Stats, we all love stats. You can paint quite the picture with stats, add to that a mix of trends and insights and you start to get a clear idea of what is really going on. But sifting through all of the data to get a true idea of what is happening can be tough work. That’s what I’m here for.
In a culture full of employee burn out and overwhelm, it may be time to dig into the data on how to support, empower, and engage your people… with time away.
High Performance Meets People First
One of the core values that underpins the culture of Titus is our commitment to being a People First organization, while at the same time placing a high value on results and developing high performers.
High performers are, by nature, people who not only obtain exemplary results but do so in a way that engages and motivates those around them. They are aware of the big picture and are highly driven to achieve and take a great deal of pride in doing so. These high performers operate with integrity and the term “extreme ownership” is something of a way of life.
This is how we operate at Titus; it’s in our DNA. But it came to our attention that in this culture of performance, we were struggling in the area of rest. We partner with Emplify to help us gain insight into what our employees are thinking, what’s working, what’s exciting and what could use some attention. Our Emplify survey results turned up some interesting findings, particularly in rest.
Titus is one of many companies that offers unlimited PTO and has a high trust, “take time when you need it,” approach to rest, yet we were still finding that our teams were not feeling that they could actually take that rest.
The Science on Rest
This is where the stats come in: According to Glassdoor, Americans on the whole use only 54% of their eligible vacation time. Only 23% of employees use all the time they are entitled to and 9% take no time at all. All in all, this accounts for over $65 billion in lost revenue, or $571 per person in untapped paid time off.
So, what does America (and our own Titus employees) have against rest? Or more accurately, what is the real or perceived cost of rest? When the PTO is essentially unlimited and your employees aren’t making use of it, what is really going on?
Some of the things we have found, both within our team and on a wider scale include, but are not limited to:
- Trust – High performers take extreme ownership and tend to not feel comfortable letting go of the reigns for some time away.
- Prioritization – Managers can be overly focused on results rather than people. While they may be great managers, a focus on results and profits that outweighs the person sets you up for a burnt out team.
- Employee insecurity – Employees can feel anxiety over being viewed negatively for taking time off compared to other employees who keep pushing through. Thoughts like, “Perhaps my manager will think I’m not committed?” are common concerns that cause employees to minimize time off.
- The “what if” factor – What if the client can’t get what they need, what if something happens that only I can fix, what if we miss out on a deal… it’s so easy to catastrophize when the stakes are high. Your top performers care about results, so these potential problems may make them want to stay on at all times.
- Increased targets/quotas – The classic “you can’t go outside and play until all your chores are done”. Employees are concern their numbers will suffer if they take the hand off the pump and that their jobs may be in jeopardy.
Those reasons are valid and, unfortunately, are all based in a fear and punishment mindset.
As a People First organization we wanted to find a better way that didn’t only change an outcome but addressed the root cause.
Rested and fulfilled people who work in high trust environments are guaranteed to perform better. They are more focused and less weighed down by peripheral thinking, able to think more creatively and abstractly, and feel a deeper sense of purpose/meaning. Finding rest is one of the keys to dissolving stress, which in turn ramps up performance and output.
So if unlimited PTO wasn’t the solution, what can we do to encourage rest for our people?
It turns out one of the biggest wins for us in helping to establish rest for our people was to communicate our dedication to rest with our Partners (clients). We began having conversations with our Partners around the topic of rest for our people, that there will be times when their consultant is out for a bit, but that our team is still dedicated to delivering results… we’re just also dedicated to our people. By showing our Partners that we truly care about our people and setting the expectation that our people can and will take time away to rest, we alleviated some of the pressure from our employees to be accessible 24/7.
As a Brit who, before moving to the US, was used to 28 days of PTO per year, it was a shock to join a company (not Titus) that started me out with 5 days paid leave with a further ten that I would accrue over the year. I was in a place where suddenly I was weighing out taking time off vs coming to work sick and how those decisions would affect my time with friends, family, leisure, holidays etc. The biggest issue I faced was the change in mindset.
The benefits to rest far outweigh the costs. It starts with a mindset change. At Titus, we had to change the narrative and find practical ways to prove our people were supported in time off vs time off simply being available.
How is rest impacting your company? What steps are you taking to make sure your people are setup for success? At the end of the day, if you want highly engaged top performers that stay for the long haul, you need to make rest easy, frequent, and even celebrated for your employees.
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