| Adjusting Attitudes Toward Paid Time Off for the Changing Face of Business
By Marlynn Jayme Schotland, Founder and CEO, EventBliss and SchotlandPR
As the face of the American business community continues to change, especially in the world of small business, I believe we as minority small business owners have a greater opportunity to also change the standards for holidays and other time off that have been handed down for generations by larger corporations. I believe it is our responsibility to not only our employees, but also to the future of the business community in this country, to acknowledge the changing face of business through more flexible and equal paid time off options. As a parent entrepreneur, in addition to holidays, there are issues concerning sick days, school functions and meetings, and other family-related occurences to consider.
As a parent entrepreneur whose clients are mainly families and also other family-owned businesses, I revel in the fact that once I am prepared to hire employees, I have the flexibility to create a time off calendar that works for all employees, regardless of race, culture or religion – one that works for families of all sizes and needs, year-round. Yet as someone whose busiest times also fall during the traditional Christian holidays, and who finds it nearly impossible to take even one full day off of work each week, I wonder if it would be more complicated, in fact, for a parent entrepreneur. Can we honestly afford such flexibility, even though our ethics and values drive us to make the change?
Heidi Sivers Boyce, Chief Operations Officer of Oregon Athletic Clubs and a parent entrepreneur herself, recently introduced a new time off policy that she believes affords more equality to all employees. "We are no longer recognizing any specific holidays with the exception of Christmas day when the club is closed due to very little traffic on that day historically," she says. "Instead, we incorporated what was holiday time into a generous Personal Time Off (PTO) program that allows employees to use their time off as they see fit and in whatever way works best for their family."
It seems more and more companies are leaning toward the PTO route. Whereas many employers in this country offer their workers 10 paid holidays, 2 weeks of vacation, two personal days, and six to eight sick days per year, a sample PTO plan may offer employees a general 30 days paid time off instead. The concept seems to be one that offers fairness and flexibility for all employees, but may also require more stringent policies and record keeping by the employer – adding time and energy that many small family-run businesses may not be able to afford in the grand scheme of things.
There are various options to offering employees more realistic schedules and time off, everything from the increase in telecommuting jobs in which employees are given the necessary tools to work from home (laptops, cell phones, Blackberrys, printers) to the ever-popular flex schedules (with 9am-3pm being a general popular one for families, allowing many to drop off and pick up their children from school). Rodale Inc. allows all employees the ability to take paid time off during a workday to volunteer at the nonprofit organization of their choice, including their child's school.
Regardless of the option you may choose as a small business for your employees, I think that we cannot underestimate the power we have to help our employees be more effective in their jobs by offering them schedules and time off that works with the reality of their lives – as professionals and as parents. I know that as a mom, I would have more respect for a company that valued not only what I brought to the boardroom but also the fact that my life outside of work may not fit “the mold” set forth by corporations of old. I hope that other family-owned businesses will continue to work toward a more flexible and fair scheduling and time off policy.