Don’t Say No to PTO

As the sole proprietor of a growing agency and mom to a four year old and an almost-three-year-old, I’m always trying to achieve the magic work/life balance ratio. I also know that it is not always realistic to effectively achieve this balance, especially in our industry of tight deadlines, childcare unknowns and last minute fire drills.

Years ago [before I started my own business], I worked for an agency that had a fairly strict vacation policy. You were required to accrue your days, and requests made by senior team members would take precedence over my own. As a 20-something designer with zero responsibilities other than my dog – no dependents, no mortgage, no yard to manage – I wanted to get out of dodge as much as I possibly could. I promised myself that when I controlled my own destiny, I’d rewrite the game of PTO.

Fast forward almost 12 years later, I own a business made of uber-creative, free-spirited employees. The creative environment is a tender environment, one which drafts large amounts of energy from these folks daily. My creative director once said that “working in advertising is like being an actor. You are expected to perform on demand, but if you are tired, burnt out or not creatively turned on, it’s really difficult to do your ‘job’ well.” This is so true for our line of work. Agency life is fast paced and requires you to be “on” all the time. There isn’t a moment that doesn’t demand you to keep your thinking cap on. Most importantly, you have to stay refreshed and inspired to provide the best work possible for the client. All of this sums up why I don’t say no to PTO.

At TJA, we have 10 business days of personal time off for each employee. It doesn’t matter whether you are fresh off the schoolyard block or you are a tenured team member, you get two weeks! It’s not accrued so they are able to use it when they want, as soon as they want, and however much they want at one time. We also close for two weeks during the holiday season and give the team those days paid as well, which totals up to an average of 27 paid days off annually. It’s more than a business month off!

I cautiously warn them however, TJA does not offer a separate ‘bank’ of sick days. I remind them that if they are prone to catching whatever annual catastrophic ailment is going around during flu season, they should plan ahead and not blow through all of their days. You can clearly draw a line in the sand between those employees who savor their days and others who have spent them all before first quarter’s end.

Because we are a smaller agency, I also ask them to have respect for their fellow peers. If half the creative department has already requested days off for approval, I tell them to be conscientious that they may be putting the firm into a bandwidth predicament. I am very fortunate to have a group of people under my roof who genuinely respect and admire each other, so this has never happened.

As an employer, I see the effects of a flexible PTO policy return to the company ten-fold. Team members get to spend quality time with their family, take off on an adventure they likely would not have had the ability to do at their last position, or just rest at home. However they decide to use their time out of the office, they always return refreshed, rejuvenated and re-inspired. I’ve heard some often say that they were excited to come back to work after being away.

That’s music to Boss Lady’s ears.

Veronique James | Boss Lady

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