It’s almost summer, which means vacation requests will soon be pouring in. In a perfect world, vacations are aligned so the office is never a ghost town, employees come back to work with that vacation glow, and clients receive the same seamless service they do any other time of year. Too bad the world isn’t perfect.

In the real world, PTO (paid time off) plays out much differently. Here are three ways to align your policy to ensure maximum benefit and minimum loss.

Be generous with paid time off

Gone are the days of two weeks paid vacation and eight holidays. Today’s workers demand a PTO policy that’s a lot less rigid and a lot more tuned into their personal needs. Many businesses are responding by offering unlimited PTO to their employees, says Michelle Thompson, XMI director of human resources.

“Several of the companies we work with are moving towards this as a way to attract talent and create a high-accountability culture.

Accountability is the key to ensuring unlimited PTO is helpful and not harmful to your business. Thompson says managers should be trained on how to manage their teams to maintain optimum levels of productivity.

Be flexible with paid time off

As you would expect, not all companies can offer unlimited PTO, especially those in industries specializing in production or manufacturing. But any company can be more flexible in its offerings, says Thompson.

For example, instead of forcing employees to take off on standard holidays, allow them to take personal holidays.

“When you give employees flexibility, they return the favor through increased productivity, engagement and loyalty,” she says.

Many businesses also offer flexibility in PTO by no longer differentiating between vacation days, holidays and sick days—it’s just one big PTO bank. A recent survey by Mercer found that more employers are offering combined PTO banks to their employees—63 percent of employers in 2015, up from 38 percent in 2010.

Some states, such as California and New York have paid leave requirements, which can limit employers’ abilities to offer PTO banks. If you’re considering a PTO bank, Thompson recommends consulting with an expert to make sure it won’t be a potential liability for your company.

Empower employees through technology

There’s something satisfying about watching your PTO accrue. Give employees access to a robust human resources information system (HRIS), so they can keep tabs on PTO-related details, such as how many days they have left and when their next round of days will post. An employee portal also allows employees to more easily request PTO (from any device, anywhere), helping to make sure they request PTO in a timely fashion and use the time off they’ve earned.

Managing the PTO request and approval process through an HRIS also helps ensure the right people are notified when a request is submitted and approved. This can help minimize gaps in productivity (caused by an employee being out) and ensure coverage plans are in place before the PTO is taken. (Discover tips for getting employees to use your HRIS.)

“One of the biggest concerns employees have about PTO is wondering if there will be a pile of work for them to do when they return,” she says. “By making sure all the right people are aware of the upcoming PTO as early as possible, those concerns can be minimized because a coverage plan can be developed.”

Consider the logistics

Depending on the size of your company, manually managing your employees’ PTO would be the equivalent of a full-time job. Don’t waste time and risk making a mistake when a robust HRIS can manage it for you.

Thompson says automation should be the goal. Just be aware that any new PTO policy or revised one will require some back-end tinkering in the HRIS. “Any change would require for the new plan to be set up in the HRIS and timekeeping systems so that tracking can be automated.”

Need help aligning your PTO policy with the real world? XMI can help. Contact us today at 615-248-9255 or


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