Workplace Trends: Minimum Time Off (MTO)

Workplace Trends

Different year, same unused PTO.   

It's 2024, and employees still aren't using all their PTO, especially those with an unlimited PTO model. To avoid employees hitting a wall of burnout, HR leaders have launched a new strategy to encourage employees to take time off: minimum time off (MTO).   

What is minimum time off (MTO)  

Minimum time off is a policy that requires employees to take a minimum number of vacation days per year. This type of policy typically works best in organizations with unlimited PTO policies.    

Most MTO policies vary by duration, but it's standard practice for employees to pick their days off, and organizations decide how the time off is booked and monitored.    

Types of MTO  

There are two main types of MTO: mandatory time off and week-long company "shutdowns."  

Mandatory time off  

Companies force employees to take certain days off in a mandatory time-off model. This might be throughout the entire year or during a specific period. An organization might have a consecutive-day policy, requiring a portion of its PTO to occur over several consecutive days. For example, if its minimum PTO policy is 20 days, the company might mandate that employees take 10 straight days off to ensure they take more extended periods of time off.    

Companies like We Are Rosie have implemented an MTO policy after learning that their employees felt scared of taking time off when the company was getting off the ground. Founder Stephanie Nadi Olson alleviated the guilt by telling employees they must take at least five days off per quarter or lose their full bonus.   

Company "shutdowns"  

One of the more popular MTO models is a company-wide "shutdown," during which the entire company is closed, and no one is working. Company shutdowns most often happen during the holiday season (like the week between Christmas and New Year's) or during the summer (around the Fourth of July). The idea is to give employees a guilt-free opportunity to take time without worrying about the fear of missing out on projects—because everyone else is off, too.  

Companies like Buffer have implemented an annual shutdown since 2016, giving opportunities to reset and recharge for the new year. Buffer's shutdown usually takes place the last week of the year. The company defines being "closed" as most of the company being off, not releasing new features, changing their product at all, or publishing new blog posts. It's an intentional time of rest.  

Benefits of MTO  

The most significant benefit of MTO is avoiding the common pitfall of unlimited time off: taking time off. MTO offers a solution to encourage employees to take the time. It also opens a more extensive conversation to shift the norms and the culture around PTO. Policies like MTO allow organizations to show they care about their employees and create policies that value their time and encourage rest.   

Like time off in general, MTO gives employees the opportunity to rest and recharge so they are less stressed, more creative, and more productive. Disengaging from work helps employees feel more engaged and energized when they return and makes them more resilient to workplace stress.   

Putting systems in place to support MTO  

To help encourage employees to take time off, put systems in place to support time away from work, such as:  

  • Communicating with customers ahead of time that the company will be shut down and the employees will be off  
  • Setting up automations, processes, and guidelines to help ease the workload  
  • Working with your manager to control your workload so it slows down before you take time off   
  • Planning projects accordingly so major milestones don't happen when you're away  

These techniques can help employees feel encouraged to take PTO without worrying about missing anything at the office.   

Encourage employees to take time off  

No matter the PTO policy, the end goal is still the same: making sure employees get the rest they deserve. And to do that, organizations need to put a healthy PTO culture in place. To learn how to do that, download our ebook, "Creating a Positive PTO Culture" today.   



Published on Mar 07, 2024 by Josh Reinhard

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