In the past decade, the way companies operate, hire, and function has changed significantly. With startup-like business practices inundating mainstream work and a younger generation conquering the workforce, the status quo is changing.
One of the biggest shifts we’ve seen are better employee benefits around paid time off (PTO) and flexible work options.
Supported employees are happy employees
It’s not rocket science: Having a great company means having a great vision. But you need great employees to share that vision with the world and propel it forward.
But part of attracting the best talent is offering great benefits, which nowadays means generous paid time off (PTO).
That’s just scratching the surface. Employees need to be encouraged to take time off in the first place, which starts with workplace culture.
These are tricky topics to address. Rather than saying what’s wrong with someone’s benefits package, we’re going to share some things that have worked for us.
Below, we’re examining the ways we’ve seen generous vacation days improve workplace morale and boost company-wide productivity.
PTO is made to be taken
According to the Economist, “holidays reduce stress. And in the long run, stress makes workers less likely to perform well. That means going away for at least a week.”
It’s simple. Working long hours without time away doesn’t help anyone. Business suffers. Workers are stressed.
In fact, “research has shown that working long hours has a measurable negative impact on cognitive function,” according to Dr. Lori Stetz, Senior Medical Director, Aetna International. “Our muscles need rest after strenuous activity, and so do our brains.”
That rest, contrary to the pervasive American work ethic, is valuable. Sometimes it even produces surprising results. Famously, the idea for Instagram was thought up while its soon-to-be founder was on vacation. The record-breaking musical Hamilton was first conceived while its creator was on vacation in the Caribbean.
We can only hope to be as inspired as those two when we return to our desks. The point is a rested employee performs better and is better able to persist and solve tasks. At Propeller, we remind everyone that taking time off isn’t naughty. It’s a good thing.
Paid parental leave
Sometimes time off is about more than just taking a break. It might mean your family is growing.
According to a report by The New America Foundation, a minimum of six months paid maternity leave is optimal for both mom’s and baby’s health. (It’s important to note, however, that in the US paid maternity leave is not required by law, though you’re allowed 12 weeks’ unpaid leave.)
Paternal leave in general allows new parents to bond with their baby and be more focused at work, when they do return. (Propeller provides it to any new parent regardless of gender.) That’s how it was for our digital marketer, Katya Dmytriyeva, whose baby just turned one this month.
She was on maternity leave for six months, a combo supported by Propeller’s leave policy and Australian government policy. After taking time off before her son was born, she had five more months to adjust to parenting.
“I had plenty of time to spend with my newborn, and although I can hardly compare parental leave to a normal leave,” Katya said. “I believe it’s very important to have time just for you and your family. Caring for a newborn is a nontrivial task, and I can hardly imagine adding work into the mix during these first months.”
When Katya returned to work at Propeller’s Sydney headquarters, she did so gradually. “It took most of the weight off my shoulders, because I didn’t need to suddenly leave my still very young baby with someone for the whole day,” she explained.
Flexible work arrangements
Related to PTO is another benefit that’s become more common: flexible work arrangements. As technology itself and the workforce evolves, 100% traditional office environments are becoming rarer and less confined.
We’ve seen that offering your employees flexible work options, like remote work during times of transition, health issues, or as a regular part of their week, reduces absenteeism, and stress.
For Richard Hordern-Gibbings, the option to work from home was a huge help in his recovery after an injury. “It was a grade-five separation of my shoulder, which turns out is quite a significant injury,” he explained. In Richard’s case, “Propeller offered me the flexibility to WFH and I didn’t feel pressured to rush my recovery.” (Propeller offers 10 days of paid sick/family leave.)
Taking a break in the name of productivity
When you search “employee retention strategies,” Google gives you 46,900,000 results to choose from, “how to boost productivity in the workplace” returns 16,900,000 results, and “reduce employee turnover” has 34,600,000 results. The results for these queries return a ton of complex strategies and high-level approaches, when in reality, all of these popular topics boil down to how fulfilled your team feels at work.
Of course, every business has different needs. They serve different industries with different schedules, and vary in capacity to provide benefits to its workers. But the bottom line is that providing (and encouraging) PTO and flexible work arrangement makes your workers happy—and happy workers make companies successful.
What we know with complete certainty is, employees need reprieve from their professional day-to-day to stay on top of their game. So, in a world where most Americans forfeit half their vacation days every year, encourage your team to take a break in the name of productivity.