Number of the Day: unlimited PTO

Despite forecasts of economic uncertainty and potential layoffs, employees are evidently still job hunting—leaving HR professionals challenged to figure out ways to hold onto their talent. From salary increases to enhanced flexibility, the employee value proposition is becoming a vital recruitment tool. And for some employers, PTO plans may be an important part of that equation.

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New research from Glassdoor found that unlimited PTO policies are becoming increasingly popular with employers and employees. Across the platform, the number of employee reviews that mention a company having unlimited PTO policies has exploded—by 75% since 2019. And it’s resonating with employees: 88% of those reviews count unlimited PTO as a pro for working at the organization. What’s more, companies whose benefits policies include unlimited PTO earned a 4.55 out of 5 average rating from employees, compared to 4.12 at organizations without such policies.

Those findings are bolstered by a recent report from software firm isolved, which found that, when it comes to the benefits motivating today’s job candidates, unlimited PTO ranked third among the most unique offerings, following a four-day workweek and 401(k) matching plan.

What it means to HR leaders

Richard Johnson, Glassdoor senior economist, says the rising interest in unlimited PTO reflects a reality that today’s HR leaders are well-acquainted with: Employees want flexibility.

“With burnout and work-related stress high in recent years, employers can help address these concerns by offering more flexible PTO policies,” Johnson says. “Employers who don’t ask employees what they want risk losing out on top talent to companies that prioritize their employees’ needs.”

And employees are clearly needing support with work/life balance. Fishbowl by Glassdoor, a professional social-networking platform, recently found that 54% of employees surveyed said they can’t unplug from work when they’re on PTO. That’s something HR leaders who are considering rolling out an unlimited PTO policy should recognize, Johnson says.

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Given that employees are struggling with unplugging, leaders should pair an unlimited PTO policy with efforts to help employees create healthy boundaries: using out-of-office messages and deleting or muting collaboration platforms while out, for instance, Johnson says. And, HR should work with managers to ensure the workloads of employees out on PTO are being handled.

“A successful unlimited PTO plan should include encouragement from employers to take time off as a way to proactively rest and recharge before employees are burnt out,” Johnson says.

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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected].