In a past blog post, we discussed the impact of stress on productivity and profitability for the American workforce (see Stressed Staff Can Equal Stressed Profits). Not to be lost in the conversation is how employees who are working part time jobs while balancing school, family, or secondary jobs manage to keep financial, physical, and emotional stress under control when they are “out sick”, have personal emergencies to attend to, or desperately need time off to recharge.
There is perhaps a misconception that working part time is in itself always more “work life balanced” than full time employment, but truthfully, for low income or single income earning families, not only is the financial stability less present, part time employees also typically lack the plethora of benefits that most full time employees enjoy to maintain financial and wellness balance such as; employer sponsored health and supplemental insurance coverages, employer contributions to retirement plans, disability coverage, leave benefits, paid time off in various forms, expense accounts, access to pet insurance coverage, health savings accounts, and other various employer provided “perks”. For a family that doesn’t have a partner’s full time employment situation to offset the difference, this creates an even more challenging situation when dealing with life’s unexpected challenges. Who can “afford” to take unpaid time off on top of everything else?
More states have stepped in to address this issue directly in some form. Most recently, Arizona and Washington have joined the likes of California, Oregon, and Massachusetts in enacting regulations for most employers (including small businesses) to provide paid sick leave based on the number of hours worked to attend to personal or family related illness, domestic violence issues, or child welfare, that extends beyond full time staff to part time and seasonal employees.
Circling back to the beginning of the topic, however, stress and reduced productivity doesn’t have to be strictly health related. The value of being able to take even a small amount of time off, be it one day to one week throughout the year, at a part time rate of pay, can be impactful to part time employees who need a break or a little help.
At a time when small businesses may be especially wary of additional costs, being asked to extend any paid time off (PTO) for part timers may seem to be just another financial burden, but let’s examine the possible return on investment (ROI):
- Loyalty increases when you provide a unique benefit. PTO is such a rarity for part timers that it may be that simple incentive that outweighs what the competition has to offer in the way that you value your people and their needs. Also, you can anticipate it as a fixed cost in the budget. If you think providing a small amount of PTO is expensive, weigh the costs of unexpected recruiting, hiring, and training of new hires when you have turnover by employees who fear they cannot come back without discipline after a short “unapproved leave need”, or to other part time employers who are dangling other carrots that attract your staff. For some employees, knowing they can take a short amount of time off without retaliation because you trust them with paid time off for their needs, or being given time to decompress without ruining their “check-to-check” budget, may be the incentive that makes you the employer of choice.
- Reliability and attendance becomes more predictable with a PTO bank. Does it drive you up the wall when you have to scramble to find back-up to a shift because your part time employee has called in? Or you have added expenses because moving schedules caused you to incur unplanned overtime? By providing a fixed benefit that the employees can manage with your advance approval, they are more likely to ask for time off in advance for planned vacation time, which benefits your staff planning and will typically only use it on short notice when they really need to for emergencies because they don’t want to impact the availability of planned time off later in the year. Having a budget for their time off use may actually change their approach to planning and attendance that includes you in the decision making by way of a “time-off approval form” process.
- Happier, more productive staff may be hard to measure, but will be partially reflected in the customer experience. Employees who know that they are trusted and valued truly pass on that feeling and experience to customers. The ability for customers to trust that your staff is dedicated to customer needs and that your people will consistently and accurately execute their transactions is extremely important in the business/client relationship. Modeling trust and value to your people sets the tone for the customer experience. We know that trust increases brand loyalty for customers, so it goes that when you trust and invest in your people, and they value the organization’s needs back, you indirectly invest in your customers.
From personal experience in the part time realm with a small PTO benefit, knowing I could plan for time off without having to juggle finances was a good incentive to make my vacation time quality vacation time, for more than just a day or two off at a time, so that I could come back truly refreshed, recharged, and thankful to my employer. Not having a “return from unpaid time off” emotional hangover meant my attitude and mood stayed higher for longer.
If you run the numbers and find that you really can’t add paid time off for your part time staff, you may want to evaluate if you have enough flexibility in your scheduling and staff planning to allow them to deal with stressful situations at home or school without negatively impacting their work or loyalty. Not sure if you do? Then ask your people. Not sure how to fix it? Again, opening the dialogue and taking their input into consideration is another step to showing you value their abilities and needs.
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