PTO paves the way for the workplace of the future

The workplace is still dealing with the ramifications of COVID, and there are many unknowns. And so many companies are wrapped up in navigating the now that they’re not thinking about the future. Yes, there’s uncertainty. However, the future is upon us, and we need to realize it’s going to be a little different going forward.

One significant difference is respect in the workplace. How companies are reacting to COVID has really tested this. Employees are disrespectful to one another, and leaders are disrespectful of their employees, often due to how they’ve chosen to react to COVID. Regardless of the stance a company takes, there’s no way to make everyone happy. COVID has shown us the importance of respecting our differences in the workplace and being open to conversation, not confrontation.

While there is no panacea for avoiding COVID conflicts, there is a simple strategy for making things easier as you move forward, and it has everything to do with your PTO policy.

At the end of the day, businesses need to make money. To do that, your employees need to effectively do their jobs. There is going to be health paranoia for the next several years, and this makes it more important than ever that your employees don’t come to work when they’re sick. Here in Northeast Ohio, many companies are production-based, and remote work is simply not an option, which makes a good PTO policy vital.

Many companies are writing their PTO policies based on the current environment, without thinking long term. The way to make your policy work going forward is to include flexibility — which means reviewing it several times a year. The policy must be structured in such a way that it ensures people who are sick do not come in to work. Of course, this is easier said than done.

As a society, we’ve been conditioned to believe that “pushing through” is a good thing. Think of athletes who play even when they don’t feel well. To protect your employees’ livelihoods and keep the workplace safe, your policies need to be clearly communicated so employees aren’t afraid to use their sick time when needed.

For this to work, two things are essential: effective communication and trust. Your PTO policy should clearly communicate what constitutes someone staying home — and you should reserve the right to change your policy as things evolve. There’s no one size fits all definition. The industry, working environment and job responsibilities all come into play, and you need to discuss and do what makes sense for your organization. And when you hire employees, it’s important to make your stance on PTO and sick time abundantly clear. Part of doing this right is training your managers to help reinforce this message.

You also need trust. You hired your employees because you like them and expect them to do their jobs, and this includes an inherent level of trust. If you can’t trust them, why did you hire them? Part of treating your employees fairly is trusting them to responsibly use their PTO.

PTO policies mean different things to different organizations. But for all organizations, bad or unclear policies can have a negative ripple effect, impacting not only employees and their families, but customers and the overall organization, as well. Taking a deep dive into your PTO policy and creating what makes sense for your organization is a good way to successfully — and respectfully — weather the uncertainties the future brings us today.

Mark D’Agostino is president of ConnectedHR