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How Employers Benefit From Offering Unlimited Paid Time Off

Companies with an open-ended approach are more attractive to prospective hires, and save money on paperwork and administration.

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Illustration: Teng Meu for Bloomberg Businessweek

It’s trendy for employers to offer unlimited paid time off, and for good reason: To workers, it seems like a dream. Roughly 1 in 10 companies has adopted such plans, and they’re motivated by four primary benefits, none of which directly relate to employee leave.

All these benefits can blind an organization to the problems of unlimited PTO. The policy doesn’t work with hourly employees (unlimited unpaid time off can), and it can breed inequity and inconsistency, because it depends on manager approval. And, critically, a simple unlimited PTO policy doesn’t fix the problem of burnout among employees who don’t take enough time away from the office. With unlimited PTO, the always-on mentality can slip in, manifesting in people answering emails even while attempting to take time away from work, because they’re worried that a colleague who’s in the office—not lounging on the beach—might get an edge on a promotion.