Shut down the office: One company’s vacation solution

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Employees at PwC no longer need to ration their PTOs for major holidays when the entire office is closed.

That’s because the global accounting firm is experimenting with company-wide shutdowns to enhance its vacation benefits. PwC implemented the first of these shutdowns four years ago, when the company closed its office the last weeks of December through New Year’s Day. This year will be the first time the company shuts down for three summer holidays: Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day.

“The goal is to disconnect across the entire firm and recharge as a group,” says DeAnne Aussem leadership development and well-being leader at PwC. “The war for talent is very competitive, so we want to make sure our people feel they have amazing benefits.”

Aussem spoke about the implementation of the new benefit, and the importance of preventing burnout in the workforce.

Why is PwC providing company-wide shutdowns instead of more vacation time?

We offer a generous amount of vacation time already, but we wanted to do something that would help us stand out as an employer. With all the talk of mental health issues, we knew we wanted to prioritize helping our employees recharge. We could offer more vacation time, but people won’t necessarily disconnect from work when they take it. The only way to ensure no one receives work emails is to close the office so everyone has the same days off.

Of all the benefits PwC could’ve chosen, why was time-off prioritized?

Burnout is a real concern in today’s digital world; it’s such a big problem that the World Health Organization made it an official diagnosis. It’s especially important for us to take care of our employees’ mental health because the work they do is so meticulous and data heavy. We want them to be able to recharge and refresh. I’m sure the cost of giving them more time off is justified by increased productivity and less mistakes.

Why is your company closing the office during winter and summer holidays?

The winter holiday season isn’t particularly busy work-wise, but it can be really stressful for personal reasons. And more people tend to take vacation during that time anyway, so if we give those days off to everyone they can plan more vacations during other parts of the year.

We got a lot of positive feedback after implementing the winter shutdown, so we wanted to see if we could extend the concept to other times of the year. Summer made the most sense; if you have kids, they won’t be in school, and if you don’t, it’s still the most popular time to travel. We also noticed people were using their vacation to extend three-day weekend holidays; we thought closing the office and giving them an extra day or two off would be a good retention strategy. We call the summer closures “Vacay your way” because the days off are more flexible.

What if these closures conflict with a project deadline?

Granted, there’s going to be times when some employees can’t take those particular days off. Labor Day might be difficult for some of our tax pros to take off because of certain deadlines, or there might be audits at the end of the year. For whatever reason, we’re going to make sure our employees get the same amount of time off as everyone else. So if they can’t take one of our closure days off, we’re going to be flexible and allow them to take another day off.

How has your workforce reacted to the programs?

All of our feedback has been really positive, and I think it’s been helping build stronger team bonds. There’s a lot of great story sharing that’s happening as a result of this shared experience. We’re able to translate that across our global firms through social media; it’s fun to scroll through and see what everyone is doing with their new time off.

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PTO policies PwC Benefit management Employee retention Mental health Growing Your Practice Resource Center