Employees and employers both link time off directly to increased productivity and job satisfaction.
Conventional wisdom in Silicon Valley is that the more time spent working at a startup the greater chance you have at success. Recently, Marissa Meyer attributed the success of the early days of Google to employees’ willingness to work 130 hours per week with very little vacation. However, new data indicates the opposite may be true. It may seem counterintuitive to suggest that spending less time at your desk could make you more productive, but studies show productivity increases in people who take advantage of their Paid Time Off (PTO) options.
In a recent survey conducted by HR services provider TriNet, 96 percent of US employees surveyed said PTO is important to job satisfaction and productivity, with almost half (40 percent) saying adequate time off is absolutely essential. In other words, time away from the office is a vital factor in whether or not employees are happy in their positions and at work.
A similar study by Project Time Off found that 77 percent of HR managers agree that employees who take the most time off report the highest levels of productivity. Nearly 80 percent of HR managers agree that those same employees demonstrate higher levels of job satisfaction than those who do not take as much time off.
People feel they are prevented from taking the PTO time they need
A number of factors contribute to employees’ inability to take the time off that they need. TriNet’s study found that 70 percent of employees feel they are not given the time off necessary for their job satisfaction and to increase performance. While 30 percent reported being limited due to their workload, 20 percent stated their employer either did not offer them enough PTO to meet their needs or the company’s culture looked down on employees who took “too much” PTO.
But PTO is not just limited to vacations; most PTO packages include sick and personal days, which allow employees to take time off for obligations and medical necessities without losing pay. In fact, TriNet’s survey found that over 20 percent of respondents usually take time off for these reasons, compared to 36 percent of respondents who take time off specifically for pleasure. This means that one-fifth of employees feel unable to attend to their family and personal needs, both medical and otherwise, which could eventually force them to leave their current company in favor of an employer that provides them the flexibility to maintain the work-life balance they need.
Interestingly, TriNet’s survey also found a distinct link between employees’ salaries and how they use their PTO. According to the survey, people who take PTO for pleasure earn an average of $75,484, over $22,000 more than those who take PTO for personal obligations or medical emergencies. One possible explanation for this link could be that those with higher salaries have more disposable income to spend on vacations compared to those with lower salaries.
Employees on PTO don’t really unplug
But even when they are out of the office, employees tend to have a difficult time disconnecting. TriNet’s study found that at least 50 percent of employees continue to perform work duties at least once a day while on PTO, since employees can have email access at their fingertips 24/7.
On the other hand, constantly being “reachable” can diminish the positive effects of PTO, as it has the potential to raise expectations of accessibility and forces employees to continue to think about work when they are either trying to relax or attend to personal/family obligations.
Employers can lose talent due to poor PTO offerings
More importantly, for a considerable portion of workforce talent, not having adequate time off options could be a deal breaker. The TriNet survey found that nine out of 10 employees surveyed reported PTO as being a significant factor in helping them evaluate new positions. More than one-third of employees view PTO packages as essential in determining whether or not they will accept a position; meaning that if someone is debating between two positions and other factors are equal or comparable, PTO could be the deciding factor.
TriNet’s survey demonstrates key areas where employers have the opportunity to meet the needs of their employees. As it stands, employees continue to feel that PTO is critical to increasing job satisfaction and workplace productivity; yet a combination of work-related pressures and restrictions prevent the majority of employees from taking the time off that they need. If employers can adjust their PTO packages – and potentially their company culture – they might find that their employees are not only happier and more productive but also more likely to stay with the company.
Jackie Breslin is the director of human capital services for TriNet. She has over 20 years of experience in human resources and has consulted with thousands of small to medium-size companies. Jackie leads a team dedicated to assisting with compliance concerns, workplace investigations and challenging employee relations issues. She has experience implementing and managing HR programs to include policy development, learning and development plans, benefits, recruitment, employee retention and coaching.