As Workers Vaccinate, Paid Time Off (PTO) Planning Begins
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 15% of the United States population has been inoculated against COVID-19 thus far, with 3.5 million vaccinations being distributed daily. While the CDC still cautions against unnecessary travel and rising numbers of new infections necessitate the need to continue taking precautions, workers nationwide are starting to plan for long-awaited reunions with family and friends across the country in the coming weeks and months. These joyful trips may leave some employers in the lurch, according to one workplace authority.
“This year, employers should prepare for their teams to use their time off and actually disconnect from the office as they reconnect with loved ones they haven’t seen in a year or more,” said Andrew Challenger, Senior Vice President and workplace and economic expert of global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.
PTO in the U.S.
Americans typically leave millions of vacation days on the table every year. A study conducted by the U.S. Travel Association, Oxford Economics, and Ipsos published in 2019 found workers in the U.S. failed to use 768 million vacation days, 236 million of which were forfeited completely, the equivalent of $65 billion in lost benefits. Workers tend to take just over 17 days of vacation out of the nearly 24 days they have earned.
Meanwhile, the new administration has issued a directive for states to make all Americans over the age of 16 eligible for the vaccine by May 1st, and many jurisdictions are offering the vaccine to all adults prior to that date.
“Many workers will make plans to see loved ones exactly two weeks after their second shot. May and June will likely see millions of American workers take vacation time, and not just because it’s the summer,” said Challenger.
Challenger advises employers to encourage their workers to take vacation time to reconnect with their loved ones, but take steps to ensure crucial work will be covered.
“It’s going to be difficult to deny vacation time to someone who hasn’t seen their loved ones in over a year” he said.
“The shift companies made to remote work during the pandemic will make it easy for workers to request to work from a different location for a week or two at a time so they can see their families and friends. This will undoubtedly increase morale and maintain productivity,” said Challenger.
In fact, according to a recent Challenger survey, over 53% of companies plan to institute a hybrid work program post-pandemic. Another 7% will have a mix of fully remote work and hybrid programs, and 18% plan to keep some of their workforce that went remote during the pandemic in their remote positions.
Challenger offered the following tips for employers to handle the potential wave of post-vaccine vacation requests:
Allow them. 51% of respondents to Challenger’s recent survey reported they are taking extra efforts to address worker mental health during this time. Nothing will help more than giving workers the time needed to see their families and friends again. Encourage workers to use their vacation time and disconnect from the workplace.
Distribute the workload. Make sure multiple staff are trained on tasks that are essential for the company to function day to day. Generally, entire teams cannot take time off simultaneously, but every person on a team should be able to accomplish the basic responsibilities of another team member. Have staff available who can cover vacationing workers.
Encourage planning ahead. Give workers time during their workdays to work on projects that may be completed before they go on break.
Foster open communication. Create an environment in which workers may openly communicate that they need help completing work or need to take time off.
Use remote work to cover crucial deadlines. Most workers converted their entire position to remote work during the pandemic. If a deadline falls during a PTO request that cannot be rescheduled or avoided, allow workers to use a mix of time off and remote work to spend time with their loved ones.