Over the past few years, the dynamics around how we think about employee benefits have taken a tonal shift and undergone a massive restructuring. Companies had already begun offering their employees even greater remote work options with flexibility, and with better perks and incentives that allow them to attract and retain top-tier talent.
Then, a once-in-a-century global pandemic hit and further spotlighted this trend, likely changing the corporate landscape for good.
Businesses and organizations have yet to fully realize how things will shape up post-COVID, and they continue to grapple with numerous challenges related to the rise of remote work. This includes maintaining a strong company culture and talent recruitment strategy under current circumstances. Companies also need to worry more about employee mental health and burnout from overwork. Recent studies show that people aren’t taking nearly enough time off, with 44% of U.S. employees indicating they used zero paid time off (PTO) days last summer.
Within this new work environment, the power dynamics have clearly shifted, and employees have much more leverage over their employers than ever before. For businesses to effectively source new hires and “sell” people on joining the company, they must place greater emphasis on forward-thinking strategies to entice talent with attractive compensation packages, wellness benefits, and innovative ways of looking at PTO policies.
Employee values are shifting fast
The new dynamics around work are likely here to stay, with a large majority of companies saying they will pivot to an office and remote work hybrid model in the future. Yet, remote work has also made it harder for employees to set boundaries between work and personal life. This has resulted in people feeling that they should be working even when they’re “off” work and feeling guilty when they seek time off from work, even if it’s just for a few hours here and there. This shift is forcing organizations to realize that in order to stay competitive with hiring and retaining talent, they need to create PTO policies that cater to these new, modern circumstances.
Companies that wish to retain talent should always be seeking out ways to reduce burnout, which can lead to lower productivity and higher employee turnover. One strategy they’ve embraced is encouraging — or in some cases, greatly incentivizing employees to take a vacation. To create a more levelled playing field that benefits both employers and employees, companies and their HR and Finance departments must look for creative and novel ways to ensure productivity and wellness to change the norms within the work environment and reverse this cultural hesitance to take time off.
How the employer-employee relationship continues to evolve
A company’s attitude and policies towards PTO can have a direct impact on recruiting, job performance, and the bottom line. With so many workers not utilizing all their paid vacation days, this not only perpetuates employee fatigue but can also create financial challenges for a business. Many tech companies like LinkedIn and Bumble are now starting to actively change the narrative around PTO as vital to mental health. More companies should be looking for new ways to encourage employees to shut down a bit more and focus on themselves.
While unlimited PTO is becoming more of a desired perk, it does have its drawbacks, and businesses shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that unlimited PTO will solve all their employee wellness problems. If a company truly wants to execute a vacation policy that empowers employees to take the time they need to reset and recharge to avoid burnout, they should consider a fundamental culture change, supported by implementing innovative tools which actively nudge and incentivize taking time off.
As things begin to settle post-pandemic, organizations should rethink their wellness plans and look to drive strategies that can help them become more intuitive about their workers’ preferences. Businesses need to change the conversations around PTO and begin implementing new technologies that can help them benefit financially and foster a culture that prioritizes employee happiness.
Written by Veetahl Eilat-Raichel, CEO, and co-founder of Sorbet.