HRE’s number of the day: time off in the COVID-era

Requests for taking time off have dropped significantly since COVID-19 began, according to Namely data.
By: | June 26, 2020 • 2 min read

20: Percentage that employee time off requests dropped from April this year compared to last year

Fewer employees are requesting time off as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to data from HR software company Namely. Time off started to decline in March (27% of employees requested time off in March 2020, versus 36% in March 2019), but it dropped significantly more the next month. In April 2020, employees requesting paid time off plunged to 18% on average, versus 38% during the same month in 2019. By May 2020, as restrictions started to lift, PTO requests were on the rise, but still significantly lower than the previous year (24% of employees requested time off, compared to 38% of employees in May 2019), according to data collected from Namely’s time and attendance management tool.


What it means to HR leaders

Among the many aspects of work and life that COVID-19 is impacting is paid time off. Employees are less likely to take time off in the current environment as vacation plans are disrupted and as many employees are primarily staying housebound. But managers—and HR leaders—may be wise to push employees to take time off, especially as employees struggle with managing their time and deal with unprecedented amounts of stress during today’s uncertain environment. Employees who take a break are often more engaged and productive in the workplace.

“While it might feel like taking paid time off doesn’t make sense right now, unplugging during the summer months can help employees manage the burnout of these pandemic times,” says Madeline Laurano, industry analyst and founder of Aptitude Research. “In fact, it can actually result in improved productivity and employee engagement.”

Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver. She can be reached at

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