Flexible time off is one of those workplace perks that companies tout when hiring and that employees crave, especially after a stressful year of canceled vacations and disrupted daily life. So how does flexible time off work and is it a perk you should be looking for in your next job? We will try to unpack everything.
What is flexible leave?
In a nutshell, this is a corporate benefit that offers paid time off for employees to do whatever they want. You can use flexible time off like a sick day, vacation day, running errands, or even staying home and binge-watching movies.
Flexible leave vs unlimited leave
Flexible leave should be easy to understand, but it’s a fairly new benefit. Because you can use it for any reason, it’s easy to overthink things. Shouldn’t it be used to extend vacations? Can you go too far and use it too much? Is this unlimited paid time off or is there a limit?
Much of the confusion can be alleviated by looking at your employee handbook or speaking with your company’s human resources specialist about what is allowed and what is not. After all, some flexible vacation packages have a certain number of days off and some offer unlimited time.
It’s often best for you, however, if your flexible time, or your PTO or vacation isn’t limitless, says Selena Rezvani, a Philadelphia-based speaker and leadership consultant who often advises human resources departments.
“Unfortunately, research suggests that employees with unlimited vacation actually take fewer days off on average than those with a limited number due to pressures not to abuse the benefit,” Rezvani said.
How flexible leaves work
Again, check your employee handbook or talk to your human resources manager, but in general, “employees should always treat their days away from the office like a more traditional vacation or sick days,” says Janelle Owens. , director of human resources at Test Prep Insight, an online education company based in Reno, Nevada.
“This means asking managers for time off, informing colleagues and clients and setting expectations with the teams. Just because it’s called flex time doesn’t mean you can go one day when you feel like it and come back a few days later. Well, technically you can, but it would be in really bad shape as it would negatively impact your team and leave your manager very bored. “
Owens adds that a major misconception that many people have about flexible time off is that employees can take as long as they want.
“This is incorrect, and they are probably thinking of an unlimited PTO policy. Flexible time off always has caps on the total number of days an employee can take. It just changes the type of days employees can take… wellness days. , days of mental health, vacation, illness, etc. Think of the flexible PTO as a more flexible form of the traditional PTO. “
Best Practices for Flexible Leave
In fact, take your paid time off. Don’t take the PTO every once in a while in a blue moon – take time off fairly regularly. “By doing this, you train your manager to see it as a natural and consistent event rather than a rare event,” says Rezvani.
Don’t explain too much why you are taking the PTO. “Keep your request short and professional,” advises Rezvani. “Don’t go into the details of your free time or feel the need to explain it, such as“ I need to take Billy to a dentist ”or“ I’m going to a day spa in Arizona. ”Doing this can set a precedent that you will share your whereabouts every time you use the PTO. “
Try to plan your PTO well in advance. If an emergency arises, that’s one thing. If you know about a leave or appointment three months in advance and wait to apply for a PTO two days in advance, you might end up surprising your coworkers.
It’s easier for everyone if you set your time off plans in advance, according to Felicia Daniel, SHRM-CP, HR manager at TINYpulse, a Seattle-based employee engagement software company.
Daniel points out that if you plan your PTO as far as possible, you can delegate tasks, avoid planning mishaps, and perhaps more importantly, feel good about leaving work because you have planned. your free time in a smart and responsible way.
And then once you take time off, “don’t feel guilty,” Daniel advises. “These policies are in place for you.”
She also says no one should feel guilty for taking time off. “Don’t underestimate what you went through last year. Take advantage of your free time,” she urges.
Understand your company’s flexible leave policy. It will save you money in the long run.
“Employees need to understand their company’s PTO policy and make sure it complies with state law. Some state laws treat PTO time earned by employees as a legal responsibility of the employer, meaning it must either be taken by the employee or paid to the employee, “says Bill Lyons , author of “We are HR: The Business Owner‘s Definitive Guide to Professional Employer Organizations,” and CEO of Lyons HR, based in Florence, Alabama. “Employees need to know if the policy allows them to accumulate a large bank of taking days of force unused or if it is limited to a certain number. “
For example, Lyons asks, “Does the company have a PTO use or loss policy?” Employees cannot always assume that their employer’s PTO policy complies with the laws of their state.
Another reason to learn how your flexible time off policy works is that it may not work the way you think. “Some employers may refuse the PTO during particularly busy times of the year, or if the absence of an employee would create undue hardship,” Lyons explains.
All the more reason to plan flexible holidays as far in advance as possible. Because companies that offer flexible time off aren’t always so flexible if you always ask for time off at the last minute.