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Working Remotely vs Unlimited PTO: Two Ways of Creating More Engaged Employees

With the appearance of COVID-19, businesses have had to become even more nimble than before. Many businesses shifted employees from the office to working remotely, which has come to mean, working-from-anywhere. Companies that offered this shift in arrangements are now faced with a decision of bringing employees back to the office or changing strategies completely. In lieu of a full in-office work environment, the tough decision is determining which alternate strategy should be considered. Let’s begin by looking at two of the many options, Paid Time Off (PTO) and Remote Work arrangement. Is there a difference in employee engagement when a company offers remote working options vs. unlimited PTO?

Why Offer Unlimited PTO?

Unlimited PTO is a new perk that more and more employers are starting to offer. It’s a benefit that is wildly attractive to prospective recruits who crave more flexibility. Let’s look at some pros and cons for employees and employers alike.

Pros of Unlimited Personal Time Off

  • Employees no longer have to choose between vacation time and time off for appointments or family time.
  • Employers no longer have to pay for unused PTO annually or when an employee leaves.
  • Employees no longer feel they have to come into the office sick to avoid using their sick days.
  • Management and HR no longer have to keep track of time off requests and reconciliation, freeing up their time for other priorities.
  • Employees feel a perception of more trust and collaboration with leadership.
  • Employers have found that employees do not take off more time than they would have under the old PTO model. Performance is measured by reaching set goals, so they understand what is require and/or expected.

Cons of Unlimited Personal Time Off

  • Studies have shown that on average, employees who have unlimited vacation time end up taking less time off than those with a set amount of vacation days. Competitive work cultures tend to see employees prove loyalty by taking fewer days off, which can lead to burnout.
  • Employers run the risk of having too many people out at once if they don’t establish guidelines for how requests are handled.
  • Employees can no longer be rewarded for good work with additional days off.
  • Employers can no longer terminate low-performing workers for abusing PTO.

If unlimited time off is something your workplace is considering, clear requirements should be communicated and enforced. While the assumption might be that employees will take off too much time, the trend has actually been the opposite. Taking care to ensure that employees are taking enough time off for vacation time, wellbeing, and family time is crucial to avoiding burnout.

Why Offer Remote Working Arrangements?

Whether workplaces offer 100-percent remote work arrangements or allow workers to do it periodically, working from anywhere is another benefit that offers flexibility, and is very popular with employees. Let’s look at some upsides and downsides to this benefit.

Pros of Working Remotely

  • Employers save money on overhead costs, such as internet fees, office equipment, electricity, and snacks.
  • Employees save on commuting costs, as well as wear and tear on their vehicles.
  • Employers see less employee turnover and higher job satisfaction, which saves money on recruitment, hiring, and training for new staff.
  • Employees tend to have higher morale, which can result in a higher quality of work.
  • Employers report higher productivity because there are fewer in-office interruptions.
  • Employees find a better work-life balance, and more quality time spent with family and friends.
  • Less exposure to coworkers can mean less sick time taken for everyone!

Cons of Working Remotely

  • Employers may find that some don’t adapt to working from anywhere well, and have lower productivity.
  • Employees have to pay for some office equipment, as well as utilities such as internet and power.
  • Employers are unable to see work being done, so setting and enforcing performance goals is essential.
  • Collaboration and camaraderie can prove to be challenging when there is little-to-no face time.

Again, these challenges can be met with very clear requirements for production goals, and enforcing these guidelines when they are not met.

Which Offers Better Engagement?

While each option comes with its pros and cons, remote work offers more flexibility, better job satisfaction, and higher productivity when compared to offering unlimited vacation time. Although unlimited PTO certainly has its perks, it can potentially lead to more employee burnout when they’re not taking advantage of the time available to them. Because reports point to longer retention and satisfaction for remote or semi-remote employees, their engagement is likely to be higher and more meaningful.

At Culture Innovations, our purpose is to discuss solutions that fuel thriving workplace cultures. We go beyond the basic benefits packages, and look at ideas that inspire a healthy organization from the top down. When you partner with us, we’ll help your organization inspire growth, leadership, and a healthy workplace.

Ready to level up your workplace culture? Whether you need to focus on workplace well-being, individual or team coaching, or creating a thriving workplace, Culture Organizations can help! Contact us now to learn about how we can create a positive future for you.

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Nancy Benthien & Jill Knocke

Nancy Benthien & Jill Knocke

We are a transformative force for leaders who are committed to creating and sustaining healthy, successful organizational culture.

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