This Is How Unlimited Time Off Could Increase Productivity

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What’s the craziest call out excuse you’ve ever heard? According to CareerBuilder’s latest study on the craziest work excuses heard by 2,500 hiring and human resources managers, organizations have received some pretty bizarre — and possibly desperate — stories from employees. From the ozone flattening a tire to being bit by a duck, it’s apparent some staff members will go to extreme lengths to get time off work.

While this study presents humorous findings, employers should be asking themselves a major question: why do employees feel the need to lie or exaggerate about why they can’t come to work? Or, possibly worse, why do 47 percent feel the need to show up when they’re truly sick?

Feeling like they need to hoard certain days off, or not wanting to categorize t

he time they’re taking as sick or personal could be pushing employees to use these crazy excuses. Here’s how you can help your team feel confident in taking time off — without worrying about having to admit they just ate too much birthday cake the night before:

Changing the way you look at paid time off

A few years ago, the idea of unlimited time off seemed crazy, but many companies are making it work for their employees. Even though 96 percent of employees understand taking a break from work is important, 41 percent still do not plan on using their hard-earned vacation days, according to Project Time-Off’s June 2014 report of 1,303 American workers, Overwhelmed America: Why Don’t We Use Our Paid Time Off?

Company leaders know all too well that taking days off is crucial for employees’ mental health and productivity at the office. So, could unlimited time off be the step your company needs to take to encourage these rejuvenating breaks?

Pros of unlimited paid time off

Eliminating tracked days off can help reduce the amount of off-the-wall work excuses you’re receiving. Employees who don’t feel like they need to hold on to their vacation days in case of emergencies, may feel more at ease when it comes to taking a day here and there.

Reducing the pressure of the traditional approach to taking days off will help your team focus on tasks completed, rather than hours worked. This will enhance employee motivation, productivity, and happiness. Since there’s no computer generated tracking system needed in an unlimited days off system, the communication bond between employer and employee may actually tighten as well.

Tip #1: Cross-train and track tasks better

Your employees are experts at their jobs, but that doesn’t mean they can’t take a day off every now and then. But do they know that? The previously mentioned Project Time Off survey found 40 percent of employees leave vacation unused because they’re afraid of returning to a mountain of work no one else could do.

Your employees may need a day just to refresh their minds, but their fear of piled-high work is holding them back. Cross-training is a great way of not only making the office more efficient, but also alleviating the pressure to be on all the time. Make it clear that when someone is out of the office, that work should not be crossing their desk.

The high number of employees who are afraid to take off, but also need a breather could be burning out your organization. Sometimes employees put so much pressure on themselves that they feel every project or task, is urgent. Put due dates on projects to make it clear when they actually need completed. Try having employees set checkpoints for an ongoing task to reduce stressful feelings of urgency and encourage them to take off when they need to.

Tip #2: Make time off more visible and accessible

Even if employees have an unlimited number of days to take, it’s still crucial to keep track of who’s taking off. Project Time Off says, 70 percent of workers said if their boss helped manage workloads during their time off, they’d be more likely to use more of it. However, allowing too many employees to take off at once will create an unwanted overflow of work.

Create a shared calendar to keep track of who in the office is off and when. This helps employees make informed and confident decisions on when they can take time away based on knowing which co-workers will be able to cover for them.

It also encourages employees to get their time in before the calendar fills up. Seeing that everyone else is taking time away is reassuring for employees who hesitate to request time off. Employees can spend less time stressing about the workload and burden on themselves or the team, and more time relaxing.  

Tip #3: Make it clear: time off means no working

Thanks to smartphones, employees feel they need to be connected and ready for work at a moment’s notice. This constant need to be “on” is harmful to mental health and productivity. In fact, 16 percent of employees said that while they have called in sick in the last year, they’ve had to work from home for at least part of the day, if not the whole day, even while ill, according to Project Time Off.

Encourage employees to disconnect when using PTO. Using time off to fully re-energize will help staff members come back to work feeling refreshed and motivated. Team your employees up with co-workers to help cover for each other. When calling off, everyone can rest assured their work will get done because their “teammate” understands how to handle their specific daily duties.

Your employees work hard for your business. For the sake of everyone’s sanity, it’s crucial they not only take days off, but that they stay away from office tasks while away. Unlimited time off doesn’t mean an unruly system, but rather is way for employees to feel safe to step away and unwind.

What tips do you have to encourage employees to take days off? Let us know in the comments below!

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