Paid time off — PTO — always seemed like a dastardly idea, given that it seems designed to make taking a break from work come straight out of the wallet. In each check, a few dollars are set aside for PTO and when you take time off, the money is deducted from the accumulated pot of cash.
According to one recent survey, 52 percent of companies reported offering this type of plan. “Among those with a PTO plan, only 19 percent offered a cash-out option, and only 15 percent offered a donation program, wherein employees donate PTO to a general pool that can then be used by other workers,” the survey said.
Only 1 percent provided their employees with unlimited PTO.
In Toronto, CNBC reports, after the provincial government stopped allowing school employees to save unused sick time, teacher absences spiked 22 percent over the previous year.
It says with PTO, “you may be less likely to take a day off when you are a little under the weather.” That could boost your productivity, but sicken your co-workers.
All of this, of course, involves choice and therein lies the problem. We feel guilty about rewarding ourselves with time off, thanks to the cursed culture in which we live.
Derek Larson, who teaches history and environmental studies at the College of St. Benedict / St. John’s University, writes in the St. Cloud Times this week:
What’s wrong in the United States isn’t the workers, who are clearly working more hours than their peers in other wealthy countries. It isn’t necessarily the employers, who compete in a race to the bottom to provide the fewest benefits possible while still retaining workers and maintaining productivity.
What is wrong in the U.S. is that our culture is sick. We define who we are by our jobs.
We would all do well to remember that taking a break now and then is part of being human, even if our leaders refuse to recognize that fact. It’s time for a renewed debate about work-life balance in the United States.
We should call on Congress to begin that discussion — right after they return from vacation.
NewsCut will be off tomorrow, but back on Friday. It’s hard to erase a culture.