Study: 37% of Workers Don’t Use Up All of Their PTO

26 Jul Study: 37% of Workers Don’t Use Up All of Their PTO

By: Jennifer Carsen for HR Dive, Photo by chen zo on Unsplash

Dive Brief:

  • Paid time off can make an attractive retention tool, but it’s being underutilized, according to a study conducted by WorldatWork with underwriting support from PTO Exchange.
  • A sizable percentage (37%) of employees do not use all of their PTO each year. Some employers have discovered a way to prevent this, however. Employers that established PTO guidelines were able to promote usage of PTO benefits, the study found. Organizations with “use it or lose it” policies, for example, had only 19% of employees lose paid time off, WorldatWork said.
  • Survey respondents reported that most employees need not wait to take time off after starting a new job. Fifty-two percent of surveyed organizations said they allow immediate use of vacation time benefits, while 63% of organizations allow for immediate use of pooled vacation, sick and personal time. Additionally, a quarter of employers said their employees can redirect unused paid time off to colleagues who need it (20%). Others let workers put the cash-value of unused time off to their 401(k) (2%) or convert time to a donation to a not-for-profit organization (2%).

Dive Insight:

PTO is a great perk, but employees can’t reap the benefits if they don’t actually take, and fully utilize, that time off. Almost half of all workers reported feeling burned out at work in a recent Comparably report, with many feeling like they need to keep working even when they’re on vacation. Women were generally more likely than men to feel burned out, and workers with three to six years on the job felt the most burned out of all.

Other studies have concluded that many workers fail to take even a full week of vacation and have difficulty truly unplugging from the office while they’re out. But even one solid week away can bolster engagement, loyalty and a sense of belonging at work, according to an O.C. Tanner survey.

Managers are crucial to help ensure that employees both take their allotted vacation time and use it effectively. Experts previously told HR Dive that it’s crucial to have a vacation policy and a fair approval schedule. It’s also critical to plan ahead for work coverage and for leaders to model good time-off practices, they said. Managers themselves should refrain from checking in when they’re on vacation, both to demonstrate trust in their absence and to encourage employees to truly leave work behind when they’re out.


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