PTO Policies in the Time of Remote Work

Recent events and technological developments have changed the way we work. More of us can now work whenever and wherever we want through our laptops, tablets, and PCs. While this has many benefits, remote or hybrid working can also present challenges in accountability and taking time off.

For instance, if an employee is working remotely, it is often challenging for an employer to determine how many hours they have worked or how much work they’re completing. A remote worker who feels unwell may stop working for a brief rest. Then, they may make up the time lost in the evening or on the weekend. At the same time, an employee working in an office may take sick time to leave the office when feeling unwell. They, too, may make up the work in the evening or on the weekend but have also used the paid time off.

This example illustrates companies’ challenges when creating vacation and time off policies for a remote or hybrid workforce. In response, some companies opt to move away from a traditional leave policy and offer unlimited paid time off (PTO).


Traditional vs. unlimited PTO

Traditional PTO categorizes absences into sick leave, personal days, and vacation days. On the other hand, employees take time off whenever they need it with unlimited PTO. But workers still need to give employers notice if they want to take time off.

Regardless of which type you choose, you can follow these simple steps to implement a PTO policy that is fair to both onsite and remote employees:

Develop a clear, written PTO policy

Your written PTO policy needs to include a variety of information, including:

  • How much PTO you will provide your employees per year
  • Whether you’ll let employees roll over earned PTO to the following year
  • An explanation of the process of requesting PTO, including how far in advance they need to request it
  • Any expectations on work coverage while an employee is away


Keep communication channels open

Regularly communicate with all your employees about your PTO policy. This way, you can ensure that they understand it and know what they’re entitled to. Also, let them know about any changes you make to the policy. Be sure to explain your reasons behind the changes.

Make written policy documents easily accessible to employees through, for example, online portals and mobile apps. Require your employees to read and adhere to the policies and ask them to sign the documents. Their signatures serve as a promise not to abuse the unlimited vacation policy.


Focus on results, not hours worked

With many people now working remotely or dividing their time between the home and the office, monitoring hours worked is no longer practical. It’s also a poor indicator of performance. For example, studies show that working longer than 55 hours doesn’t lead to productivity gains.

So, measure your employees in terms of specific goals, outcomes, or projects completed. But, show that you trust them by giving them the flexibility to choose when and where they want to work and when to take time off on the route to meeting those goals.


Use technology to facilitate time off requests

Many affordable cloud-based technologies are easy to use. These tools allow you to automate timekeeping and PTO tracking. Your employees can formally request time off, get confirmation, and keep track of accruals through platforms like mobile apps. Since data is in one place, you can easily monitor all time-off requests and leave taken. As a result, you can easily make calculations to ensure all employees get their fair share.


Regularly remind employees to take time off

Research shows that employees take fewer days off in companies that offer unlimited PTO than those that provide traditional leave. What’s more, unlike traditional PTO, unlimited PTO is an ongoing perk. This means employees don’t receive a cash payout when they leave the company, no matter how much or how little leave they’ve taken. So, it’s important to remind your employees of your unlimited PTO policy regularly.

If you see some team members not taking enough time off, work closely to encourage them to take regular breaks so that they make the most of your vacation policy. Managers should monitor the use of this benefit. After all, time off improves well-being and makes employees more productive contributors to your organization.


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