Jun 13 2019 Emilie Clark Blog Workplace Culture How to Leverage a Flexible Time Off Policy Company-Wide Memorial Day has passed, schools are out for summer, and (in Chicago) we’re finally breaking free from the rain and cold. Summer vacations are on the minds of employees everywhere. However, for those lucky enough to have a flexible or unlimited time off policy, the question often isn’t “where should I go?” but “is it OK for me to go?” For some employees, the flexibility of these policies creates uncertainty that results in the policy not being utilized to its full extent. What can companies do to ensure that their flexible time off (FTO) policy produces the return on investment (ROI) it was intended to provide? We believe that communication at every level is the key to success. Read on for four ways company members at all levels can optimize the ROI of FTO within a company. Employees Take the time that’s offered to you. Ask yourself what’s stopping you from taking advantage of FTO, and have an open conversation with your manager to address any concerns. Don’t push FTO to “when it’s convenient.” Work time off into your project plans and commit to deliverables that are realistic. There will always be more work or another project that needs your attention—don’t miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime reunion or important quality time with family and friends. Have a conversation with your manager about how they like to manage time off within their team. A proactive conversation can save hours of worry. Work with your manager to put together a coverage plan. Work emergencies will happen, but planning in advance can minimize the likelihood. Practice self-care. If you notice that you’re struggling or don’t feel like your normal, productive self, take a mental health day. Utilize your FTO plan to practice self-care and avoid burnout. Your company obviously finds this important or they wouldn’t be offering the policy in the first place! Managers Avoid added stress by communicating and checking in with your team regularly. At the beginning of each year, ask your team about their vacation plans. If they aren’t sure about their plans, ask them to propose at least one week of time off. Make FTO part of your project plans. Planning in advance as a team will help prevent employees from returning to the office feeling that they’ve fallen behind. Check in with team members regularly. Notice signs of fatigue or anxiety, and respectfully suggest that team members take a mental health day when needed. At Centro, we call these days “Ferris Bueller Days,” and consider them a separate need from traditional vacation time. Set expectations about what FTO means to you. For example, if your team has to be all hands on deck during a certain holiday, for example, it’s up to you to set that standard and let them know. Human Resources HR can get a bad reputation for being the “Policy Police,”—but if the shoe fits, wear it! Make sure you’re educating the company to ensure that FTO is being used in the way it’s intended. Regularly communicate the expectation that individuals should take time off. For example, you could plan an annual campaign around mental health, and highlight your FTO policy as part of that initiative to encourage use. Monitor FTO usage and communicate directly with managers, teams, or departments that have not taken any time off or don’t have any time off scheduled by the start of Q2. Be proactive to ensure that teams feel supported and able to cash in on this amazing perk! Support managers who are fearful of this “non-policy” policy. For instance, some managers will need help reflecting on why they make people feel like they are taking “too much” time off. Help them determine if the issue is the time off, or the employee’s performance during their time in the office. Leadership Are you taking time off? Or are you burning the midnight oil seven days a week? You are in a leadership role because you’ve been identified as someone the rest of the organization looks to for direction. The words you speak are not the only thing individuals are looking at—they’re also watching your behavior. Join HR in being an advocate for FTO. Encourage teams to not only do as you say but do as you do. Show employees that it’s OK to take FTO by actually taking time off yourself. Make sure to disconnect—leaders are not exempt from burnout! Take time to reset, recharge, and return to the office refreshed and ready to go. Learn more about Centro’s employee benefits by checking out our Culture page here.