Making Unlimited Vacation Work

unlimited vacation, pto, paid time off, unlimited paid time off

When was the last time you took a vacation from work? If you did, chances are it wasn’t very long and you didn’t completely unplug from work. You are not alone.

Paid time off is among the most desired employee benefits, according to Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) data. But, a recent Indeed survey found that half of full-time employed adults don’t use up annual vacation and personal time available to them. Further, 59% do work-related business while on vacation.

Yet, evidence suggests rested, empowered, and motivated employees are the most productive. So, perhaps it’s time to consider a different approach: Unlimited paid time off (PTO) under which employees take as much time as they wish – for sickness, personal days or vacation days.

5 Steps to Ensure Your PTO Strategy Is Successful

Currently, SHRM data suggests only about 1% of employers offer open PTO, so it’s definitely a big step. That’s why it’s important to ensure its success. The hallmarks of a successful open PTO policy include:

1. The shift to open PTO must be cultural to be effective

A mission-driven corporate culture is helpful, where employees know their goals and are inspired to reach them. A great working environment frees employees to do their jobs well.

2. Management must work closely with employees to plan time off

Ask managers to work closely with direct reports to plan the right amount of time to take, and when to take it, so absences won’t negatively impact workflow.

3. Management should actively encourage employees to take time off to recharge

Track how much vacation time employees take, and ask them about it if they aren’t taking a reasonable amount of time off.

4. Management should lead by example

Even senior managers need time away from the office. This time should be planned in a way that works for the team and individual employees.

5. Talk about the open PTO policy and be transparent with employees

If the head of HR is talking about it, it gets managers and employees on board. Speaking passionately about open PTO encourages everyone to take time off.

Set up correctly, open PTO can empower current employees, make for happier workers in the long-term, and also demonstrate to potential talent that the company cares about the health and well-being of its employees.


This post was originally published the SHRM blog here. Its author, Paul Wolfe, is SVP of Human Resources at Indeed. He oversees all global human resource functions, including talent acquisition, employee retention, compensation, benefits, and employee development.

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