Our company announced some benefits changes last week.
On the whole, they were actually really good changes. They will now offer 12 weeks of paid maternity leave. (I won’t get to use this (we’re One and Done!), but I’m really happy for the employees who will get to use it.) They also upped our paternity leave to four weeks and gave US employees another holiday.
They also changed our time off policies. We now have a hybrid program where some people get “flex PTO,” some people get a bucket of accrued PTO, and some people get a bucket of vacation and a bucket of sick time.
I don’t work in HR, but I have enough context to know why some of these changes were made – to manage regulatory complexities of doing business in a variety of locations, to keep our benefits competitive so we can continue to attract good employees, but also to manage the significant cost of providing benefit programs.
I’m actually now in the bucket of employees who get “flex PTO,” which means there is no accrued amount of PTO given to me in any given year. We are left to manage our PTO to our own needs. It isn’t exactly unlimited PTO per se, but there is some flexibility on how much time we can take each year. A guideline for amount of time to be taken was communicated as part of the change. The amount of PTO I accrued historically falls exactly in the middle of those guidelines.
In my experience, people are pretty emotionally invested in their benefits. I had an accrued balance of PTO that evaporated overnight. Does that annoy me? Yeah. But it’s not the end of the world. However, I know there are some others in the same situation as me who aren’t happy with this change in philosophy on managing time off.
So is Flex PTO Good or Bad?
I’m interested to see how this will play out at my company. There are definitely some pros and cons from both the company’s and the employee’s perspective.
- Reduces cost of administrative overhead and eliminates need to pay out PTO when employees leave (pretty sure this factored into my company’s decision – $$$)
- Conveys trust in employees to manage their work autonomously
- Favors performance-based results over sheer hours worked
- Is generally viewed as a positive benefit as it encourages work-life balance
- An attractive benefit to recruit good candidates to the company
- Have to ensure employees don’t abuse the policy – which forces managers to more effectively manage employee performance (not a particular strength for my company)
- If not administered well, it can actually lead to a culture where people feel like they aren’t allowed to take time off. (I actually talked to a long time employee who felt like this would be a problem – her accrued PTO was something she “earned” and couldn’t be taken away. She fears that bad managers could discourage people from taking time off now.)
- Flex PTO levels the playing field – there are no advantages given to long-term employees. Previously, PTO was accrued based on seniority – I had the max amount because I’ve worked here for a long time. Now, anyone who is hired into a job that has the flex PTO plan will automatically have the same time off benefit as me. For some long-term employees, this is frustrating.
My company is generally know historically for it’s work-hard play-hard culture. As it has grown, that workaholic culture has been diluted somewhat, but it still exists. I definitely see the flex PTO as being a risk in some departments as it could discourage certain teams from taking needed time off.
Ultimately though, this policy change has little effect on me. I’m really lucky that I’m managed very autonomously and I already manage my time off based on the driving idea behind flex PTO. My time off is based on the fluctuations in my workload as well as overall life demands (such as sickness or a sick kiddo).
Do you have a flex PTO policy? Does it seem like a good idea or a bad idea to you?