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7 Tips to Promote Paid Time Off in Your Workplace

It’s the time of year to dream of summer vacations, but will workers take them? Paid time off (PTO) is a critical component of employee well-being and productivity, yet many workers hesitate to utilize their allotted days.

A survey by The Harris Poll released in May 2024 revealed that a significant number of employees do not take enough time off, leading to burnout and decreased morale. Some say they go on vacation without asking and even admit to not working when their employers expect them to by setting up “mouse movers” and scheduling emails.

HR professionals can foster an environment in which taking PTO—for vacation, sick days, volunteer work, or other purposes—is not only encouraged but also seamlessly integrated into the workplace culture. Here are seven strategies to help your employees take the time they need and deserve.

1. Promote the Benefits of Taking Time Off

Educate employees on the personal and professional benefits of taking PTO. Rest and relaxation lead to increased productivity, creativity, and overall job satisfaction. Share research and data that highlight these advantages to underscore the importance of downtime.

2. Lead by Example

Managers and senior leaders should model the behavior they wish to see by taking their own PTO. When leadership visibly prioritizes work/life balance, it sets a powerful precedent for the rest of the organization. Don’t answer emails or participate in meetings while on vacation.

3. Simplify the Request Process

Make the process of requesting time off as straightforward and hassle-free as possible. Utilize user-friendly platforms or apps that allow employees to easily view and manage their PTO balances and submit requests without unnecessary bureaucracy.

4. Create a Flexible PTO Policy

Develop a PTO policy that accommodates various needs and life stages. Whether it’s for vacation, personal days, or family emergencies, a flexible policy ensures that employees feel supported in taking time off for any reason. Detailed instructions can be found in SHRM’s How to Develop and Administer Paid-Leave Programs guide.

5. Address Barriers to Taking Time Off

Identify and mitigate barriers that prevent employees from taking PTO. Common obstacles include fear of falling behind, workload concerns, and cultural stigmas around taking time off. Conduct anonymous surveys to understand employees’ apprehensions and address them proactively.

6. Encourage Cross-Training

Implement cross-training initiatives to ensure that no single employee feels indispensable. When team members are confident that their responsibilities will be managed in their absence, they are more likely to take their allotted time off without guilt or apprehension.

7. Regularly Communicate PTO Balances and Reminders

Keep employees informed about their PTO balances, and send periodic reminders to encourage them to plan their time off. Automated reminders can serve as gentle nudges, helping employees remember to schedule and take their vacations. And be sure to pay out unused vacation pay to employees who leave your company if your state requires it.

Creating a healthy PTO culture requires thoughtful policies, consistent communication, and a commitment to employee well-being from all levels of the organization. By implementing these strategies, HR professionals can foster an environment where taking time off is normalized and celebrated, leading to a happier, healthier, and more productive workforce.


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