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Streamlined time-off programs for employees benefit employers as well

Evolving methods for offering paid time off to employees are leading to a simpler process, greater trust and more productive people.

Experts in human resources are recommending that businesses look into adopting a program that allows employees to pull from a bank of time off that they can use however they please instead of receiving specific days for sick, vacation and personal time.

The classic approach to paid time off, or PTO, includes an accrual system that gives employees a number of PTO days based on how long they’ve worked, categorized by sick, personal and vacation time.

Abandoning the classic model in favor of one with more flexibility could say a lot to employees about how much an employer trusts them, according to Karen Young, president of HR Resolutions in Susquehanna Township, Pennsylvania.

“I don’t want an employee to feel like they have to lie to me that they are sick when they just need a day off,” she said.

Deme Learning, a family-owned publishing company in Warwick Township, Pennsylvania, changed its model to a PTO bank after years of offering the benefit under the traditional method. Steve Petersheim, Demme Learning’s HR Generalist, said the company also got rid of accruals to show employees that leadership didn’t believe they would abuse the system.

“Giving them the benefit right away shows that we trust them,” Petersheim said. “If you use it all and quit, don’t worry about it. We think you are going to stay, and we want you to have what you deserve.”

Millennials are more likely to work for time off and are less worried about pay, according to Young. She said business owners should look at being flexible for their employees, not only in the PTO they offer but during work hours.

“There’s nothing to say that a 40-hour work week has to be done in five days,” she said. “We get into this thing that the schedule has to be done nine to five because employees are coming to us, but what’s important is that the work gets done.”

Giving employees the time to schedule days off improves work quality and can solve issues with attendance, said Amanda King president of Operam HR in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.

“We used to look at vacation time as a luxury, and we now understand that time away from work creates a more productive work force,” King said.

The employees of Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based marketing firm Identify LLC go a step further. They take a sabbatical every seventh week in order to recharge. Identify’s clients are aware that the entire business closes for the sabbatical, but CEO and founder Ben Bachman said they generally understand that it helps to make staff more creative and excited to work with the clients.

Bachman said the point of providing employees a week of unpaid leave on top of their vacation time was to create a business culture that promoted creativity.

“It’s not just about time off. We were trying to create a culture where we want you to invest in your passions,” Bachman said.

The company’s sabbatical also is based around trust because employees are expected to finish work before the business shuts down for a week. Employees are instructed to keep an eye on their communications in case an emergency crops up with a client, but Bachman said Identify has yet to have such an emergency.

Such sabbaticals are rare among business, but they are a great idea, according to Young.

As with most benefits, there are costs associated with making the sabbatical possible, but Bachman said it has proven attractive to employees.

“I feel like we stole people from bigger agencies because they saw that time off as more attractive than other benefits packages or $10,000 a year,” he said.