The importance of time off for workers — and employers
A break from the job is mutually beneficial

By KATHERINE MICHALETS - Freeman Staff

March 18, 2017

BROOKFIELD —For years we’ve been informed that Americans are some of the hardest workers in the world and tend to not use all of their paid time off each year, leading to burnout and stress. But what are the effects on their employers?

Chad Ritterbusch, president of The Ritterbusch Group in Brookfield, said he knows firsthand what it’s like to work to the point of exhaustion. Early on in his career, Ritterbusch said, he worked 70 to 80 hours per week, which led to burnout and eventually caused him to leave that employer. So when he started The Ritterbusch Group he was committed to having his employees take off the time they need and deserve.

“I want them to not only have a productive professional life but a productive personal life as well. If they are not taking their paid time off they are risking their creative energy and their ability to be productive in the long term,” he said.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, in 2012 84 percent of private industry workers received vacation, holiday, or personal leave. Seventy-two percent of workers received both paid holidays and paid vacations, and 61 percent were covered by sick leave plans. For employers, the cost for providing these benefits to employees was $1.98 per hour worked, and these benefits made up 6.9 percent of total compensation.

Ritterbusch said he is aware of the possible financial consequences should his employees accrue a lot of vacation time because it may amount to a large amount that would have to be paid out at some point.

“We have always encouraged our people to take the time they have earned to stay fresh and to do the best they can,” he said.

PTO does not expire at The Ritterbusch Group, but rolls over into the next year. Ritterbusch said he likes to be flexible with how people use their PTO.

“We work together with employees to do what’s mutually beneficial. If a person wanted to take a little more time off in a year I would allow them to take a little less the following year or I would allow them to push a little off to the following year,” he said.
 

‘Striking the right balance’

As a smaller employer with 12 staff members, Ritterbusch said it’s easier to stay connected to an employee and monitor their PTO usage — or lack thereof. He also recognizes there are some people who prefer to take a day off here or there while others like himself prefer taking two weeks off at a time to recharge.

“I think it’s so much about having conversations with employees about striking the right balance. What is essential for them and what’s essential for the business,” he said. “We are a creative enterprise. There is significant penalty to our people not being fresh, not having their creative energy. And we know we need to guard against burnout.”

In addition to being happy and successful at work, Ritterbusch wants his staff to be happy and successful in their personal lives.

Curtis Disrud, CPA, shareholder at Winter Kloman in Oconomowoc, said CPA firms are often more flexible than other companies with PTO. In off-peak times, such as summer, Disrud said some staff members will start as early as 5:30 a.m. while others are working until 8 p.m.

At Winter Kolmen, the focus is getting on the work done.

“We see people suffer from burnout way too early,” Disrud said. “In this day and age you have the cellphone on the hip. You are always plugged in. You have to find ways to break the plug-in.”

As a result, he said, those people are more energized when they are working.

When Disrud notices people have not taken time off for a while and it’s getting close to tax season, he’ll suggest that they use some PTO.