What Does PTO Mean for You?

January 14, 2024by Jennifer Murray0

When I take time off and travel, I expand my view of the world, learn about different cultures, strengthen relationships, and discover history and natural surroundings. I was awed by the impact Antoni Gaudi had on Barcelona during a recent visit. He left his mark on the design of several sites throughout the city. I marvel at his creative view on what was possible in the 1800’s. Perhaps he took time off to think…

Paid Time Off or PTO is a valuable component of the total compensation package. It loses value if you don’t take it. It gains value when you work for an organization that encourages you to use it. The value increases when the leadership team sets the example of unplugging and completely disconnecting from emails, meetings, and any other form of work-related communication. This not only encourages a healthier work culture, but also sends a message that self-care and personal time are crucial aspects of sustainable success.

Alternatively, it becomes unsettling when leaders set an example of sending emails, attending conference calls, or stepping in and out of work activities while they are on vacation. This practice contributes to the company culture, leading to decreased employee satisfaction and higher turnover.

Time off policies are typically listed in the employee handbook. The benefits of having a time off policy that provides time to unplug and disconnect from work yields a broad array of benefits.

The human mind is not a machine; it requires periods of rest to function at its best. Giving your brain a vacation –  time to recharge – creates space to dream and return to work with renewed energy to solve problems and increase innovation. In short, vacation time contributes to total wellness.

Risks of continuous work without breaks can lead to decision fatigue, where the quality of decision-making diminishes over time and burnout. Sometimes a vacation provides the time away to step back, plan, rethink present challenges, and discover new approaches. This helps the individual, as well as the organization. Feeling like daily work puts team members on a gerbil wheel is not sustainable. I have worked in start-up organizations. It was exciting! They required a lot of energy and teamwork. The adrenaline rush carried us through the long hours of work. Eventually, we lifted our heads and agreed that the pace was not sustainable. Falling out of balance for extended periods strained relationships, caused errors, and took a toll on multiple aspects of wellness. The pace called for time off to regain balance.

Stress levels have skyrocketed since the pandemic began. While the public health emergency officially ended, high stress levels have prevailed. Economic pressures have reduced headcount in some organizations. In many cases, there are talent shortages that require existing team members to stretch beyond their former responsibilities.  The demands have increased the stress on leadership and individual contributors. Unplugging during time off allows leaders to decompress, reducing stress levels and promoting overall well-being. Better health translates to increased energy, focus, and resilience, all of which are essential qualities for effective leadership.

Another benefit of taking time off is that it empowers team members to step up during the leader’s absence. When leaders take time off without constantly checking in, it sends a powerful message to their teams: it demonstrates trust. Delegating and trusting team members to handle responsibilities in the leader’s absence fosters a sense of empowerment and autonomy. This trust-building situation not only boosts morale, but also creates a more resilient and self-sufficient team, ultimately contributing to the long-term success of the organization.

Leadership is not just about managing tasks; it’s also about building relationships. Taking time off allows business leaders to strengthen personal connections, whether with family, friends, or themselves. Investing in personal relationships can have a positive ripple effect, improving emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills that are valuable in the professional realm.

Here are some ways you can reinforce or restore the value of taking vacation time. As a leader, set expectations when you are preparing for vacation and then, set yourself free. By setting expectations in advance, team members that rely upon you can plan accordingly. They can accelerate their requests for collaboration or approval. They will also hear that you will not be reachable during a specific time period, so they can plan accordingly. Next, consider what you can delegate. Can you assign an “acting manager?” This individual will be empowered to make decisions and stand in your place while you are out. Schedule a meeting with your delegate when you return to review the issues that arose and the solutions that were provided during your absence. This is an excellent coaching and professional development opportunity for a team member that aspires to assume a leadership role in the future.

It’s a new year with new opportunities to shape the culture of your organization. Reinforcing paid time off policies is an easy starting point.

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Satellite Office
2929 Breezewood Ave. Suite 101, Fayetteville, NC. 28303
Where to find us
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