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6 Top Reasons PTO Should Rank High for You and Your Employees

As tough as it is to take time away from running your small business for vacation or spare an employee who wants PTO, the bottom line is, everyone must get a break from work.

Vacation helps improve mental and physical health, prevent burnout, and increase productivity. When PTO is not taken advantage of, no one wins.

More than half (52%) of business owners have not taken a vacation in the past year, says research released by Capitol One in January. 

"And many report that they feel run down and mentally exhausted, with 62% of business owners reporting having worked longer hours," writes Rachel King in a Fortune article.

Further, she cites a study from research firm Destinations Analysts that says more than two-thirds of American workers feel at least moderately burned out.

"Making decisions is mentally taxing, and the more decisions you make, the more fatigued you become," King writes. "Thus, the longer time you have without taking a vacation, the worse decisions you could make."

The vacation recharge. Research shows that after a vacation from work, employees are better able to do more and make better decisions.

Destinations Analysts found that 79% of full-time employees agree that taking vacations is essential to job satisfaction as well as their overall health and well-being, according to the Fortune story.

The health factor. Being overworked not only affects productivity and cognitive abilities but plays a role in physical health as well.

Economists say the way Americans work has become so stressful it's now the fifth leading cause of death, according to Better Life Lab podcast host Brigid Schulte.

Productivity effects. As difficult as it may be to cover schedules and projects to accommodate employee vacation time, ensuring staff is getting sufficient time away from work is vital to your business.

Employees are more rejuvenated and inspired after taking a vacation, shares the community-based nonprofit Mental Health America in an article on its website. "It can also prevent burnout and reduce turnover rates."

Taking PTO is part of a trend. At the moment, PTO is a hot topic as some businesses struggle to offer benefits that retain and attract new employees in an ongoing tight labor market.

More companies are adding vacation days, some unlimited PTO, and looking for ways to encourage their employees to take the time.

The number of job postings offering some version of unlimited days off nearly doubled between April 2021 and April 2022, writes Matthew Boyle in an EBN article, citing data from LinkedIn. 

Some tech and media companies like LinkedIn, Netflix, Salesforce, and Hulu are already known for their flexible vacation policies. Financial firm Goldman Sachs recently joined these ranks, reportedly implementing a policy that gives partners and managing directors unlimited vacation time.

Not taking PTO. Giving employees PTO doesn't necessarily mean they'll take advantage of vacation time away. And the reasons vary.

For one, the U.S. work culture still hasn't put any value on shorter work weeks or vacations. This sentiment may lead to some employees feeling that they'd be judged or even overlooked for promotions and raises should they take that time away.

And if your business has a tight staffing schedule, some employees may feel guilt over taking vacation time and leaving others with the obligation to help cover shifts.

Modeling how. One way to encourage employees to take PTO is by taking a vacation yourself and away from your business.

"You may feel you're abandoning your obligations. You're actually honoring your obligation to lead by example," writes Miller in the Post article. 

"A leader who never detaches from work sends the message, intended or not, that no one else should either."