4 Tips for Creating a Supportive PTO Culture

Leader and employee at a table discussing PTO request.

In today’s work environment, paid time off (PTO) is not simply a benefit—it’s necessary for maintaining a healthy and productive workforce. As a business leader, it is crucial to understand the significance of PTO and foster an environment where employees feel comfortable asking for it. Time off provides employees the necessary time to recharge and disconnect from work-related stress, and this break is essential for mental health, preventing burnout, and enhancing overall job satisfaction.

Employees returning from time off are often more productive, creative, and engaged. However, for employees to achieve this after-vacation productive buzz, they need to have felt supported in their decision to take a vacation in the first place. Things preventing employees from taking the necessary time to recharge could range from fear of asking for time off to feeling like they take more time than their peers and don’t want to place undue stress on their team.

In the post-COVID workplace, PTO is proving much different than in years past. Trends like unlimited PTO and “quiet vacationing” should make business leaders look closer at their PTO policies and how they can create a more supportive environment around time off. Below are our top 4 tips for fostering a work environment where employees are supported and encouraged to take their necessary time off.

  1. Clearly Define PTO Policies: Develop clear PTO policies that are easily accessible and understandable. Outline the process for requesting time off and ensure there are no penalties or negative repercussions for employees engaging with this part of their benefits package. For example, many companies are utilizing an “Unlimited PTO” model—which hasn’t been playing out as hoped. At face value, it makes sense that members of your workforce should be responsible enough to take time when they need it and ensure that their work is still being completed. The issue here is that every manager defines an acceptable amount of time off differently, and employees tend to take less time under “unlimited PTO” policies because of the ambiguity. Clearly defining time off and the parameters around how and when to take it creates an environment where employees are much more likely to take their time and feel comfortable doing so.
  2. Prioritize Employee Health and Well-being: Encourage a culture where taking time off is a normal and healthy practice. Leaders should lead by example, openly discussing how they utilize the PTO benefits and encouraging their employees to do the same. Beyond that, encouraging employees to take breaks at work and beyond also helps to reiterate your organization’s commitment to a healthy and rested workforce.
  3. Provide Regular Updates and Encouragement: HR should regularly update employees on their available PTO balance and encourage them to schedule time off throughout the year. This proactive approach helps employees plan their vacations and reduces the year-end rush to use up remaining days. This approach can also help employees remember to spread their days out so they don’t run out too soon.
  4. Management Support: Managers should actively support their team’s PTO requests. One trend previously mentioned was “Quiet Vacationing”, in which employees— remote staff in particular—do not request time off and simply work from their vacation destination. While this may work if there’s an agreement between leadership and that employee, this trend should raise eyebrows for those in leadership. Consider a few questions:
    • Are your employees afraid to ask off? 
    • Do they see you taking time off and prioritizing your mental health?
    • Do you encourage open and honest communication with all members of your team?


Moreover, PTO serves as a litmus test for the business. If an employee’s absence significantly disrupts the workflow, it indicates a need for better cross-training and work distribution. Ensuring operations run smoothly even when key team members are on vacation is a sign of a robust and resilient organization. 

Encouraging employees to take their full PTO and spread it throughout the year benefits them personally and helps to enhance the organization’s overall health. Empowering your workforce to take the time they need not only boosts morale but also strengthens your business

At Berger HR Solutions, we understand the critical role PTO plays in a thriving workplace. If your organization is struggling to create effective PTO policies or needs tips for creating a supportive environment for your employees to take full advantage of your PTO benefits reach out to us at info@bergerhrsolutions or (410) 695-9888 where we can help guide you. Berger HR Solutions is here to help.


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