29 Nov The Impact of PTO on Employee Productivity
Personal Time Off (PTO) is a great mechanism for providing employees with leave – but it can have a negative impact on business operations. Before you get too nervous, if an employee uses PTO as intended, there is little associated impact. However, when PTO encompasses both vacation and sick leave – which is becoming the standard practice in many organizations – employees may choose to come to work sick in order to maximize their vacation time.
It wasn’t always this way. Approximately fifteen years ago, as a manager for a large technical team, my colleagues and I had two “buckets” of leave – one for vacation and one for sick time. if someone became ill, they took time from their sick leave bucket, and when they planned a vacation, they assigned the time to their vacation bucket. Generally, this was a fairly simple process to manage and track. In the years that followed, the company we worked for began to pad vacation time with a few extra days to account for a short illness – this single bucket was referred to as PTO. This practice was widely accepted by my team members, who rarely called in sick, as they felt like they were getting more vacation time. And there lies the problem!
So many workers, including the team I managed years ago, look at PTO as vacation time and not as a shared vacation/sick leave bucket, as intended. I had a very talented but small team, and we felt an impact, albeit slight, if only one member was out of the office. For that very reason, our team had an unwritten practice that if someone felt sick, they would stay home to protect their coworkers from becoming ill, thereby minimizing the overall impact on the team.
However, as PTO was introduced, those same team members saw this unwritten practice of staying home when ill to be dipping into their vacation time. More and more, I noticed employees coming into work with very clear signs of being ill, and over time, I noticed a clear uptick in the number of team members who were working ill or who were out of the office due to illness simultaneously. This severely impacted our team’s ability to provide the services our company expected of us and forced us to work longer hours.
I know there are a myriad of pros and cons regarding PTO, some of which improve a company’s bottom line, but the loss of employee productivity can reverse some of those bottom-line benefits. As business continuity professionals, we have to examine all aspects of the business to identify trends that have the potential to impact current and future operations.
As cold and flu season approaches, consider the impact that illness has in your workplace and how you might adjust your PTO policies to mitigate any negative impact on productivity. If you’re interested in discussing this topic further, please reach out to me at 484.383.0606 or firstname.lastname@example.org.