How Organizational Health and Culture Drive Unlimited PTO Success

Unpopular Opinion: Unlimited PTO works! (it’s all about organizational health and culture)

Here’s what Unlimited PTO looks like at Avenue

  • Setting clear expectations and boundaries for team members and clients that the team is not available 24/7, which alleviates the sense of urgency to react or respond.
  • Presenting every new client with an onboarding presentation during the partnership kick-off that sets expectations and walks through our philosophy on time off, rest, recharging, no-meeting Fridays, holidays weeks and how those things all benefit their business outcomes and our partnership.
  • Ensuring and reminding team members that working after hours (unless they prefer being a night owl and they flex their hours accordingly) is strongly discouraged.
  • Having leadership and managers modeling early sign-offs at the end of the day and not sending emails or Slack messages before or after hours.
  • And when someone is on PTO, scheduling emails and Slack messages to send to them after their PTO ends, so that even if someone “accidentally” logs on to check messages, they won’t have any!
  • Having leadership and managers transparently debunk the stigma around “butts in seats” as a productivity metric. If a team member’s status goes offline on Slack (because they are running errands, taking a nap, watching TV, meditating, walking around the block, etc.) team members don’t need to explain themselves. You do you. As long as work is getting done and deadlines are being met, schedule breaks and downtime as needed.
  • Team members set an emoji/OOO message on Slack so team members know they’re offline and when to expect them back. No questions asked.
  • Creating a cultural norm around setting and communicating ‘heads down’ time for deep work during the day where all email and Slack notifications are turned off and team members are unavailable.
  • Using 15Five Pulse check-ins on a weekly basis to understand how team members are doing, if they are struggling with work/life balance, etc. and using it as a conversation starter to alleviate or reprioritize work, time off and mental space.
  • Celebrating and asking about team member’s PTO. What did you do? How did it go? I’m envious of that trip. Can I live vicariously through you? Would you recommend that location? Help me plan my next trip!
  • Promoting, measuring and rewarding taking time off by keeping the metric highly visible and revisited on a monthly basis. I know that if our PTO utilization metric is not being hit (or is way below target), something will start failing downstream soon.
  • Making space for feedback on the process and team members’ level of comfort and understanding of current policies, to make sure this priority is recognized by all.
  • Avenue suggests that team members take approximately one week of PTO per quarter, in addition to the two Summer and Winter Holiday weeks mentioned above. In total, Avenue team members should be taking around 30 days+/- of PTO in the course of a year. We also have a minimum threshold for PTO. If team members are not taking at least three weeks of PTO (in addition to the Summer and Winter Holiday Weeks) in a year, we believe we’re falling down on our commitment to supporting our team members’ health and wellness. In total, our team should be taking a minimum of 25 days of PTO each year.

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Anna Madill

Anna Madill

CEO of Avenue, a B Corp digital marketing agency that amplifies the impact growth-minded and purpose-driven companies have in the world.