May 1, 2024

Unpacking PTO: How Taking Time Off Can Boost Your Worth and Workforce


Episode Highlights

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Welcome to this week’s Hirewell Update! This episode, we’re unpacking a crucial but often overlooked component of your compensation: Paid Time Off (PTO). Ever wonder why you should actually use your PTO? It’s not just a perk—it’s a part of your rightful earnings. Emily and Ryan delve into why so many of us leave these valuable days on the table, despite the benefits of full-on disconnecting.

Get ready for a candid look at how both employees and companies can shift their mindset and policies to make taking time off less of a guilt trip and more of a celebrated necessity. We’ll share how fostering a culture that champions PTO can drive productivity, enhance job satisfaction, and can actually be fun.

With actionable insights and a touch of humor (because who said HR topics had to be snooze-worthy?), this episode is packed with everything you need to start viewing your PTO as a vital part of your professional toolkit.

Episode Transcript

We’ve got a hot take this week. And the hot take is if you’re not using all of your PTO and sick days, then you’re being underpaid. I was doing scrolling the other night on TikTok per usual as I was in bed.Yeah. And I stumbled upon this creator. The creator’s name is Emily, the recruiter. It’s not you for anyone watching. Not on TikTok. Nope. But she posted a video stating that hot take. If you aren’t taking your sick days, vacation days, you know any PTO, then you’re being underpaid.

And the reason why that is, is that they’re part of your package. Okay. This is interesting. Can you just explain that a little bit? So like, why is it that she’s saying you’re being underpaid, literally, if you’re not using your PTO or your sick days? Just give us a little more detail there.

Totally. Well, PTO, it’s part of your total compensation package. And you should be thinking of PTO the same as your salary, as your health benefits, your retirement package, all of the things that encompass and comprise that total package. PTO literally stands for paid time off. So you’re being paid to take time off to go on vacation, to be sick, whatever.

It’s part of what you’re being paid to do. Totally makes sense. Like literally think of it, like you said, like as your salary, like it is part of the whole package. So I know we were kind of in preparation for the show. We saw. An article by Forbes and it stated people are actually, these days, receiving more PTO from their companies.

So I think the statistic was something like PTO is up by like, almost 10% since 2019. But, there’s always a but, right? People are using less of it. So I think the article mentioned like 55% of PTO went unused. Wild. In like 2022 or, you know, past couple of years. So pretty recent.

I think that’s really, really interesting. And maybe we’ll get into it a little bit later, like, we’re on unlimited PTO at Hirewell. But, 55% of PTO unused. That’s wild to me. Like, why do you think people are leaving that much PTO on the table? I mean, I think we’ve created this culture, especially here in the US where we’re all burnt out.

Right. And I think like the adjustment is that working harder is sort of the achievement. People are praised for working harder for not taking time off. That all couples into like that cycle and culture of burnout. I agree with you. I like that you said it’s in the US too, because we have clients like international clients. I’m even thinking of one in particular that’s based out of the Netherlands. And I specifically remember her saying like, that’s kind of, I’m not saying it’s just a US thing, but maybe a little bit more US thing that we. We almost like reward people burning out and like doing too much, like working extra, and the extra hours and like not taking days off.

It’s almost like it’s like when they’re sick, Em. Sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m like, okay, bye. Just like log off. Bye. See you later. I feel like it’s kind of good too, to kind of just like dive into other reasons that people just do not take their PTO. Like we said, like 55% of PTO left on the table. I can kind of kick us off with like one of my thoughts is just like the guilt of it.

Totally. Right? I think this article mentioned to like 24, 25% of people in a survey revealed. They just don’t even feel like comfortable asking. I mean, that part, I don’t relate to as much cause I’d ask my manager, you know, great relationship with my manager. Totally. But yeah, I feel like one reason is just like the overall guilt, just like, “Ooh, I don’t want them to think less of me.” Or like, whatever it is.

Yeah, completely. I think a lot of people may feel that way. And I think, you know, a lot of the things we’ll talk about really cycle back and contribute to that culture of burnout where, you know, the achievement’s working harder. Another thing that comes to mind and something that was also referenced in this article we’re discussing is like the confidence around using PTO and there’s like a very evident gender discrepancy with that too.

The study that you just mentioned revealed that women are 19% less comfortable taking their PTO than men. So there might be like, you know, some pieces in there that we have to dig into a little bit deeper to kind of understand things from that gender perspective and what leads to that. That’s really interesting.

Actually, would not have predicted that at all. This next one, I would predict because this one I do feel like is oftentimes me like full transparency, like fear of falling behind. I think 100% that has to be a big thing for a lot of people. Just fearing that the amount of work that you’re going to have to catch up on when you get back from your PTO, it almost makes it not worth taking the time in the 1st place. Completely. To add a little bit more to that too, I think it’s also dependent on like the type of role someone has. For example, I’ve learned a production role is very similar to sales positions where, you know, your total compensation is paid out, based on the work that you’re doing and what you’re accomplishing.

And so that’s also something that I think a lot of people in those heavily production based roles consider in terms of taking time off and not. And then the final thing that I think a lot of people are considering, too, and Em you’re, again, like the perfect example of this today, hybrid or remote work environments. Like you’re sick, Em. And maybe if we were in the office, you would have taken the day off. But you’re home and you feel okay enough to work today and you’re not getting anyone else sick. So you’re like, you know what, why take the day? I can power through. Yeah. I think there is like pros and cons to that. Right. Like today’s a day where I’m like, I’m not feeling like 100%, but I’m totally fine.

You know what I mean? Also not one to like relish being sick. So I’m like the hybrid work environment I’m like, it’s fine. Like, I don’t need to take a day, but I think that’s a good point. Cause I do think, especially post pandemic, I think people are super sensitive about like, you know, someone coughs and everyone’s like, “Oh my god, what are you doing here?” That if we were in the office, I think I would think differently about it to be honest. I’m sure you would. Yeah. How could you not? Yeah.

We’re an advisory, how many times, like, do I say that weekly? We like to act as consultants to our clients and like, always kind of like to come back, tie it all in with some advice. If you’re a company watching this, like what can companies do to combat this idea that people aren’t using PTO and kind of create a culture where taking PTO is not just acceptable, but like actually like encouraged by companies. I love this question because I think with the things we just mentioned previously, it could be very easy to be like, well, this is an employee problem.

This is an employee issue or like why don’t they feel comfortable? Like, why aren’t they doing X, Y, and Z? It starts first with your culture and how you’re setting things up internally. And that’s like where employees are going to feel empowered to make these decisions, to take advantage of their total package. So I think first and foremost, dropping the guilt. Like making sure that employees realize and know and are supported that if they’re taking their time off, that’s a good thing. It’s nothing to feel bad about. That they need to think about utilizing their PTO, the same as utilizing their healthcare benefits or, you know, the company contributing to retirement plans and things like that. So it’s really about changing the culture, the language and how an organization internally is talking about it, to start.

Yeah. I think in terms of culture too. Like companies should be creating a more collaborative culture where teams are covered, like it’s automatic. Like and I think we’re great at this, I think, you know, I know our team’s wonderful at it, like creating a culture where it’s really obvious that people are just automatically covering for others when they’re out so that when somebody comes back from a few days of PTO, they don’t really feel like they’re drinking from a fire hose because, you know, their team had them covered the past few days. It’s not like the work wasn’t happening while they were out, you know. Exactly. I totally agree with that. You mentioned earlier, we have unlimited PTO here at Hirewell and I know some folks are probably listening to this segment and they’re thinking, well, I have unlimited PTO.

Like, how does any of this relate to me? How do I qualify how much time off I actually have and what that equates to? I think if you’re an organization like Hirewell that offers unlimited pto you have to set a minimum for you know how much time off employees should be taking annually, but that’s not just tied to organizations that are offering unlimited PTO.

I think it’s best for every organization to do that. For example, if you’re offering two weeks of paid time off a week annually is the bare minimum, that’s all we have to take. I love that idea. I think, I mean, I’m even thinking like mentally, that would be good for me. Like you said, we have unlimited PTO, but like forcing ourselves to be like, you know, even you have to take at least two, three weeks, whatever it is.

I think that’s what we were on before, right? Was like three weeks, PTO. So I think that’s a great point. I’m thinking of you now, you recently congratulations won like an internal competition that we had, where the prize was actually a travel voucher. So I think it’s really, really smart, something that Hirewell just did, that I think companies can get really creative and doing is creating programs that encourage people to take time off. Like-

Completely. The situation where literally the prize was go travel. Like, we want you to. Good move Hirewell. Good idea of creating some programs or some sort of incentive.

I totally agree. I mean, again, it all goes back to like creating that culture, right. And yeah, making sure that employees know it’s not only okay to take time off, it’s necessary, it’s a good thing. I mean, through everything that we’ve chatted about today, I think the summary is that PTO is just incredibly valuable and data shows that by taking time off, it can significantly reduce stress and it actually increases your employee productivity by like, something like 80%, as well. Like it’s not only great for your mental health, for the time off that you need, but it’s also really, really good for companies and their bottom lines and what employees can contribute. I think that’s wild. Leading to like 80% increased productivity.

If you listen to nothing else today, like listen to that. We just said like, there’s such a culture of like burnout of like, that we’re being rewarded for working so hard and like working extra hours and all this stuff when like, in reality, how are you productive when you’re that burnt out? You’re not. You can’t be. You’re not. So just thinking about taking the time that you need in order to be able to give it your all.

That’s a wrap for this week’s episode of the Hirewell Update. Thank you all so, so much for joining us. As a reminder, you can find all of our content at or if you’d like to learn more about Hirewell and our service offerings, check out our website. It’s Have a great week.

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