Paid Time Off and Company Culture – Marisa Eckberg Pt 1

Welcome to episode 49 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two VMware Solution Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we discuss Paid Time Off with the first part of our interview with Marisa Eckberg.

Original Recording Date: 07-17-2019

Topics – Part 1 with Marisa Eckberg – Paid Time Off and Company Culture

  • We wanted to talk about PTO with an HR professional to shine a light on one way to avoid burnout in IT. We did previously talk to Keiran Shelden about IT burnout in Episode 46 and Episode 47

6:10 – What Do Human Resources People Do?

  • Our guest this week is Marisa Eckberg, an HR Consultant with over 40 clients of various sizes and in various industries.
  • She helps companies with strategy and compliance, helps with audits, builds compensation structures, conducts salary surveys, and works on performance management. It depends on the company as to which of these they need or want.
  • Companies don’t always realize the responsibilities that come with hiring and onboarding employees.
    • Outsourcing HR allows businesses to focus on the business and not on having Human Resources expertise (similar to outsourcing accounting, web design, or other things).

10:03 – Frameworks for Evaluating Paid Time Off (PTO) Policies

  • There are no federal laws requiring PTO be given to employees. It is a benefit.
    • There are states and cities requiring paid sick time for employees, however.
  • Ask potential employers about their benefit plans holistically before accepting an offer (not just PTO).
  • PTO in an offer is negotiable. Remember that!
    • At the time of this recording, unemployment was very low. High quality candidates will likely already have jobs.
    • One way employees try to retain and attract talent is offering unlimited PTO (seems to be a trend).
    • Unlimited PTO saves the employer from needing to pay out any unused hours when an employee leaves the company.
      • Some states do not have to pay out unused PTO (if there is a cap) when an employee leaves. Marisa provides specific examples.
  • Keep an eye on your PTO balance, and please take it!
  • Studies show employees take about the same number of days off when at companies with unlimited PTO vs. those who have specific allotments per year.
    • The average is 12-14 days plus 8 holidays.
  • Does organizational size matter for those offering unlimited PTO?
    • The company’s industry and workforce makeup are more important to consider here instead of company size. Listen to Marisa’s examples of where this may / may not fit.
    • Marisa mentioned for companies giving a specific PTO allotments, tenure is usually the separator between lower and higher PTO allotments rather than employee classification (salary vs. hourly).
      • Management and above may get more PTO by default.

20:21 – Benefits as an Expression of Company Culture

  • Companies must create their own brand when recruiting.
  • Productivity goes up when employees take time off and don’t feel penalized by doing it.
    • Should managers point out poor employee PTO utilization to direct reports?
    • Can handbook policies indicate employees are not to be contacted during PTO?
      • Managers can help here. Encourage employees to offload projects / assign someone as a backup resource.
      • Hourly employees must be paid for any hours worked outside the office.
      • Salaried employees are people paid while they are out on vacation.
        • Taking the occasional call might be ok, but if this adds up to significant work, talk to your manager about getting that time back.
        • There is no law to replenish someone’s PTO bank because they worked while on vacation.
  • During the interview process, when is the right time to ask about what PTO days are like (i.e. adequate coverage, what to expect in responsiveness, etc.)?
    • Marisa disagrees with John on the timing of this.
    • Remember you are interviewing the company as well as them interviewing you.
      • Saving this for late stage interviews with the hiring manager may be best.
      • How does the manager view / manage time off for the team? What is their philosophy on being completely unplugged? This is part of the manager’s management style?
      • Ask these same questions to the team.
  • Coming back to PTO as a negotiation point…
    • Marisa gives a great example of a crafty employee who did this at an unexpected time.
    • There is nothing wrong with asking for more even if a policy states a specific maximum.
  • Marisa’s motto…don’t be afraid to use your PTO!

Contact us if you need help on the journey.

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