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Tackling the Trials and Tribulations of Time Off: The Workforce Institute Weigh-In

This month, The Workforce Institute Weigh-In looks at the topic of employees taking time off: too much, not enough, and what to do about both.

The Workforce Institute Weigh-In for October 2022How do you manage workers who take “too much” time off? What about workers who don’t take “enough” time off?

“In each case, it’s a good idea to first have a chat with the individual, with a goal of understanding where they are coming from, rather than thinking about how you might change their behaviour. Be ready to change your mind about whether they are taking too much or too little time off. Even more broadly, while the issue of time off may be the one that initiated the conversation, it may be that, as you get to know their situation better, other more important issues will surface. Be ready to pivot your attention to those new issues and put time off aside if those other issues really are more pressing.” — David Creelman, CEO, Creelman Research

“While you maintain a level of professional decorum and utilize empathetic consideration, I believe you must be direct and to the point in terms of what your expectations are. Can the employee meet those expectations? Have a frank discussion with them regarding what it is you are looking for them to do, and not do, and let them know in direct terms how much time off is and is not acceptable moving forward. If they cannot adhere to the parameters set, perhaps it is best to find a new role for them with more flexibility, or end the employment relationship. I think it is important for leaders to practice what they preach in terms of taking time off. If employees see their boss taking time away from work, they will feel it is not a bad thing for them to do so as well. I believe that mandatory time off should only be used as a last resort, as it provides less of a sense of control for the employee.” — Julie Develin, co-host, The People Purpose Podcast

“I’m not sure this is an issue about time off. It’s about whether the employee is getting their work done on time and to the company standard. For example, if the employee who is ‘taking too much time off’ is getting all their work done, is the problem the time or their workload? Same with the employee who ‘isn’t taking enough time off.’ Is the reason they’re not taking time off due to workload? Employee workload and performance have to be examined first.” — Sharlyn Lauby, author, HR Bartender blog

“You manage workers who take too much time off by sticking to the facts and having a direct conversation about how their attendance corresponds to their lackluster performance. If it turns out that their performance is fine — but you think they’re abusing your generosity — it’s time to ask yourself if the policy is clear and fair. It might be time to revisit the policy with your HR department or outside legal counsel. If workers aren’t taking enough time off, it’s time to collaborate with your HR department and local leadership team and get curious about why people aren’t participating in PTO [paid time off] programs. Is it clear? Is it fair? Is there something askew with your culture? The first step in addressing a problem is to ask really good questions in a way that engenders trust and transparency.” — Laurie Ruettimann, host, Punk Rock HR podcast

For another take on the topic of time off, check out a recent Forbes Coaches Council contribution by Dr. Chris Mullen, executive director of The Workforce Institute: 
“Why You Need a Vacation Now More Than Ever to Disconnect.”

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