While some companies offer a sliding scale PTO and allow employees to carry over unused PTO, the ‘use it or lose it’ standard two-week PTO scenario remains a reality for millions of hard working Americans. Americans are at the top of the list when it comes to how many hours are spent at work at year, and the average American will clock 90,000 working hours in their lifetime. While all those work hours may sound like a plus for businesses, the reality is that all work and no play makes for more than just a dull employee.

The Impact Of The No Vacation Nation

Unlike all other advanced economies, the U.S. doesn’t guarantee employees any paid vacation, leaving nearly one in four American workers with zero paid time off each year. Meanwhile, French workers enjoy a yearly 30 paid vacation day standard, and Aussie workers enjoy a standard 20 days.

Compounding the no vacation nation problem are facts like these:

  • 54 percent of U.S. workers end the year with unused vacation days still on the table.
  • While the average vacation allotment is 80 hours per year, the average commute time for U.S. workers is over 100 hours per year.
  • 42 percent of U.S. workers feel pressured to check in with their offices while on vacation, and 40 percent of millennials report feeling guilty for using their vacation days.

Overwork Has Serious Consequences

Overwork has many negative consequences for both employee and employer. While working long hours is touted as a plus to getting things done, science says that the impact of longer work hours can raise the human mortality rate by some 20 percent.

Workplace stress is a leading cause of death in the U.S., attributing to up to eight percent of the nation’s healthcare costs and accounting for some 120,000 deaths each year. One recent study compared the negative consequences of workplace stress on a worker’s health to those of secondhand smoke.

Overwork doesn’t just bring long-term health consequences. Studies show that it causes poor job performance, productivity losses, damages morale, increases the likelihood for mistakes and on-the-job injuries, and is a major contributor to absenteeism. From insomnia and relationship problems to job dissatisfaction and depression, the effects of overwork overlap to bleed into every facet of a worker’s professional and personal life.

Could Open PTO Be The Solution To The Overwork Cycle

Extending the PTO lifecycle is a great place to start addressing the overwork issue. Open PTO is a relatively new concept being tried out by companies like Netflix and General Electric. It’s basically unlimited vacation and sick days.

Open PTO may sound like a radical step and open invitation for abuse of time off. However, the data is often showing that a lack of personal guilt and internal competition over time taken off from work overall yields less, not more, time off.

Indeed took the open PTO concept on a couple of years ago, and they have seen results like 20 percent increases in vacation days taken per year, lower attrition rates, higher engagement rates, and record growth in 2017.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings routinely touts that he takes his full six-week vacation time each year, and he encourages his employees to do the same. Whether it’s an open PTO policy or standard two-week vacation, employers and management must encourage employees to take advantage of their time off. After all, it’s only a benefit if it’s actually utilized.

Open PTO Attracts New Talent

Open PTO is also an innovative way for employers to supplement the existing wage growth factor and expanding health care offerings in their battle to recruit and retain employees in this tight labor market. It’s a success layer that’s useful in attracting new and highly productive talent because it’s so appealing to:

  • Millennials valuing more flexibility in a job.
  • Prospects making employment decisions based on a more cohesive work life/ personal life balance.
  • Prospects who value employer-employee trust and want to self-manage the balance between their personal time and how they meet work-related productivity and end goals.

In closing, while not all businesses will be comfortable with a open PTO offering, those struggling with the well-being, productivity, morale, cohesion, attraction, and retention of quality employees should certainly consider the plethora of employer benefits open PTO can offer.