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How to Take PTO Under Lockdown (And Avoid WFH Burnout)

How to Take PTO Under Lockdown (And Avoid WFH Burnout)

Most years, the arrival of June marks the start of vacation season. We look forward to soaking up the sun – lounging on the beach, exploring park trails and supporting local artists at outdoor events like block parties and flea markets. With most students on summer break, we plan trips with family and friends to new locations and old favorites alike.

Of course, COVID-19 has taken those plans and turned them upside down. 

The current climate poses real, tangible risks for both employees and employers, and the value of taking time to unplug and reset has never been higher.

Why the risk of work burnout is especially high right now

As quarantine drags on, many companies have found ways to support working parents, make telecommuting easier and generally take care of employees throughout COVID.

But job burnout is still a major risk, even if your organization is working to address its causes. That’s because the pandemic has introduced so many extra stressors, making it easy to feel overwhelmed:

  • Employees are navigating a ton of change and disruption to how they work, and adapting to any new environment saps our mental energy.
  • We’re relying on technology like never before, leaning on videoconferencing to connect with colleagues and loved ones alike, which can feel less fulfilling than in-person contact.
  • It can be easy to fall deep into work right now – we are innovating, creating new solutions for new obstacles.
  • Work is also one of the few things in our control during the pandemic, so putting energy into something that will show results is rewarding, gives a sense of normalcy and incentivizes us to show our value to our organizations.

Vacations are a great way to disconnect, but when your home is masquerading as your workplace, gym and everything in between, the idea of a staycation sounds far from exotic.

In spite of that, taking PTO now can provide some essential relief from “quarantine crazies.” It also can head off risks to both your people and your organization.

The workplace risks when employees stockpile PTO

By analyzing over 1.7 million employee survey responses using our Trust Index, Great Place to Work® data scientists have found a way to understand and monitor employee burnout.

Using this data, we found that compared to employees successfully managing workplace stress, employees experiencing burnout were:

  • 3.5x less likely to share ideas with management
  • 3.0x more likely to feel micromanaged
  • 2.4x more likely to feel like a cog rather than a person
  • 2.3x more likely to think managers play favorites
  • 2x less likely to say that their workplace is a great place to work

The current environment intensifies each of these risk factors. Personal time off can give folks experiencing burnout a reprieve and stave off burnout for those at risk.

So how do we encourage folks to take PTO when travel is discouraged and the usual novelties of a vacation, like moseying about a museum or trying the local cuisine, are out-of-bounds?

How to encourage your team to take time off when theres nowhere to go

Model behavior from the top down

Your employees will be more inclined to take the time they need if they see their leaders doing the same.

If you are in the position to do so, take PTO and explain to your team how you’ll spend your time and what you hope to get out of it. They will appreciate your vulnerability around the pandemic’s effect on you and will be inspired to do the same.

Make PTO visible to everyone

Set up a stream on your team communication channel for people to share staycation pictures and how they’re using their time off.

Send a memo

Ensure your teams know the most up-to-date time-off protocols and how to access them. Remind your team that PTO is there to be taken!

Connect with your team personally

Set up one-on-one meetings with each of your team members to get to know their life outside of work right now.

This knowledge allows you to gauge individual stress levels and nudge folks who may need a break but are hesitant to ask.

Use a bit of imagination

Even at home, some creativity can lead to a fun day way outside the norm.

Holly Petroff, SVP at Great Place to Work, found a way to ‘travel” to Italy amid the San Francisco Bay Area shelter-in-place order. She wrote on our Teams channel: 

“From the food we cooked to the music we played to the scents of our candles and shampoos, everything tied back to the sights, sounds and smells of Tuscany. And because Wi-Fi isn't great in the hills of Tuscany, we were pretty much offline all day. It was glorious! It made such a positive impact on our mental health that we are already planning our ‘trips’ to France, England and Ireland next!”

Create official non-workdays

Great Place to Work Certified™ companies like Adobe and Dropbox have created PTO days for their employees globally to give employees some R&R.

Coordinate with leaders to extend your trust and show your people you understand what they need by giving them a day off on the house.

With everything going on, we can lose sight caring for ourselves as we take care of our responsibilities. Stepping away from work is a great way to recharge and reconnect with those you love. Take the time off – youve earned it!

For more advice on how to handle the new workplace disruptions visit our dedicated COVID-19 resource page. If you want to learn more about how we can help you track things like burnout and employee engagement, contact us here.