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PTO Policies Making Everyone Sick?

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Posted by Mindy Fineout

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June 18, 2014

cold_and_flu_guyWe’re finally almost over the hump of horrific coughs, colds and the flu season. This year seemed to be the worst I can remember, although I might attribute some of that to my one year old, also known as my little petri dish of interesting viruses, or “Ebola Monkey” as my husband and I have affectionately nicknamed him.I wouldn’t say I had eight colds this winter, I would say I had a cold for the entire winter, along with my baby, along with my husband and sometimes, along with my co-workers.

No one likes the colleague who drags themselves into work, coughs all over the place, uses the microwave, borrows your pen and infects every doorknob in the office. Some of us need to know when to phone it in and take a sick day – something this winter taught me as I took my first actual sick day. In the past, I would power through, pump myself up on cold meds, try to limit my exposure to others, but ultimately and unavoidably spread the love.

In the U.S, a culture that prides ourselves on work ethic, taking little-to-no time off and running ourselves ragged, it’s no wonder we constantly drag ourselves out of bed and into the office while sick. Over time, companies have created environments that foster this behavior, which in the end costs them dearly.

PTO – while a good idea in theory, is a major culprit. PTO is a policy of “Paid Time Off” which sits in a bank for you to use when being absent, whether for Hawaii, or the flu. Since no one wants to pick the Flu over Hawaii, people choose to not “waste” their PTO on being sick. Even if a company’s overall PTO policy matches a company’s sick/vacation policy in hours of leave, human psychology still creates a culture of PTO employees dragging themselves into work sick, infecting the masses and slowing down production in a major way.

I’m personally a fan of vacation days, and separately, unlimited sick days. Studies have shown that policies like this save companies money, boost morale and boost productivity by keeping everyone healthy, or when sick, keeping them at home. There’s a great article from Business News Daily that talks about the five biggest benefits to these policies.

Read Unlimited Sick Day Policy Healthy for Business

To summarize, companies with high employee engagement use this to demonstrate trust, keeping viruses from spreading, saving money on the cost of administrating leave plans and keeping employees from a “use it or lose it” mentality all contributing to dollars saved.

Companies are quick to think more time off will hurt production, but that has not been the case when the results of these plans are measured. Many employers are coming around, but we still have much improvement to make. While we are waiting, please don’t ask to borrow my pen in between coughing fits.

This blog was written by Mindy Fineout. Mindy is a Senior Technical Recruiter for Yoh and has been supporting the Gaming and IT industry for the past 10 years. She lives in Seattle, and enjoys spending time with her family, writing, cycling and guitar.

Topics: Leadership & Management

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