Nixing PTO Spells Freedom | Jobs In ME
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Nixing PTO Spells Freedom

By: Margaret Hansen

Employer Bright Spots

Nixing PTO Spells Freedom

In the midst of a still-lagging economy, where expensive benefits are disappearing, some employers are getting creative with a growing trend in benefits.

A Paid Time Off (PTO) policy, where employees accrue and withdraw vacation and sick time from a "bank," continues to be the norm - but a few outlying companies are trying a creative alternative.

WorldatWork.org began studying employee benefits [PDF] in 2002, and recently discovered a new trend: one percent of U.S. companies are now offering unlimited paid vacation time to salaried employees. That's right - no more PTO, no more tracking accrued/used time, and no more administrating it. Instead, employees are expected to get their work done, while managing their own work and time off schedules - as business and team needs dictate.

This flexible, more self-scheduled workforce model works well for many internet-based companies, such as Netflix, which has had an open-ended vacation policy in their corporate offices since 2004.

Their "freedom and responsibility culture" doesn't count the number of hours at the office or how hard one is perceived to be working, but instead focuses on rewarding individual performance. This benefit doesn't apply to their distribution centers.

How does Netflix deal with "workaholics" or those who would abuse this benefit model? They address it in their recruiting practices by defining their ideal hire, also coined the "Rare Responsible Person":

  • Self motivating
  • Self aware
  • Self disciplined
  • Self improving
  • Acts like a leader
  • Doesn't wait to be told what to do
  • Picks up the trash lying on the floor

The innovative and policy-averse culture at Netflix keeps the company nimble, non-bureaucratic and reactive to the marketplace, while it continues to grow.

HubSpot, a Cambridge, MA inbound marketing software company, has also done away with a formalized PTO program. CEO Brian Halligan notes on Hubspot's blog that he always thought it strange that employees would need to hand in a PTO form whenever they took a day off, yet no "credit" forms were submitted for the late nights or weekends they worked. "We trust that the folks will use 'common sense' with regards to taking an appropriate amount of time off," Halligan wrote.

From an employee's perspective, it puts control back into their hands. Not only can staff control their own schedules, they can take ownership for their job and feel empowered to make an impact on the company's bottom line - all based on their own decisions, creativity, teamwork and planning.

As an employer, unlimited vacation means that you can offer a generous yet budget-friendly benefit to employees that frees up HR from administering PTO bank accruals/withdrawals and the cost of unused PTO payouts.

Are your employees ready to embrace unlimited vacation? There's no such thing as a perfect work culture, but when a company trusts its employees, the end result is giving your most important assets what they want - control and the means to succeed.


Margaret Hansen has been writing professionally since receiving a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Maine. She has worked for multiple organizations as a weekly newspaper reporter, a weekly newspaper editor, and in a variety of internal/external marketing communications roles. Her freelance career has focused on writing and editing for print, email and web publications in the employment industry, as well as manuscript editing and resume writing.