Paid Time Off (PTO) is an important benefit that companies and businesses offer for employees but how can you make this incentive work for your firm as well?
PTO as part of the benefit plan has become a crucial part of incentive and hiring practices for firms. But according to a Harvard Business School study, employees are not using the benefit. The study conducted indicated that use of PTO declined by 5% in ten years. This means employees are losing time they have earned and are more overworked (and burned out) than ever.
In the legal profession time is money. Solo and small firms are especially busy with a few people managing all the many responsibilities of the firm from serving clients, managing office process (and emergencies!), as well as duties such as Chief Rainmaker to Chief Coffeemaker.
Here are some ideas to consider concerning your PTO policy to keep everyone healthy and happy.
Flex time: Flex Time is a great option for employees who may have to be out of the office for up to three hours in a week and but does not require taking a full day of PTO. This fits the situation where a doctor’s appointment might take 90-minutes. Grumpy supervisors may not like the extended lunch hour, but calling out employees can decrease office morale or make employees feel under-appreciated.
Instead, allowing your employee to flex that time over the course of the week with a shorter lunch or staying late, allows employees some flexibility while still getting their work done.
Accrual: Many firms have some sort of accrual policy that requires employees to accrue their time before taking it. But that concept does not always work especially, when it comes to major illnesses such as we’ve seen with Covid or trying to plan a vacation.
Allowing employees to use some measure of unaccrued time is another way to show flexibility. Tracking time is important, along with a policy for payback if the employee leaves before the accrued time is paid back. But the benefit to employees and therefore to the firm is worth the effort.
Floating Holiday: A floating holiday is a benefit that allows your employees to take time that is especially meaningful to them.
Examples would include taking a holiday on your birthday or during your birth month, as well as using the floating holiday for religious or personal reasons such as Juneteenth.
The most difficult part of flexible policies, especially for smaller firms, is providing coverage for clients and cases.
Some best practices include:
- have clear policies but leave some wiggle room to change for circumstances
- communicate with your employees about time off about expectations and scheduling
- encourage your employees to use their PTO benefits
Perhaps the most important policy is to make sure your employees actually take their time off. Studies show that employees who take time off from work come back refreshed and energized. This Harvard Business Review article says the new approach to managing vacation is to offer recurring, scheduled, mandatory vacation.
The Harvard Business Review collaborated with SimpliFlying, an aviation company with 10 employees to ask a question, “what if we force people to take a scheduled week off every seven weeks”?
The company measured the results using a five-point Likert scale and here’s what they found:
- creativity increased 33%
- happiness levels increased 25%
- productivity increased 13%
The legal profession is demanding. Recruiting and retaining good talent is harder than ever. Use effective PTO policies to ensure your employees are healthy and happy, and more likely to stick around.
About The Author
Jessica Riley is a graduate of the Meredith College Paralegal Program and a Marketing Assistant with Lawyers Mutual Consulting & Services.