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Employees Are On The Move Again – Are You Ready To Deal With A Surge In PTO?

It is finally happening.  We’ve officially turned the corner on the pandemic and life is beginning to return to something close to normal.  Unfortunately, the way that the past year has played out has planted a ticking bomb inside almost every company still in business.

Think about it:  All during the past year, while employees were cooped up and working from home, they were also accruing paid time off.  Vacation time that they could not use because broad swaths of the country were locked down and non-essential travel was at a minimum.

At this point, most states have lifted their restrictions and people are traveling again.  In fact, PriceLine.com reports that reservations are up a staggering 230% compared to what they were this time last year.  Clearly, there’s a lot of pent up demand, and that means that people are going to start requesting days off in droves.  That fact is almost certain to present challenges for business owners in the short run, and there are no good answers except to do your best to ride it out.

On the one hand, if you let everybody take paid time off at the same time, it may seriously impact your ability to continue conducting even basic business.  On the other, any attempt to curtail, or heaven forbid, deny PTO is sure to be absolutely crushing to morale.

The best way forward is good, clear communication.  Be proactive.  Explain to your employees that you understand that everybody is eager to travel, but that the business will suffer if absolutely everybody leaves at once.

Some won’t care.  Having been cooped up for more than a year, they’re anxious to get out and stretch their travel legs.  If it causes problems for your business in the short term, then so be it.

Others will be more understanding and accommodating.

Either way, you, as a business owner can’t afford to take the morale hit.  Of the two options, communicating with your employees and doing your best to navigate the PTO waters in the months ahead is unquestionably the better option.

Another good, proactive move you can make would be to send out surveys, starting now, asking employees when they’re planning to take their PTO.  That way, at the very least, you’ll be able to survey the situation from a high altitude and plan strategically to make the best of what is sure to be a tricky situation.

The absolute worst thing you can do in this situation is try to be the hard case.  Denying employees their PTO, or demanding that they take it when it’s convenient for you is a sure way to wind up with fewer employees because they’ll simply leave, and that will make your problems even worse.

The next few months will be tricky as things begin to get back to normal, but if you’re willing to wrestle with the complications and ride it out, you’ll come through this storm stronger than ever, and your employees will love you for it.