Look to employers to change paid-time-off culture
Look to employers to change paid-time-off culture
25 JANUARY 2019 8:18 AM

Too many people are leaving paid time off on the table, and that seems to be a symptom of a workplace culture that needs to change.

According to the U.S. Travel Association’s latest “State-by-State Time Off” report, employees in the U.S. left one-fifth to one-third of their paid time off on the table in 2017.

The amount of PTO left unused varied by state. The survey ranks the states by number of PTO days unused, with California coming out on top with more than 97 million PTO days untouched and Wyoming as the caboose of this train with 1.2 million unused PTO days. The sheer volume certainly is interesting, but that’s more a result of each state’s population. I’m more interested in the percent of each state’s unused PTO days, as I think that tells the story better.

The percentages range from 21.9% (Ohio) to 34.7% (Mississippi). On its face, that sounds crazy. Why are so many people not taking the paid time off that they earned? For someone just starting out with, say, 10 days off, that means they’re not using two to three of those. You earned those days, so take them off, right?

Like anything in life, it’s never that simple. It could be, I suppose, but we don’t let it be. Project: Time Off’s “State of the American Vacation: 2018” report released last year surveyed 4,349 workers in the U.S. to learn about their vacation habits. The organization found more people are taking their earned PTO days, but it’s a slowly growing trend because people have a lot of hang-ups when it comes to taking time off.

Sixty-one percent of respondents who said they feared looking replaceable at work left some PTO days unused. Similarly, 56% said their workload was too heavy. The same percentage said they had a lack of coverage at work.

Other reasons cited include pets (54%), travel logistics (54%), concerns over safety and security (54%), the cost of travel (54%), children (52%) and being away from the regular routine (52%).

While all of those reasons matter—though I’m a little unsure of worrying about interrupting a routine—the reasons that concern me the most are the work-related fears.

It’s disappointing, but not exactly surprising, to hear that employees have concerns about taking time off—something they earned through their jobs—because of their jobs. There’s been a great deal of marketing and advertising to consumers telling them they deserve to take some time off and go on a vacation—which they do deserve that—but I don’t know if these are the people to target. Shouldn’t these efforts be aimed at their employers instead?

What would that look like? What would a campaign to encourage companies to improve their PTO-accepting culture entail? How would you work with companies outside of the hotel industry to show them the benefits of creating a workplace where employees feel comfortable taking time off?

Is this the hotel industry’s responsibility? No, not exactly. It’s not your job to make other companies let their employees take PTO without trepidation, but at the same time, not doing anything about it doesn’t seem like it will jump-start leisure travel to higher levels.

Is anyone currently taking efforts to encourage a change in corporate culture toward PTO? Is it enough? Could hoteliers do anything different? Let me know in the comments below or reach out to me at bwroten@hotelnewsnow.com or @HNN_Bryan.

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