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10 Ways To Devise A Leave Policy For Employees That Doesn't Hamper Productivity

Subramaniam Venkat has been celebrating the Pongal festival at his village in India every January. Most companies don’t offer more than a day’s leave at that time. But Venkat chooses to take a week off and club it with a couple of weekends to make sure he has ample time for this personal event.

As a general policy, taking leave at the beginning of the new year won’t exactly be a workplace-friendly thing to do. But it was different for Venkat. He worked with a multinational IT giant that had a workforce spread across the globe. They realised that their leave policy couldn’t follow a ‘one size fits all’ philosophy.

So they give each employee a flex-leave option through which they can work on festivals that they don’t celebrate and instead take extra leave during a celebration of their choice – provided they give advance notice. The policy ensures that employees enjoy their time off, and productivity doesn’t take a beating either.

Employee-friendly leave policies are a significant factor in creating a company culture that propagates work-life balance. It helps the employees feel more responsible during the time they are at work to ensure things get done.

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In fact, a recent study showed that more than half (57%) of the employees sharing reviews said that benefits and perks are among the top considerations before they accept a job. These are the five benefits they would prefer over an increase in pay:

  • Healthcare and insurance (40%)
  • Vacation/Paid time off (37%)
  • Performance bonus (35%)
  • Paid sick days (32%)
  • Retirement/pension plan (31%)

Two of the top 5 benefits are directly related to your leave policy, and with the right tweaks, you can create a win-win for yourself and your employees. Moreover, as the war for talent intensifies, these benefits will play a key role in helping you retain your talented employees.

But what if an employee requests time off in the middle of an important project because of an unexpected personal emergency? Not granting leave at such a stage will paint an unfavourable picture of the company. At the same time, the client cannot be kept waiting. Though the situation seems like a catch 22, it can be both avoided and resolved if you make the right choices. Here are some practical ways to balance leaves for employees without hampering company productivity.

10 Ways To Keep Employee Leaves And Productivity In A Happy Balance!

Let’s look at 10 ways to ensure that productivity doesn’t suffer owing to an employee or two being away!

1. Clubbing Leave Benefits

Instead of offering different types of leaves like medical, casual and seasonal leaves, some companies club everything into a leave chunk that can be used by the employee as and when they like. This gives more time for employees to plan their leaves during the year and use their days off productively. For example, many people would want to coordinate their leaves with their child’s school vacation days so that they get to spend time with them. Others would like to take a chunk of their leaves during certain festival days which are important for them. Think about it - you will have a happy and satisfied employee, and experience a definite boost to overall productivity!

2. Create A Leave Pool

Leave pooling is an interesting concept that has caught on in the last few years. This facility allows employees to donate their excess leave in a shared pool that everyone can dip into, in case they’ve exhausted they own leaves. This is aimed at medical or personal emergency situations which arrive unexpectedly when one doesn’t have any leave left. The policy also addresses the problem of some employees failing to avail their paid time off.

To encourage this practice, you can always reward employees who donate their leaves to benefit others.

3. Paternity And Maternity Leave Policies

Netflix has been widely lauded for offering a year of paid maternity and paternity leave to new parents. It also allows people to return part-time or full-time or take leave as needed throughout the year.

Several companies now offer at least 4-6 months of paid maternity leave to their employees. They also offer various programs to ensure that the return to work is smooth and the work remains meaningful.

4. Sabbaticals

In addition to paid leave, sabbaticals can be offered to employees who want to take time off and still have a job waiting for them when they come back. This is provided once after six or seven years of employment. It gives employees a much-needed break and pursue an activity that they are passionate about – be it travel, a charitable cause, further education or just time to spend with children. They can come back to work with a refreshed zeal!

5. Planning For Emergency Leave Situations

Emergency situations like a bereavement in the family is a difficult time for the employee. It is unreasonable to expect them to fulfil work demands at such a time. Companies can best cope with such situations by:

  • Having a backup resource who can temporarily take things over
  • Pushing off a critical deadline for a limited time. Everyone, including clients, understands that such things aren’t in anyone’s control.

The courtesy you extend to your employees will demonstrate company culture and will mirror in your client’s behaviour towards you.

6. Mandatory Paid Vacation Time

Some companies offer two weeks mandatory vacation time that employees can use to their benefit. This ‘forced’ vacation will ensure that employees don’t experience a burn-out and come back refreshed with new ideas and perspectives.

7. Request Prior Intimation

Companies should have policies in place on the minimum time for a leave notice. This allows everyone to plan the projects during the period.

8. Extend Support During A Personal Or Medical Emergency

Projects, clients, presentations and deadlines are a part of the job. They do matter, but not as much as the emotional well-being of the person who is working hard to make it possible to achieve the common goal. Do look with a human perspective to resolve sensitive matters. Your employees will appreciate it and double their efforts to meet goals.

9. Offer Flexi-working Options

There are times when employees find it hard to find a favourable work-life balance by putting in 6 days a week in the office. Instead, offer a work-from-home day during the week where employees can continue to contribute positively while taking care of the little things at home that just have to be done.

10. Plan One ‘Great’ Policy That Makes You Stand Out

Most of the top-rated companies with high employee engagement rate have one great policy that makes them a class apart. Airbnb offers a stipend of $2000 to travel and stay at any AirBnB listed property throughout the world. World Wildlife Fund lets employees take Fridays off, every other week. Accenture allows reassignment of employees as a part of their commitment to LGBTQ rights.

A company’s leave policy is an excellent reflection of its culture. It needs to be strategically structured to put the employees’ well-being before company profits. Investment in culture isn’t about gain or loss. It is about building a sustainable employer brand and ensuring that you retain talent, which in turn will boost your productivity!

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