Avoiding Burnout: Why Paid Time Off is More Important Than Ever Before

As a business owner with a to-do list that never quits, taking time off may sound like a luxury you just can’t afford right now. Yet it may be exactly what you need.

The past year of pandemic conditions has taken a toll on everyone’s mental health, including entrepreneurs and business owners. But giving yourself the go-ahead to take vacation time still isn’t easy.

“Even before the coronavirus pandemic fundamentally changed how we live and work, Americans have never been very good at taking days off,” Natalie B. Comptom writes in The Washington Post. “The pandemic only further tipped the scales of our work-life imbalance.”

That’s because remote work has blurred that line even more, says Andrea Bonior, a licensed clinical psychologist who writes an advice column on The Lily.

“The concept of being totally removed from work has become really foreign,” she says in the Post article. “We’ve been absorbed in this little work-life murky blob that swirled everything together.”

Burnout is real. More than 60% of employees reported suffering from burnout during the pandemic, according to a survey by Blind.

Contributing factors to the stress everyone’s feeling, and often burnout, include added workloads, fewer in-person interactions and less breaks, writes Paola Peralta, an associate editor with Employee Benefit News.

Less than 15 percent of the employees in the Blind survey said their company had a plan in place to help with their stress.

“They either don't realize how much burnout is affecting their employees and their company or they don't know where to start,” says Jessica Tropper, people operations manager at TravelBank, a corporate expense and travel management company, in an EBN post by Peralta.

Encourage time off. One way to prevent burnout is allowing time for breaks and promoting PTO. 

“Employers can offer mental health days for those needing a day off to rest and recharge,” writes EBN associate editor Amanda Schiavo. “They can also encourage employees to take their full allocation of PTO and build in structured work breaks after major milestones.”

Taking time away from work can be particularly hard for entrepreneurs who don’t want to leave their businesses for even a day. However, that break is important for their self-care too.

“You’re not a robot,” says a blog posted by small business lender Capital Alliance. “You need downtime to be able to consistently provide the level of products and services your customers have grown to expect.”

Besides, stepping away from work gives you the energy to produce at your full potential when you return from your vacation, the post says.

“You’ll get healthier and less stressed, making you more effective when you are back to the office.”

Use PTO to attract and retain employees. Not only does burnout lower productivity, but it will lead employees to quit.

A quarter of employees surveyed by Eagle Hill Consulting said they wanted to quit their jobs after the pandemic, mainly because of burnout. So, allowing employees to take time off when they need it could help convince your stressed employees to stay.   

Also, offering ample PTO and encouraging time off is good for recruitment.

“With so many options available to prospective candidates, it’s important for companies to keep their edge amidst a competitive landscape,” writes Peralta in Employee Benefit News.

Do it together. If your business could pull it off, designate a specific day or time period as time off – everyone gets the break at the same time.

That’s what Ariela Safira, founder and CEO of the mental-health platform Real, decided to do.

She started closing her business for a week once a quarter so all 45 employees “could truly rest.” Because even with unlimited PTO, she said, employees felt guilty about taking off work.

The week-long shutdown indeed gave a boost to everyone’s mental health.

“They thought about work less. They came back feeling more rested. It was a clear, measurable outcome,” Safira said in an article by EBN editor-in-chief Stephanie Schomer.

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