A few years ago, I worked for a marketing and consulting firm that hired me as a Director to build a big book of business. Since it was a smaller firm, the cash compensation was on the lower end of the spectrum; however, they offered a competitive commission package and unlimited PTO.
I told my husband about the offer, and he said, “There’s no such thing as unlimited PTO, Laur. That means that you can’t get fired if you never come work.”
I said, “Why do you have to be like that?”
(True story. Marriage. Good grief.)
I took the job. In my first year, I took 21 days of paid-time-off (including sick days). That’s roughly four weeks, which is equivalent to a director-level position in a big corporation. Pretty much standard stuff. I took those days on demand and without apology because I’m a human resources lady by training, I know how this works, and those days are part of my total compensation package.
My colleagues didn’t enjoy nearly as many days off. It wasn’t as if the culture didn’t encourage a fun and a vibrant personal life. It’s just that everybody felt busy and pressured to perform. When you’re in a fishbowl of high performers and tight deadlines, the benefit of unlimited paid-time-off feels disloyal.
I am a big believer in results-based performance and development plans. Set goals. Measure outcomes. Do good work and get rewarded. Fail to do your job and get fired. I would also add that you should consider implementing a PTO that requires each employee to take a minimum number of days off.
“You must take X number of days, each year, or be held accountable.”
And leaders should fight against my cynical mindset that unlimited PTO is a lie. It doesn’t have to be a lie if executives, founders and supervisors adopt a more progressive mindset and model good behaviors, too.