- Unlimited PTO is when an organization provides its workers with unlimited time to take fully paid leave for whatever reason they desire.
- Navigating unlimited PTO in this new post-pandemic, remote and hybrid world of work can be challenging for employers.
- Allwork.Space spoke to Amy Zimmerman, Chief People Officer at Relay Payments, and Gilles Raymond, CEO/Founder of Letsmeet, in order to understand how best to handle unlimited PTO policies as a manager.
Unlimited paid time off (PTO) sounds like a dream for employees, but what is it really? This is generally defined as when an organization provides its workers with the option to PTO for whatever reason they desire — without providing a limit or specific number of days they are allowed to be out of office while receiving full pay.
But still, workers who get unlimited PTO are required to get all of their work done, which can leave workers at the mercy of their workloads, employers, and company culture.
While deciding when it’s acceptable to ask for time off as an employee might be tricky at times, navigating this type of paid time off in the new post-pandemic, remote and hybrid world of work can be extra challenging for employers.
In a future with unlimited PTO, how do managers decide who gets the first pick of days off? Should there be a formal system? This sort of thing can be complicated — particularly around the holidays.
Allwork.Space spoke to Amy Zimmerman, Chief People Officer at Relay Payments, and Gilles Raymond, CEO/Founder of Letsmeet, in order to understand how unlimited PTO should be handled.
Allwork.Space: Within companies with unlimited PTO, how do managers decide who gets the first pick of dates?
Amy Zimmerman: In general, managers should be as supportive and flexible as the business can afford them to be. However you determine who gets the first pick of dates (first come — first serve, tenure, performance, etc.) be sure to clearly communicate your methodology so everyone is clear on how your process works.
Managers typically run into issues with team members when there’s a perception of inequity. The best way to combat that is to be transparent about how you decided who to approve. And be consistent!
Gilles Raymond: Based on my experience, most of the time employees find an agreement by themselves about how to organize holidays. The manager has to guarantee that there is always an operational backup working for the best interest of the company.
Nevertheless, if priorities need to be given, it is the person who has the most demanding family environment that will have the priority. As an example, if you have kids, your summer holidays can only be taken during a certain period of time, you have therefore a priority vs. someone single. In the case there is some overlap, the manager will give a priority to one for one holiday, and to the other for the next one.
Allwork.Space: Should there be a formal system?
Amy Zimmerman: A formal system will take the pressure off of the manager and perceived biases in their decision making. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just formalized and leveraged consistently to be perceived as fair.
Gilles Raymond: Assuming the mindset is constructive, a formalization can be a lot of work for a tiny output for a few number of cases. On top, I believe empathy and human contribution is key on a subject that can be very sensitive.
Allwork.Space: Is having unlimited PTO beneficial for an organization?
Amy Zimmerman: I like having unlimited PTO. It empowers team members to use what they think is reasonable and relieves companies of having to worry about tracking time, potentially rolling it over, managing accruals, and payouts when people leave.
It also feels like a more “grown-up” approach. Of course, there’s potential that people will take advantage so you have to create guard rails and norms so team members understand what’s reasonable.
Gilles Raymond: I offered unlimited PTO in my last three companies; I have been offering PTO since 2007. It was a fascinating experience, and I continue to offer it for five main reasons:
- It makes the company more attractive to candidates
- It shows you trust employees to adjust PTO based on the work they have to do and their needs to take days off
- It reinforces the feeling of autonomy and freedom
- I was surprised to see less than 5% of the team were taking more holidays than what it was allowed by a regular PTO policy
- Those employees became a good, real example of the level of autonomy the company was given