hesitating to take PTO, from workload to negative perceptions from colleagues. But not taking a break can be costly for the employee and the company.  

Employees who don’t take time off experience more burnout, stress, and less productivity than those who take time off, negatively affecting a company’s bottom line. Moreover, burned-out employees are less likely to stay at their jobs, creating a workplace retention problem for employers. 

In most cases, it’s not a matter of how much PTO employees are offered; it’s a matter of encouraging them to take it. Let’s explore a few ways how you can encourage your employees to take PTO. 

Incentivize them 

If your employees aren’t taking their PTO, maybe a bribe will change their minds. Companies like Moz and Evernote incentivize employees to vacation through vacation bonuses, stipends, or expense reimbursements. Other companies use a mandatory PTO tactic, forcing their employees to take a set number of days off per year or have periods of time where the company is “shut down” to encourage employees to disconnect. 

Incentivized vacation reduces employee burnout and increases employee engagement. By incentivizing PTO, companies can send a strong message that PTO should be used and celebrated rather than something employees should feel ashamed to ask their manager for. It also helps companies establish a positive culture around PTO. 

Offer flexible options

With a workforce comprising everyone from Baby Boomers to Gen Z, a one-size-fits-all benefits package no longer cuts it. Each generation has its own benefits needs, so employers must offer a package that employees can customize based on their unique lifestyle. Convertible PTO allows employees to put the value of their PTO towards causes that matter the most to them, such as travel, financial wellness support, and philanthropy. It’s a win-win for both employers and employees: employers reduce the liability of PTO on their balance sheet, and employees aren’t left with a surplus of PTO that they lose at the end of the year. 

Companies have also implemented “floating holidays” that employees can take at their discretion, whether for a mental health day, to celebrate their birthday, or for religious holidays. This shows that you support all of your employees, regardless of religious or cultural backgrounds, and value taking time off to spend with family, friends, and the community. 

Create a culture of PTO 

Encouraging PTO starts from the top, so it’s up to HR leaders and company leadership to support the PTO policy and take PTO themselves. How company leaders respond to the PTO policy speaks volumes about the company’s values. Employees are less likely to take PTO if their manager doesn’t. When employees see their managers and other company leaders take time off, they feel more confident and comfortable requesting it. 

By creating a healthy culture around PTO, you show your employees that you care about and appreciate them, which can positively shift an organization’s culture. Instead of disengaged, burnt-out employees, you have employees that are more productive, engaged, and more likely to stay with the company for the long term. 

Make it easy for them through a clear delegation process

One of the biggest reasons employees don’t take time off is because they have too much on their plate and/or no one to whom they can hand the work off. If you’re in a small team or lack support, stepping away from your job can be hard. Whether it's the manager themselves or another team member, it’s up to managers to give their employees peace of mind about their workload by having a clear delegation process for the work. 

Ensure that whoever takes over the employee’s workload while they’re out has all the relevant documents and is up to speed on all the employee’s current projects. Additionally, help your employee wind down their workload and tie up loose ends before they leave for PTO. The last thing any employee wants is to feel overwhelmed and stressed before they head out of the office. Managers can help them get their workload to a place where they can go on PTO without worrying about the status of their work projects. 

Have a clear PTO policy

Like anything else, if you make it hard to request or take PTO, chances are your employees won’t want to take it. HR teams should make it as easy as possible for employees to submit a PTO request to their manager and for their manager to accept it. If your PTO policy has too many stipulations, such as blackout dates or other restrictions, employees will be confused and discouraged from taking time off, which isn’t what you want. In most cases, a simple policy is all you need. 

Additionally, the policy needs to be clearly communicated to employees so they understand how they accrue PTO, how many days they have off, how many days are acceptable to take off in a row, etc. Webinars, Slack communications, emails, or even direct mailers are tactics companies can use to effectively communicate the new policy to employees. 

It’s in the employee’s and company’s best interest to have a healthy culture around PTO and encourage employees to take it. Employees will show up to work more creatively and productively, while companies will increase their retention rates and lower their balance sheet liability. Learn how PTO Exchange can encourage employees to take PTO through our convertible benefits platform

Published on Apr 28, 2023 by Rob Whalen

Subscribe to blog updates

Discover The Real Story Behind Unlimited PTO 

Unlimited PTO might not be as amazing as many HR executives make it out to be. Find out more with this research report conducted by Lighthouse Research and Advisory.