Is a stigma around time off making your workplace stagnant? This article explains how to create a PTO-positive culture with clear communication strategies and effective tools.

Ever feel like everyone around you is glued to their workstation, even when they have a stack of unused vacation days mocking them from their calendar? Research suggests this isn’t an isolated issue.

According to Pew, nearly half of U.S. workers use little of their paid time off (PTO). While some folks might swear by the hustle mentality, many skip vacations due to worries about workload and negative perceptions from colleagues or managers. Fear of falling behind, overburdening teammates, or hurting their career advancement are all too common concerns, but it shouldn’t be this way.

Every organization should want its employees to use all of their available leave. In fact, it’s in the employer’s best interests and in companies where PTO is being left on the table, improving internal communications around the subject will be good for the many.

Why PTO benefits everyone

Employee happiness is by the far the most important reward that PTO can deliver, but there are other upsides. When employees take advantage of their paid time off, it benefits both the individual and the company. Here’s why:

  • Reduced burnout and absenteeism: Recharged employees are less likely to experience burnout, leading to increased focus, productivity, and overall wellbeing. This not only translates to fewer unplanned absences and a more reliable workforce, but it makes teams healthier because burnout or absence isn’t resulting in increased workloads for the wider team picking up the slack.
  • Enhanced creativity and problem-solving: Stepping away from work allows employees to return with fresh perspectives and renewed energy which can lead to more innovative solutions and improved decision-making. What’s more, just getting away from the everyday grind can lead to game-changing employee ideas. If a DNA breakthrough can be spontaneously devised during a weekend cabin trip, who knows what innovations employees could dream up for your business when they disconnect from their work environment.
  • Improved employee retention and morale: A strong PTO policy demonstrates that you value your employees’ wellbeing, translating to a happier, more motivated workforce. Plus, it can help you attract top talent and keep people around for longer.

14 steps to great internal communications

Download this handy eBook and discover practical tools and tips to maximize engagement and impact business performance through internal comms.

How can internal communications support a PTO-friendly culture?

Internal communications play a crucial role in supporting a PTO-friendly workplace. Communicating with managers and employees regularly about time off and work-life balance will help to ensure that your organizational culture values harmony in employees’ personal and professional lives and encourages everyone in the workforce to take those well-earned breaks.

There are several ways to achieve this. Let’s take a look:

Clear PTO policies and procedures

Transparency is key. Ensure that PTO policies are easily accessible and clearly communicated to all employees using multiple channels such as the company intranet, employee handbooks, and regular email updates.

You should also create and share guidelines providing detailed information on how to request PTO, the approval process, and any blackout periods or limitations.

Champion time off

Encourage leaders and managers to take PTO and share their experiences, setting a positive example for employees. It’s important to ensure that they are also encouraging and supportive of their direct reports taking time off, otherwise there is a serious risk of things looking more than little one-sided with leaders seemingly gloating about using their PTO while not enabling others to do so.

Reminders about the importance of taking time off should be circulated regularly. Consider different messaging strands for leaders/mangers and the rest of the workforce. For employees the emphasis should be on maintain their work-life balance and wellbeing. For leaders and managers, the same messaging should be supplemented by a reminder that encouraging time off in their teams will support productivity.

Streamline PTO requests and approvals

To help employees understand that encouraging them to take time off is more than lip service, make sure you have an easy-to-use system for requesting and tracking PTO. By integrating your HR platform or PTO booking system with your company intranet and allowing a seamless navigation from your intranet homepage, you can reduce the administrative burden for both employees and managers.

Ensuring that managers respond promptly to PTO requests will help employees plan their time off effectively and remove any anxieties around booking leave and then having to chase for approval. This may require additional comms to managers to help them understand how to approve requests and track booked time off across their teams, ensuring that they can plan for coverage and ensure project timelines and deliverables are not adversely affected.

14 steps to great internal communications

Download this handy eBook and discover practical tools and tips to maximize engagement and impact business performance through internal comms.

Smash the PTO stigma

We all know that awkward feeling when you schedule time off, like you’re letting the team down. But here’s the thing: internal communications can play a huge role in normalizing PTO. By regularly communicating that taking PTO is a normal and expected part of employment, and that it is beneficial for both the individual and the organization,

you can create a culture where recharging is seen as a strength, not a weakness.

Allowing employees to voice concerns and suggestions without fear of reprisal will help to stabilise a PTO-friendly culture based on their feedback. By setting up anonymous surveys and actively encouraging participation, you can identify areas for improvement and foster a sense of employee ownership over the PTO program.

Incentivize employees to take PTO

In recent years a number of employers have tested creative approaches to encouraging time off, including the likes of Expedia and Calendly who contribute financially to employees’ vacations.

Internal communications can be a powerful tool to promote any bonus or incentive programs tied to using PTO. Showcase success stories of teams and individuals who have benefited from these programs, and emphasize the win-win situation: recharged employees and a thriving business.

Provide useful resources

Internal communications can help employees understand the connection between taking time off and managing stress by providing relevant resources. Consider developing a repository of tools and content on your company intranet, like calendar templates, tips on disconnecting from work, and mental health resources that emphasize the connection between PTO and mental wellbeing.

Monitor and improve your approach to PTO

Internal communications can ensure everyone’s on the same page when it comes to PTO. Clearly communicate any changes or updates to the policy, keeping employees informed about new benefits or streamlined processes, and use feedback from regular surveys to continuously improve the program.

Must-have internal communication tools for PTO

A professional woman using a laptop to communicate PTO in a plush office.

The right tools can make all the difference when it comes to fostering a PTO-friendly culture. Here are some communication must-haves to encourage and empower everyone in your organization to use those vacation days:

Centralized PTO hub

A modern intranet can be your organization’s one-stop shop for all things PTO. Consider creating a dedicated PTO area that is easily findable and accessible from the navigation menu. This should be a repository for PTO-related policies, FAQs, and booking information. No more time wasted hunting for the latest guidelines.

Multichannel communications

Use multichannel messaging to reach every employee with your PTO comms, regardless of their role or work style. From your intranet homepage to employee app notifications, email, SMS, digital signage, and channels on platforms like Teams and Slack, a centralized intranet CMS will ensure your organization’s positive approach to CTO is universally recognized.

Email newsletters

Regular reminders within your employee email newsletter can help people stay on top of their PTO usage. But go beyond just basic reminders and include work-life balance tips and success stories to encourage employees to truly disconnect and recharge.

Digital signage

Don’t forget about your deskless workforce! Digital signage in common areas can be a great way to showcase PTO reminders and company updates for employees who might not always be glued to their inbox.

14 steps to great internal communications

Download this handy eBook and discover practical tools and tips to maximize engagement and impact business performance through internal comms.

Booking system integrations

Streamline the PTO process by integrating your intranet with your HRIS or PTO booking system. This makes it a breeze for employees to check their balances, request time off, and stay informed – all from one central location.

Respecting boundaries (and laws)

Some states mandate that employees should not receive workplace communications outside of their working hours. Geofencing can be a valuable tool within your intranet to ensure employees are truly disconnecting during their time off by blocking them from receiving any internal communications when they’re away from the physical premises.

Mobile intranet access

Mobile access to your intranet allows workers to access resources or stay up to date if they need or want to while they’re off (if local laws allow it). If your modern intranet supports third-party integrations and single sign-on, employees can access their PTO booking system to check what date they’re due back in the office (something I’m certainly guilty of forgetting).

Socially celebrating work-life balance

Foster a culture of PTO pride by incorporating social media functionality into your intranet. This allows employees to share photos and updates from their time off, inspiring others to plan their own well-deserved breaks.

Final thought: PTO isn’t a perk, it’s a necessity

By implementing these communication strategies and leveraging the right tools, you can create a PTO-positive environment where employees feel supported and empowered to take advantage of their paid time off. Remember, a happy and well-rested workforce is a productive workforce – so prioritize clear communication, embrace flexibility, and watch your company culture flourish.

14 steps to great internal communications

Download this handy eBook and discover practical tools and tips to maximize engagement and impact business performance through internal comms.