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Would You Offer Employees Unlimited PTO? (19 Ideas) | PeopleWork 21

Employers have strong opinions about the concept of Unlimited PTO, but only about 4% of US employers actually offer it. Buffalo, NY marketing agency 19 Ideas has had what they call a "Responsible PTO" policy in place for over 5 years.

Owners Katie Krawczyk and Dan Gigante sat down with Joe to explain how it works, how it has been going, and what impact it has had on their company's culture, employee recruitment, and employee retention.

Topics Covered:

  • What was the inspiration for offering an Unlimited PTO benefit?
  • What Considerations Were Involved in that Process?
  • How Did you Roll it out to your Team?
  • What Effect Has Unlimited PTO had on 19 Ideas' Culture?
  • How Has Unlimited PTO affected Employee Recruiting & Retention
  • Do You Still Track How Much PTO Employees take?
  • How Do You Define "Abuse" of Unlimited PTO?
  • Do You Define Other Types of Time Off, or is it all Included?
  • What Types of Companies Should Consider an Unlimited PTO Policy?
  • What Types Should Not Consider an Unlimited PTO Policy?

Watch the Full Episode:

 

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Contact 19 Ideas:

Web: 19ideas.com | Phone: 716.566.8001

     

Video Transcript:

Joe Peluso

Hi, everybody. Joe Peluso here from Complete Payroll. Back with another episode of PeopleWork. PeopleWork of course is the video series where we interview people from the HR World, the human capital management world business owners, entrepreneurs, basically anybody whose job it is to manage your workforce or workforce or take care of people we like to pick their brains for the benefit of everybody in that spectrum.

Joe Peluso

I'm here at 19 ideas in beautiful five points area of the west side of buffalo with two of my oldest friends and mentors, Katie Krawczyk & Dan Gigante from the owners of 19 ideas and today's topic we're going to talk about kind of an interesting and sometimes controversial topic a limited PTO and or you know the various other you know names that it goes by so yeah these guys have I've just a little bit about my history these guys gave me my first job in marketing back in ten years ago now.

Joe Peluso

Well yeah yeah. I started out as an intern for a T-shirt company that Dan ran called you and who at the time was just getting 19. I just started on her own and we kind of did some work for both of them. Yeah. So I owe a lot of my life to these guys. I'm super grateful that you guys let me come into this amazing new space that they just had done to pick your brain about that.

Joe Peluso

So, God, thanks a lot.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

Thank you for having us.

Joe Peluso

Yeah, that's an though.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

And L.A. Of course, our resident office.

Joe Peluso

Doug is great. Yeah. Awesome. So yeah, before we get into it real quick, just, you know, talk about 19 ideas and yeah, tell us the story of 19 ideas.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

So 19 ideas we've been around now four of this is our 11th year in business. Last year we celebrated a big milestone and we are a strategic marketing agency located on the West Side, probably located on the west side of Buffalo we have a lot of internal capabilities and we're a smaller, smaller size company, about 2425 people now and growing.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

But we have, you know, a range of services from digital marketing to a full dev shop including software engineers we have, you know, writers and designers and PR specialists. And really the philosophy that we bring as an agency is partnership to every project and it's all about for us integrated holistic services because we're business owners and we understand how important it is to invest your dollars to advance your business.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

Goals. So our point of view is what we do always has to advance the goals of any organization or business owner that we work with.

Joe Peluso

It's awesome. Now I know the his, I know what the 19 and 1980s means. I know the real story, but I'm not going to divulge I know it's a big, but I feel very, I.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

Keep the illusion.

Joe Peluso

This is our inner circle. I love you.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

Are inner circle. You were there from the beginning. It's actually you know I want to give you a shout out. Yeah. So Joe Peluso came up with our mantra that is still our mantra, our work with purpose and purpose. And that's owed to you because you were able to encapsulate what we are all about, which is that like you, we are all about finding the meaning in every day as practitioners and what we do in finding the joy and purpose in that.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

And also finding the purpose in what we're doing as an agency. Working with other people in the community is their job creators. They invest in their community and you have to have that purpose every day.

Joe Peluso

That's awesome. Yeah. No, I remember the first time after you guys remodeled the space I came in, it was like the neon sign. Yes.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

Yes.

Dan Gigante, 19 Ideas

We we tell people where it came from. Yeah.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

Yes.

Dan Gigante, 19 Ideas

If you're not going to share the 19 Ideas origin story. I won't share but work with purpose was the second you came up with the first most was it was pretty great. So I don't know. I don't know that.

Joe Peluso

That's right. Oh, no, I know. That's awesome. OK, all right. So yeah, let's get into it. So we were, you know, we were kicking around topics for for stuff and you know, it came up like this sort of thing that is starting to become it's sort of catching, I think, a little more this concept of like unlimited PTO.

Joe Peluso

I know like the concept of time off is sort of people have had to evolve that, as you know, with the pandemic and stuff with like I mean, just remote work and how do you square that? But then also like the different types leaves and things that are available, you know, in New York State especially. So yeah. So but we wanted to try and find somebody who had been implementing a limited PTO policy for a while just to kind of really with no sort of bias or preconceived notion just to kind of see, you know, how it went and how it's going.

Joe Peluso

So yeah. So I remember you guys talked about it a while back. And so you were the first people I thought of. So thanks. Yeah. No. So how how long have you got it? How long are you guys had? And I mean.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

It's been a while. It was 20, 16 slash 17 because I think it might have been end of 16 is when we were talking middle to end of six years while we were talking about it. And if we didn't implement it at the end of 16, it was definitely implemented by the beginning of 17 by late that January.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

So it's been five plus years now. Yeah. Yeah. Five and a half, six years and it's been going really well. And what's interesting is at the time when we implemented it we might have been 12 people, 13, 14 people somewhere around there and we've not quite doubled that, but we're at 25 and so you know, a lot of what we have evaluated year over year is, is this sustainable as we add people.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

But really what it comes down to and I remember very distinctly talking openly to our staff at the time that it was something that we were considering so we kind of brought them in because what we said to them was we want them to be looking at 19 ideas as a place that they're not only proud to be, but that they're protective of being there.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

And it's about building trust within the team and it's for us as owners, trust in our team so we don't call it unlimited PTO, it's responsible PTO. So it's really on you to make sure you're communicating with your clients, with your team members, that there's backup for you. Take the time you need, of course, and but just be responsible with it.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

And it's really about, you know, as I mentioned, like that first conversation of we're going to see how this goes. It'll be an evaluation if it ever gets to be a concern or a problem. And happy to say that, you know, almost six years later, we haven't had any problems. Knock on wood, we haven't had any problems. That's awesome.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

But I think that's because of the team that we've built and the trust that the team has.

Joe Peluso

So that's really maybe the biggest consideration when somebody is trying to do that is consider your team, consider your size. OK, all.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

Right. Well, and what kind of it comes down to culture? That's because culture isn't about, you know, happy hours and ping pong tables. You know, culture is about like how much, you know, people talk a lot about psychological safety these days. And psychological safety is really about you know, how much do I not only trust the people that I'm working with, but do I feel safe to say and do the things that I feel I need to say and do in my role?

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

And so pay time off has to kind of come into the context of what are you doing every day? How are you already operating within your role? You know, it's not just I don't I think here we don't just look at it as a benefit that you get. It's something that you have to kind of take into a larger context.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

Of this team. Yeah. And are you as a team member supporting the team?

Joe Peluso

That's great.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

It puts the responsibility kind of back on the person.

Joe Peluso

Yeah. I mean, that's always the thing you wonder I mean, the thing you always think I always hear about when you think of like, I'm just going to use it, right? Like, you know, if you just give them, you know, like and I'm like, I don't know how I feel about that. So yeah.

Dan Gigante, 19 Ideas

I would say it's almost the opposite in of, you know, we keep track of, of what other people talk about it's you. And, and so we are aware of that. And sometimes when people implement the unlimited PTO policy, they find that people take less piece him off and so we wanted to make sure that didn't happen. So we actually mandate indeed sound strong that we make everyone take five consecutive days off.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

The business days.

Dan Gigante, 19 Ideas

We track that. That's not necessarily obviously correct. Yeah. And so we make sure that that happens and we'll watch it and we'll let people know like, hey, you haven't done that just to, you know, because like I said, what ends up happening is because of the responsible factors, sometimes people are worried about taking the time off. So I would say that that's one thing if someone.

Dan Gigante, 19 Ideas

Mm hmm. Advice I would give would be to make sure that people take enough time off because you don't do it because you want people to take less time off. But it's funny because the perception is that maybe people would abuse it. And it's like I said, it almost ends up being the opposite.

Joe Peluso

Right.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

I think to something to add to that is, you know, and as actually we've grown, it's become more important to get your time off for question early so that like you're filling off the calendar to see who's going out when it's again, it's part of that trust. What is the team doing? And but to your point, we can then say like, hey, you're taking long weekends here and there, but make sure you're planning a vacation yeah.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

Make sure you're planning on taking time off. And one thing I think that's important to kind of note is that this is one policy in addition to, you know, I think 11 paid federal holidays. Plus we shut down every year at the end of the year between Christmas and New Year's, which, you know, is another week plus depending on how those days fall.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

So, you know, in our mind, it's not just the one week that people need to take off. It's also in addition to giving them the additional week off at the end of the year.

Joe Peluso

OK, so how do you like obviously there's different classifications of time of sick time, bereavement time. That's how do you how does that like the nuts and bolts of that work with that type of stuff in terms of, you know, reporting OK.

Dan Gigante, 19 Ideas

We just consider it all pay time off so we don't separate it out from from a sick or or bereavement. And obviously we do have is you mentioned there are policies in place for that between family and family. Right.

Joe Peluso

And you know, there's like New York paid say. Yeah.

Dan Gigante, 19 Ideas

Yep. And in in like maternity leave. Yep. Paternity leave. So those are in place as well as on top of that or.

Joe Peluso

It's not good.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

Well and I would say too, I mean, so we don't track vacation versus personal versus sick. Right. Those are the three that kind of we see as paid time off. We do have, you know, your standard jury duty leave policies. And as you were just talking about down, I would say like bereavement. You know, bereavement is something that we actually pull out to say, you know, I don't remember exactly our policy, but I think like, you know, for an immediate family member, you know, you're given a period of time off.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

If it's a secondary circle, family member secondary ring, I guess it's a you know, it's this level of paid time off. But here's the real bottom line. Those are policies that we have in our handbook as any h.R. Professional knows, because you have to have something, you know, around that or some sort of guardrails. But then and I really believe strongly and and again, it's about empowering people.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

It's about saying we trust you to be you know, to do your job, to be responsible for this team, your role in this team, because as a unit, we all have to function together. It's not about the individual. It's about the team. And so take the time you need if you're grieving because somebody that you're close to, it doesn't matter if they're in that second round circle.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

You need the time off. Take the time off. Because honestly, what good is it going to be if you're here suffering through your work? You know, so I mean, time off is really important. Not just rest, rejuvenate, but whatever that time is that you need to do your thing. And honestly, we also say, like, if you need to do doctor's appointments or you have something, we manage to getting your work done you know?

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

Right. So you need to take an appointment at 10 a.m. you take the appointment and it's expected that at some point you're going to make up the time. That's a little bit different than like if you're doing hourly work as manufacturer. We're in professional services, so we're allowed to have that kind of model here. But we take advantage of that flexibility that our industry allows that's great.

Joe Peluso

Yeah. OK, so that's I guess that's another sort of factor too. It's like it's not it's not a thing. Every vertical can't do it like. Right? Yeah, I gotcha. OK, so like what how is there a way to in like enforce the no, not enforce the policy, but I mean, how do you do you define abuse of it?

Joe Peluso

Like is there like, you know, how would you. Yeah.

Dan Gigante, 19 Ideas

I would say I mean, the bottom line is like the work needs to get done. Right? And that's part of the aspect of the responsible part. I don't know that we've had an issue, but I think that, you know, if you would think that be if any issue happened, it would be noticeable and then we would probably see something.

Dan Gigante, 19 Ideas

And luckily, we haven't had to deal with we've had people that have taken a good amount. But they they what I mean by that is like there are people that are like I mentioned, some people don't use enough of it. Some people have used it. But there are circumstances where I mean, I remember back to when it was a male who had a child and it was like the timing worked out where he was able to take more time to be.

Joe Peluso

Yeah.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

With PTO. Yeah.

Dan Gigante, 19 Ideas

So but is the work was getting done and it wasn't a problem?

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

Well, I'd say it's funny because you mentioned that, you know, people have taken some good amount of time off. Let's just define that a little bit. So when we pull her off like we pulled a report of last year, like what was the PTO ever? Who did take PTO? What was the average? Because we do look at these things to see like, you know, are people not using it?

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

Are people using it, you know, too much? And what is too much I'd say, you know, on average, people were taking two to like two to four weeks was like kind of the the range. There was like one or two people that were inching more towards five but those are senior people. And that's probably if you look at like what any sort of other company defining, you know, given specific paid time off, that's probably you know, about.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

Right or maybe a little bit on the generous. Yeah. But I think that that tracks with like where we want to be anyway with our benefits is more on the generous end.

Joe Peluso

So that leads kind of perfectly in what I want to ask you next, which is how what kind of effect is it had on? Well, I guess it's two parts. What kind of insight has it had on like employee morale yeah. And the the sort of culture that you, you know, try to build here, but also like in terms of like recruiting and retention.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

So yeah. Yeah. So I mean, this was also when we implemented it, it was something that was thought about in the context of culture. Again, building a culture of trust, protecting this team, being, you know, again, very mindful of a team attitude. But it was also a strategic, you know, sort of additional benefit to be competitive. You know, I think there's a lot of ways that a company can be competitive because, you know, when you look at us, we're very small.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

We're not we don't have the same resources that a large, you know, employer has in our community that they can offer, you know, including the obvious salary and more financial contributions to benefits. So for us, it's it really is leaning into more of we keep saying it, but the team environment, the culture here, that culture of trust, that culture of being, you know, autonomous, but with the support of a team at your back and I think, you know, having not just like a decent salary and decent benefits, but us really investing in our people in ways to say, like, here's how we're going to show you that we trust you and here's how we're going

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

to show you that we appreciate you. That kind of empowerment is the way that we build our culture and we win on that culture because we're going to attract the kind of people that are going to align to that. And so then we don't worry about our competitors in that way in that sense.

Joe Peluso

So it's so it's worked like it. Yeah.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

It's worked. I think we have an incredible team and you know, the team obviously as people come and go, it's morphed over the years. But I will say that there is definitely a through line of when people are here, they buy fully into the team concept. They really do. And when people move on, it's for a variety of reasons.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

But I think that they leave. You know, I think a lot of people, when they have left have mentioned how much they're going to miss that team aspect of things. So, you know, Pete's the unlimited or responsible PTO is kind of one aspect of like, how are you? It's not I don't think it should be seen as just a benefit.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

It's really a communication tool for owners to say to their employees how they feel about them and how they trust them. What, you know.

Joe Peluso

Yeah, that's great. All right. Well, I mean, I you know, I predated you know, on the unlimited PTO thing. But I mean, the culture that you were trying to build was I mean, as somebody who was there from the very beginning, like it was already a parent. So it's been great to sort of watch, you know, the growth.

Joe Peluso

Like, I mean, literally I mean, figuratively and literally. It's been like, you know, from the you know, a corner of a bigger co-working space in the tri lane building to this beautiful now two levels on its exterior. It's been sort of made thanks. Awesome. So yeah.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

You know what it is? It's about identifying who you are and what you're not and leaning into who you are. That's because when you lean into who you are, you attract the right people. You attract the right clients and you build from there, you know? And it's about refinement.

Dan Gigante, 19 Ideas

You have refinement. It's going to say. I think that the other thing is, is we talked about we look at it every year. We're looking at all the things and we're not afraid to try something, see if it works. And adjust it if it doesn't or stop doing it or do more of it or other things to just kind of constantly evolve and improve.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

I think to you know, just going back to a question that you asked, because I don't know that we fully answer to the question of like, how do you know when some of these abuse are that? And I've said, you know, we together have said a lot about trust. So there was an example actually I was looking at that just this past December, in January of like, is it time to adjust and sort of put more boundaries around this or define this a little bit better, especially as we add new members to the team.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

There were so after that shutdown that we have and the point of that shutdown is so that everyone is taking the time off so that you're not on vacation and you're sort of worried, you know, mentally, you're kind of thinking about all the emails that are coming in and work that's being done while you're not there. So on the heels of that shutdown, you know, there were some requests, request vacation requests, right away in January.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

And I thought to myself, like, we just did this company wide vacation essentially, and now more. And then I thought like it was sort of a good gut check of, is that too much? Should I say no to that? At the end of the day, I ended up approving it. But it was those conversations with those I was actually a couple of people and they happened to be within the same department.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

And so it was really about did you guys connect? Did you talk about who was going to cover while the other one was out? And it comes down to but I ended up approving. But it was with a conversation around like, did you communicate appropriately? Who are you empowering to make sure that the work is done? Do your other colleagues know?

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

And it was a good gut check for that. So it's not like we just approve. It's with the context of, you know, and we then empower our directors to say, do you know what your team is planning on as far as timeout and time off and how you're going to, you know, manage the work according to that?

Dan Gigante, 19 Ideas

Well, that's a good point, too, because it's not like people just take the time off and just do it. And I tell you, I'm like, there's a lot to make sure. Also not that wasn't played out for. Yeah, there's a request and approval process and like you talked about like sometimes before that even happens. Talking among the team, I just want to clarify like, yeah.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

And instead of just saying like, no, you just had a week off that we just gifted everybody or like it was three weeks ago. Yeah, I just off it was I turned it back on them to say, what do you think is the right thing to do here? You know, is this the right time to take off? And actually one of those people, you know, decided to move their, their trip a couple of weeks out because it was review season and it wasn't a great time to go away, you know, so I mean, that kind of give and take, but that's part of the building, the culture and the trust to say like, yeah, you

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

know what? Maybe I don't need to take this time off. Like right then and there. I can wait a few weeks is no problem. And it's the right thing to do for the company because I'm you know, I'm I play this role in this company and I need to be there for that.

Joe Peluso

Yeah. So it's responsible, like, which is the point of all of this. I agree. That's awesome. OK, great. Yes. All right. Well, yeah, I think yeah, it's I think it's kind of exactly. Just knowing you guys. It's sort of I it's kind of exactly. What I, what I thought like, you know, I mean, like, it's about building a culture, but about doing it responsibly.

Joe Peluso

Yeah. And yeah, I mean, I think it's worked like it's been like I said, it's been so great to watch the. Yeah. What's this little seed girl?

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

Thank you.

Joe Peluso

So. All right, I will wrap it up. I know you got to get out of here, but I don't I mean, that was pretty much all I want. That's I think thank you for getting a lot out of this. And if you're on the fence about implementing a policy like this, like, I hope of this is helpful in that process.

Joe Peluso

So Dan Kelly, thank you so much again for letting us come steward in this room. It's like a little it's a little too small to do, but we did it though. So yeah, if you have if you have any questions for us or 19 ideas about unlimited PTO or any of that stuff or if you have an idea for a topic that you'd like us to cover in a future episode, or if you'd like to volunteer yourself to be a guest on the future episode, please feel free.

Joe Peluso

Email us. People work at complete payroll dot com otherwise. Dan, Katie, thank you again. Thank you. Have a great day. Take care.

Katie Krawczyk, 19 Ideas

Bye.

Joe Peluso

Bye.

(NOTE: Transcript is auto-generated. Any errors are purely incidental)

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