Five key ways savvy HR Communicators can effectively help their employees understand their Time Away benefits to promote a positive vacation culture.
There has Been a Shift in Time Away Priorities
As a trusted partner to many HR communication consultants, we have a front-row seat to HR trends as they emerge. Before COVID, there was a focus on wellbeing, which was followed by a greater emphasis on behavioral/mental health during the pandemic. The current trending subject appears to be Time Away (TA). Many of our clients are excited to accept this change. But why the unexpected rise in interest?
This Shift is a Broader Workforce Trend
The change we’re witnessing isn’t isolated; it mirrors a broader shift in the workforce’s priorities, specifically the growing interest in Family leave. In 2021, 29% of employers offered paid bonding leave, compared to 25% the previous year. The appeal of family-building benefits has grown over the years, with workers reconsidering their priorities in pursuit of a better work/life balance. Surprisingly, some are even willing to take a 20% pay cut for that elusive balance.
Gone are the days when employees were willing to sacrifice every moment for their jobs. There’s a growing acknowledgment that prioritizing family over work not only improves well-being but may also have financial benefits.
We’re Moving Towards Positive Vacation Culture
Thankfully, employers aren’t just passively watching this trend; they’re actively responding to it. They are making efforts to shape a positive vacation culture. A recent survey by Project: Time Off revealed that 38% of employees felt their company actively encouraged vacations – a significant uptick from the previous year. And according to Gallagher’s “Workforce Trends Report”, more employers are offering family-building benefits:
“ The impact of these benefits also often extends beyond affected individuals to make employees feel welcomed and supported in the workplace, improving engagement, productivity and retention.”– Gallagher, “Workforce Trends Report Series: Physical & Emotional Wellbeing,” July 2021
This cultural shift is part of a broader effort, complemented by changes in employment laws to make Time Away benefits more widespread. For example, Massachusetts’ Paid Family & Medical Leave (PFML) laws were updated, increasing maximum weekly benefits, while California heightened PTO requirements to 5 days or 40 hours.
The Challenge: Navigating the Maze of Time Away Policies
Yet, amidst this positive evolution, a challenge persists. The many kinds of Time Away categories – Vacation, Holiday, Compassionate time, Medical leave, Parental time off, Jury duty, and more – often leave employees confused. The policies become intricate, posing a potential HR nightmare. However, where there’s confusion, there’s also an incredible opportunity to enhance the employee experience through improved communication tools.
Understandable Time Away Policies Lead to Better Work/Life Balance
When employees have a solid understanding of their leave policies, it paves the way for numerous benefits within the workplace. Firstly, employees are more inclined to use their paid time off (PTO) when familiar with the policies, fostering a healthier work/life balance. This not only boosts productivity but also acts as a competitive edge when attracting new talent.
Understandable Time Away Policies Lead to less Burnout
Furthermore, a clear comprehension of leave policies correlates with lower burnout rates, as employees can navigate their time away more effectively. Ultimately, this understanding is pivotal in reducing turnover and creating a positive and sustainable work environment where employees feel supported and valued.
The Solutions: 5 Ways to Communicate Time Away Policies
1. Clear Communication from the Start
Employers can set the tone by proactively communicating time-off policies right from the onboarding stage. According to job platform Indeed’s guide to PTO, new hire packets and updated employee handbooks should provide clear descriptions, answering fundamental questions like what PTO stands for, how it works, and how employees can accrue and request it.
2. Add a Time-Away Section to HR Microsites
Highlighting the significance of Time Away, adding a dedicated section to the main navigation of HR microsites ensures easy access for employees. This section acts as a user-friendly resource, offering insights into various leave categories and linking to internal management tools when needed.
3. Customize Messages for Each Employee Group
Recognizing the diverse impact of PTO policies, and crafting personalized messages for different employee groups is key. Consider life events, age groups, or employment length to effectively tailor communication.
4. Regular Reminders
Ongoing communication from leadership through newsletters or staff meetings serves as friendly reminders for employees to utilize their PTO.
“A note in your company newsletter or a regular announcement at staff meetings can help remind your team to use their time off.”
5. Digital Leave Management Tools
Embrace the convenience of tools like Connecteam, Deel, Replicon, and Homebase to automate the management of leave requests and approvals, streamlining the entire process.
As leave policies take center stage, savvy employers have a golden opportunity to enhance communication and create a workplace where Time Away is valued, understood, and seamlessly integrated into the employee experience. The journey begins with clear communication and extends to user-friendly resources, personalized messages, and the adoption of digital tools. It’s time for employers to pave the way for a healthier, more balanced work environment.