PTO in a Pandemic: Encouraging Employees to Step Away

You know burnout is just around the corner, but how do you get workers to use PTO in a culture of hussle and staying logged in 24/7?



While the COVID-19 pandemic ruined vacation plans for many employees who were looking forward to time off with their families, concerns of job security then ignited when coworkers were being furloughed, suppressing employees from even asking for vacation. With remote work arrangements now blurring the line between work and home where many employees are clocking more hours than they ever did before, the pandemic makes for a perfect storm of mass burnout in the near future.

The solution? Employees need a vacation. And they need their employers to encourage them to get away before the nonstop work catches up with them.

Why Vacations are Important

Needing time off isn’t anything new. Experts have stated it over and over that spending time away from work is important for both employees and employers. For example, studies have shown that vacations improve health, make employees more well-rounded, boost productivity, protect against theft, and foster creativity. (Did you know the hit broadway musical, Hamilton, was conceived on vacation?) Data actually suggests that employees should work less if they want to improve their performance. Employers, on the same hand, need a productive workforce that doesn’t compromise quality for quantity.

But how do you get employees to use their time off instead of succumbing to the culture of being a workhorse?

Get Employees to Use PTO by Promoting Your Policy

Start by ensuring all employees are aware of your PTO policy such as when to submit PTO requests, where to find their PTO balance, how much PTO they can use, and when they can use it. Employees won’t ask for something they don’t know is available and utilized.

Have Managers Lead by Example and Take PTO

If you have a company intranet site, post reminders about the benefits of taking vacation. Take it one step further and share pictures of your recent time away. This will remind employees that it’s okay to go on vacation and help them feel comfortable asking for time off.

Make it Easy for Employees to Use PTO

Encourage teams to talk openly about their PTO with one another and coordinate workplace responsibilities to relieve any guilt for missing work. A supportive atmosphere will shift the workplace culture toward one that prizes self-care and a healthy work/life balance.

Discourage Overworking

While working hard is admirable, it can get out of hand when employees work unsustainable hours. Avoid praising employees for putting in too many hours and, instead, encourage them to focus on healthy time management.


Remember, it’s much more cost effective to retain than replace your staff. Whether you’re in the best of times or in the middle of a pandemic, find a way to get employees who are overdue for a vacation to take time off before they burn out from overwork.

Encouraging employees to use PTO to prevent burnout and improve their productivity may be a challenge in today's work environment.

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