What Will the Future of Unlimited PTO Look Like?

By Rob Whalen - Dec 29, 2022 8:00:00 AM - 5 MINS READ

Long ago, the thought of having unlimited PTO sounded like a dream. Companies that offered it attracted employees left and right, yet now, as unlimited PTO has become more commonplace, it begs the inevitable question: is it the best way to offer PTO? If one thing is for sure, PTO needs a makeover, and we have predictions of possible changes. 

The future of unlimited PTO

Imagine you are finalizing your Christmas plans, and with unlimited PTO, you request Christmas Eve off. However, your employer informs you that Christmas Eve is a blackout day, so you must work. Even if you come in on Christmas Eve, don’t expect to be reimbursed for your unused PTO days.

This example describes a few of employees' many issues with this type of PTO policy. Though “unlimited,” there is no clear indication of how much time an employee can take off, whether it be too much or too little. The answer to this unlimited PTO trick seems simple enough: make PTO accrued. However, as the battle for talent continues, employers must do more to develop creative and flexible PTO policies. 

If traditional PTO methods are too old school, and unlimited PTO is not employee-friendly, then what does the future of PTO look like exactly? Some companies have decided to develop their own PTO policy of “anytime PTO,” encompassing (but not limited to) the following:

  • Pre-determined–but plenty–of PTO days
  • Paid Federal holidays– plus a couple more (Christmas Eve, the day after Thanksgiving, etc.)
  • Three weeks of paid medical/family leave
Unlimited PTO doesn’t benefit employees as much as it does employers

Unlimited PTO has been utilized by employers as a way to be more flexible. Yet, these past couple of years have shown the exact opposite; workers with unlimited PTO take an average of 13 days off versus 15 days off with traditional PTO policies. While offering employee flexibility is a must in the workforce, unlimited PTO policies make employees more hesitant to take off a day out of fear of missing a day in the office. 

Many unlimited PTO policies are use-it-or-lose-it in the sense that if you leave your company, you will not be eligible for a PTO payout. Even more so, most companies with unlimited PTO policies require time off approval and include “blackout periods” in which no days may be taken off. With all these guidelines, is unlimited PTO that flexible for employees? Or is it just a sneaky way for employers to overwork their workforce?

On top of all these rules, employees are still hesitant to take days off with unlimited PTO due to the company culture. If employees see their colleagues never taking time off, they will do the same to fit in. If one thing is for sure, company culture matters, and employers must demonstrate that taking time off is necessary for success and well-being. 

Implement worker-empowering alternatives 

This past year reminded us of the value of employees. Instead of offering unlimited PTO or reverting to less flexible PTO policies, talk to your employees to develop a PTO plan together. This plan should be guilt-free, relieving employees of any shame they may feel for taking days off by providing clear guidelines for the company's PTO plan. Because everyone needs a break now and then, consider company-wide shutdowns–especially during the holiday season. 

Giving your employees more freedom in their PTO is a great strategy for attracting and retaining talent. Employees can transform their unused PTO into something more beneficial for themselves through PTO Exchange. These options include travel, retirement, community giving, financial planning, and more. 

A new future for PTO

So, what will the future of unlimited PTO look like? While paid time off needs to be flexible, it must be enforceable enough that every employee gets the time off they deserve. PTO Exchange offers a wide selection of solutions perfect for every company just in time for the new year. Request a demo of our platform today.

Rob Whalen

Rob is co-founder and CEO of PTO Exchange.

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