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Beyond Buzzwords: Solutioneers Get Real About Open PTO

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In the ever-evolving landscape of workplace benefits, one term that has gained tremendous momentum is "Open PTO."  While this perk remains relatively rare in the United States, its potential impact on employees' lives and organizational culture can be incredibly meaningful. Let’s dig into the concept of Open PTO, where it can fall short, and if done correctly, its transformative impact through compelling real-life stories from Gray Solutions.

Understanding Open PTO:

Open PTO might seem like a widespread trend, but the reality is quite different. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, only 6% of employers offered this unique benefit in 2022. However, the statistics paint a fascinating picture. Contrary to the assumption that Open PTO leads to excessive time off, studies reveal that employees with this benefit take only marginally fewer days off than their counterparts with traditional plans. The question arises: why is there hesitation to embrace the full extent of Open PTO?

The Dilemma of Taking Time Off:

The hitch in fully embracing Open PTO boils down to workplace pressures. The struggle is real when you can't catch a break due to crazy workloads, the fear of coming back to a towering to-do list, or a workplace culture that's not exactly waving the "take some time off" banner.  Shockingly, nearly half of U.S. employees admit to working while on vacation, highlighting the struggle to fully kick back and enjoy some needed time off.  

Real Stories from Gray Solutions:

Gray Solutions, a company deeply dedicated to its employees' well-being, showcases how Open PTO becomes a game-changer when done for the right reasons. Solutioneers get real as we dive into three captivating stories and see how Open PTO is making a real impact on individuals and their families.

Sabbatical for Success - Matt Meiser

In 2022, Matt Meiser, Manager, Digital Transformation, realized he needed a break after years of intense projects and limited travel during the COVID era. After sharing his plans with his director, Matt was pleasantly surprised—his manager not only supported him, but was genuinely excited. The project management team also played a crucial role in adjusting schedules to ensure a smooth transition. Contrary to Matt's expectations of the inevitable pre-vacation cram, he found his schedule gradually winding down, making his time off a seamless experience.

Although the first few days of his sabbatical felt odd, Matt quickly adjusted and he set off on a journey through the southeastern United States alongside his wife. During this period, there was a noticeable silence — no project-related calls, no Teams messages seeking updates, and no texts except for a picture Matt sent to Walker Mattox enjoying a meal with a fellow Solutioneer, and informing the CEO he was indeed buying their lunch. For the first time in years, Matt truly unplugged.

Upon returning to work after his month-long sabbatical, Matt prepared himself for the mountain of emails awaiting him. However, to his surprise and immense relief, it had been taken care of in his absence. While there were some meeting notes to review and archive, and a few emails to respond to, none of it detracted even an ounce from the rejuvenating experience he had during his well-deserved break.

Home Sweet Home - Ray Alfaro

Ray Alfaro, Director, Business Development, hadn't set foot in his home country for over 30 years, and the yearning to share this experience with his family, who had never made the journey, was palpable. Traveling to the Philippines, however, isn't a quick jaunt – it's a substantial journey, far from being a spontaneous long weekend getaway to Asia. Ray, having joined Gray Solutions in 2022 after decades in the manufacturing automation industry, found himself in a unique situation. Even though Open PTO had been rolled out, he remained unsure if his new employer would allow such an extended break, one that would finally take him back home.

Ray recalled a conversation with a member of leadership, tentatively asking if it ‘really’ was acceptable to take three weeks off. To his surprise, the response was not only encouraging but incredibly supportive – "Take four if you want." This unequivocal support provided Ray with the reassurance to seize the moment.

Without hesitation, Ray booked the long-awaited journey to the Philippines. The adventure unfolded as they revisited old friends, savored local delicacies, and even swam with whale sharks. It was the kind of immersive experience one dreams about. Throughout his travels, Ray stayed connected with his team, but not for work-related matters. Instead, he shared the joy through pictures and stories of his incredible adventures. The enthusiasm was contagious; everyone at the office was genuinely excited for him, with a touch of envy, especially when it came to the tantalizing food pictures that transported them to the heart of Ray's unforgettable adventure.

There When You Need It Most - Melissa Geertz

Melissa Geertz, Director, Marketing, found herself navigating a challenging situation not even halfway through her first year at Gray Solutions. Her spouse fell seriously ill, unexpectedly landing in the hospital for several weeks. This left Melissa shouldering the responsibility of caring for their two young school-aged children, spending each day by her partner's side, and leading a team during a major rebranding initiative.  In such circumstances, many employers might offer the standard "take the time you need" response, but often, that translates to taking ‘your’ time.

You see, in a traditional setting with limited vacation time, Melissa would have likely depleted her accrued leave for the entire year, exacerbating an already stressful situation. However, Gray Solutions Open PTO policy presented a different scenario, allowing Melissa to prioritize her family without the added stress of diminishing her available time off. This experience took her back to a moment in her interview for this role where a leader discussed disliking the phrase 'work-life balance,' emphasizing that achieving a perfect balance is impossible. There are times when you might have a deadline at work and other times when personal life takes precedence. Those two scenarios don’t have to strike a perfect balance and that’s entirely okay.

The True Benefit of Open PTO

These Solutioneer stories go beyond mere anecdotes; they stand as affirmations that at Gray Solutions, Open PTO isn't a recruitment buzzword—it embodies a sincere dedication to the well-being of employees.

The benefit of Open PTO upholds our core values:

  • We put safety and quality of life first.
  • We are customer and relationship driven.
  • We treat others the way we want to be treated, where everyone is welcome and respected.

We are grateful for everyone who makes this place #WhereTheBestWantToBelong. We support our Solutioneers to take the time they need, for whatever reason they need it, and know that as a company we’ve got you covered.

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