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Unlimited PTO may not be as great as it sounds

(BUSINESS) When you see unlimited PTO on a job description as a benefit, your immediate reaction is to perk up. It sounds too good to be true – it is.


During the last decade, the hottest perk next to free catered lunches and office ping pong tournaments has been unlimited PTO. We’ve either received it or been jealous of our peers who’ve snagged it. However, it seems that unlimited PTO is being phased out because no one knows how to use it.

A general understanding of unlimited PTO is that you take the days off you need or want when you need or want them. You want two weeks for your honeymoon? Go for it. Need a week to recharge? Sure.

At most companies, the understanding is that you will take PTO at your discretion and with the approval of your team.

However, it seems that we’re all too scared to take time off and if that’s the case, then isn’t this a culture problem?

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Some people worry that their coworkers and employees will take too much time off.

First, your coworkers should mind their own business, and secondly, don’t be dumb.

If you think it’s okay to disappear for a week or even a month without telling anyone, that is NOT unlimited PTO, that is stupid and you should lose your job for being unreliable and irresponsible.

“At your discretion” means that you plan your days off by talking it over with your team and your manager. If you’re a manager, encourage your team to take a breather.

Most people would avoid burnout if they felt supported and encouraged to take a break. Retain that talent!

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Others won’t take advantage of PTO because they think it will be used against them. Some equate time off with low productivity, failure to be a team player, weak ambition, or even a lazy work ethic. If you’re not in the office, how are you going to crush it?!

If you’re a CEO offering unlimited PTO, then don’t hold it against your employees when they use it. This is a perk YOU offered. Make good on your promise, or lose the trust of your team. Remember, a recharged brain is a productive brain and who wants those Glassdoor low approval ratings? Eek.

Let’s say that we’re all on teams of fully functioning adults who show up to jobs we like and are really good at doing. We share one goal, we’re devoted to one mission, and we’re getting the job done. If we’re working with each other and for each other, unlimited PTO shouldn’t be a problem.

Why should you care if your coworker is taking every other Friday off? Why shouldn’t you feel comfortable taking off two weeks to travel to Bali if it means you come back refreshed and ready to go? Why should you worry if someone is taking a mental health day here and there?

Well-rested people are productive people. Well-traveled people are interesting people. Well-cared-for people stick around.

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Before phasing out unlimited PTO, start using this perk as a litmus test for productivity and cultural happiness. You might be surprised by what you find out.

Tara Steele is the News Director at The American Genius, covering entrepreneur, real estate, technology news and everything in between. If you'd like to reach Tara with a question, comment, press release or hot news tip, simply click the link below.

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