To work or not to work: the expectations when using PTO

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Although the veil between work and life has become increasingly thin, making the importance of workers ability to take a vacation a high priority, more than half of American workers say they will still “occasionally” work while on away from the office.

Half of non-essential workers believe there are no company expectations for them to work while on vacation, but the other half still feel obliged or uncertain about expectations to get work done when taking paid time off, according to a recent poll from HR Certification Institute.

"Most workers bring their laptops with their flip-flops on vacation," says Barry Lawrence, a researcher and spokesperson for HRCI. "Employees are confounded by a mixed bag of written company policies, unspoken expectations, shared beliefs and poor examples set by CEOs and supervisors."

However, only 31% of HR professionals say their organizations have written policies that specifically discourage work during time off.

According to the study, workers fare somewhat better at these companies, working less on vacation vs. employees from companies with no written policy to discourage work. For example:

· 63% “occasionally” work when on a vacation vs. 56% from no-policy companies,
· 10% “always” or “almost always” work when on a vacation vs 21%,
· 27% “rarely” or “never” work when on a vacation vs. 23%.

"Policy is often trumped by more powerful culture influences" notes Amy Schabacker Dufrane, HRCI’s CEO. "Bosses and executive leaders especially set the tone of how the rest of a staff will approach vacation. Emails continue to flood the inbox. And flatter organizations mean that there is no one back at the office who can do your work when there’s an emergency while you’re out."

Executives and management have enormous influence on if people work on vacation or not, the study notes. The study finds supervisors have the biggest influence on employees (46%), followed by C-suite (22%), HR (5%) and other employees (4%).

When asked about their personal vacation work habits, nearly three-fourths of HR professionals are also likely to work — at least occasionally — when taking PTO. Most often, they say, their vacation work involves reading e-mail (72%), responding to an emergency (20%) and working on a project (5%).

"It’s important for all employees — HR and management included — to be reminded that PTO is a benefit, not just a perk," says Dufrane. "Study after study finds there are huge performance and employee wellness benefits associated with giving people time to rejuvenate. HR can turn the ‘vacation vacuum’ around by developing clearer vacation policies and cultivating champions of work-free rest and relaxation."

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