From the office to the ocean: The Modernization of PTO (Paid Time Off) by Jackson David

#PaidTimeOff  #CompanyCulture  #People  #Talent  #Careers

There has been a lot of talks lately in the HR and Talent eco-system around paid time off (PTO), and to a further extent, the modernization of those policies that seem to be a new requirement from the up and coming workforce, such as Gen Z. The question has become, how do we as employers and leadership create modern PTO policies that attract top talent, offer them the benefit they seek, but still tie into the company culture as well as offering a stable environment for getting work completed? I think this can be achieved. Whether we like it or not, it is the trend that we see in the market I think due in part being led by the technology companies in Silicon Valley and the global mobilization of the workforce over the last twenty years. As an example, hiring a great star technologist from the EMEA or APAC region into the US market; they are usually coming from a much different PTO policy, one that they now expect to be upheld in their new region.

This was a curious topic over a glass of rose last week with Chris Myers, an executive search professional and co-founder of Bespoke Search Group here in New York. Chris and his team work with a variety of clients, a lot of them being VC backed start-ups. I asked Chris about what he felt the trends were in the market around PTO and remote or flex work environments. He has this to say, and I couldn’t agree more; “The classic long meeting table with donuts is being replaced with Google Hangouts and Skype video conferences. We even have News personalities reporting live from their bedrooms with their kids who are supposed to be just in the other room (we know how that hilariously ended!). So, as an employer or big ole’ giant corporation, why not let their employees have flexible work schedules or unlimited PTO? Why not treat them like adults and let them figure out their own schedules? You don’t need to be “in the office” anymore, but you DO need to be online or logged-in.”

By the time we were at round two of this delicious French rose, (my new favorite summer wine in case you’re curious), Chris and I were in a back and forth around the effects of such policies. We agreed there are more good things than not when it comes to this, but there are some challenges that we have to be mindful of that could certainly impact work-life balance and an employee’s belief around the company culture.  Chris went on to say, I do want to point out that ‘Unlimited PTO’ can be kind of BS most of the time. I was sitting down with a 1st-year JD at one of the major law firms in New York. When she joined, she was pumped because they had an ‘unlimited vacation’ policy, much different than the other more classic firms she was looking at. Fast forward nine months and she just worked through the July 4th holiday supporting a major case. The competitive person she is, she’s been working her butt off and is proud of it, but in this environment, everyone is like that. What does that create? Her answer: “I’ve taken one day off in 10 months.”  Yep, and that happens all the time in competitive industries like this.

We need to realize that in order to get the best ROI out of our teams that a happy worker almost always puts out better work than an unhappy one. I believe an exhausted worker, mentally or physically, is almost always an unhappy worker. We need to recharge our employees like we recharge our phones.”

I then went on to ask Chris if when he and his team have a search for a role with a client who has either unlimited PTO, a flex-work environment, or at least a considerably modern PTO policy; was it a positive component of selling the opportunity to a top-tier candidate? My hunch was absolute yes, which was then validated by his response; In my experience, almost 100% of the time, having a flexible work environment will be a positive selling point to a potential candidate. With people becoming more empowered with technology and thus maybe also entitled in their ability, they want to do their work more on their own terms. If you are just as effective doing a project from your laptop at home, do you really need to come into the office every day? Employers who truly give their employees the flexibility to make their own schedules empowers that person because they feel like they are being treated as an individual, not another peon in the ranks. With this empowerment comes, hopefully, a more inspired and effective worker. Conversely, yes, I’m sure there are employees who do NOT work well with no limits and need more standards and parameters to work in. To each their own – and that is sometimes a hard thing for employers to identify.” Spot on Chris, spot-on.

Companies that seem to be doing well with current or advancing more modern PTO policies are CarMax, Netflix, Evernote, GILT, Estee Lauder Companies, and Mayo Clinic.

This topic would be fully complete if we didn’t at least mention the ever-increasing trend around remote work. Such as working from home if not full time, then a lot of the time, in some cases I have seen up to 50%. This trend is super-hot with TECH companies and Professional Services such as McKinsey & Company, but it seems that other industries are catching on and catching up!  Remote workforces seem to be working well with some companies like Articulate, Datastax, Inspiredhr, and 

You don’t have to be a small company or start-up to make this work, even Citrix is doing it.

DICE had a good article on the topic of working from home recently. You can see that here: DICE Insights, Working from Home

I believe it’s about time that companies from Fortune 100’s to the start-ups on the landscape to take a look at their overall PTO policies and their work-remote policies. I don’t think anyone will be immune from looking at this over the next decade. It may not be super comfortable for a Baby-Boomer leader, but the reality is, it looks like these evolutions are going to happen anyway. Almost certainly as soon as the new leadership comes in and the Boomer retires out. The question is, is your company ready for this change? Have they started to discuss it? Has it been on the to-do list, possibly for years, and still no movement?  I’d love to hear from you. Comments below and insights welcomed!

(To learn more about Chris Myers, his team, and the work they do, check them out HERE)

#EmployeePerks #PaidTimeOff #CompanyCulture #TalentAcquisition #TalentManagement


Jackson David is currently the Global Head of Talent Acquisition, Sourcing, and Employer Brand at Etsy. He is also the founder of JD Talent Search + Strategies, a consulting consortium that works with start-ups and enterprise clients on executive search strategies, talent mapping, employer branding, and long-term talent strategies.

With now 20 years of both business and talent leadership experience, Jackson focusses a lot of his spare time on giving back to the community and supporting networking and product ideas to the Start-Up community. He is excited by creating pathways and mechanisms for people to reach success and is equally passionate about travel, family, and new technologies.