What is VTO?

At a glance

In HR, VTO can mean 'voluntary time off' or 'volunteer time off,' two leave policies that offer flexibility and increase employee retention.

Published on:
June 3, 2024

What Is Voluntary Time Off?

Voluntary time off, or VTO, is an unpaid leave that empowers employees to take time off without any negative impact on their employment. This offering can be a beneficial tool for employers to manage staffing requirements, such as when there's an unexpected surplus of staff for the amount of work needed. Employees appreciate this benefit as it allows them to balance the demands of their personal lives without jeopardizing their employment status. Voluntary time off is distinct from paid time off (PTO) as it is unpaid. Therefore, employees typically need to balance their VTO with forms of paid leave, such as vacation and sick leave.

Voluntary time off allows employees to take unpaid leave without affecting their employment, helping employers manage staffing needs and employees balance work and personal obligations.

What Is Volunteer Time Off?

Another form of leave time that is gaining popularity, also known by the VTO acronym, is volunteer time off. This benefit that some companies offer is not just about giving employees time to volunteer or do charity work. It's about fostering a culture of giving back, a factor that younger generations look for in employers. These VTO policies can significantly boost employee engagement and loyalty. They also help companies achieve larger organizational goals related to corporate social responsibility and establish themselves as a social-forward brand.

Volunteer time off lets employees take paid leave to volunteer, promoting a company culture and brand image of giving back.

Challenges and Considerations

When employees can take time away from work voluntarily, at their discretion, and without negative repercussions to their job status, it can increase employee satisfaction and reduce turnover. Likewise, employees can get paid for a typical workday while giving back to a cause close to their heart. This may create more company loyalty and increased productivity upon their return. However, both kinds of VTO policies come with their challenges. 

For example, a voluntary time off policy can be challenging because too many staff attempts to take it at once can lead to staffing shortages or inconsistencies. With volunteer time off, maintaining productive schedules can also be challenging when allowing employees to take sporadic paid volunteer time away from work. It's important for small businesses to be aware of these challenges and plan strategies to mitigate them.

Voluntary time off and volunteer time off can increase employee satisfaction and loyalty, but implementing these policies may pose challenges such as potential staffing shortages, additional administrative burdens, and scheduling inconsistencies.

Best Practices for Small Businesses

Here are a few best practices that small businesses can follow to successfully implement VTO policies. First, establish who is responsible for approving time off requests and create standards for things like how many employees can take time off at once and how much notice they should give to get a VTO request granted. Then, clearly communicate the benefit to employees, defining the parameters of the policy so that employees are well-informed and know what to expect. 

Similar to volunteer time off, you'll need to define who is responsible for running the program. Additionally, consider things like how many days a year companies can get volunteer time off, which causes (if any) are off limits, and how to prove that employees do the volunteering they say they do. 

To successfully implement VTO policies, small businesses should establish program standards, clearly define who is in charge, and communicate relevant expectations and restrictions to employees.

Main takeaway

VTO, which can refer to voluntary or volunteer time off, provides flexibility for employees and employers, often leading to increased employee satisfaction and brand loyalty. However, both policies can pose challenges, such as staffing shortages and increased administrative burden. Small businesses can successfully implement VTO policies by clearly defining their program standards, designating program managers, and communicating the policy benefits and expectations to employees.

About the author

Casey Pontrelli

Casey Pontrelli is a multi-talented professional with a background in content creation, branding, and social media marketing. Whether writing for a newspaper, eCommerce website, B2B startup, or a marketing agency, she has taken her strong background in journalism and turned her focus to SEO and content marketing. She’s written about everything from boutiques to cars to small businesses, and enjoys most when she knows her writing has had an impact. When she’s not writing up a storm or creating attention-grabbing social media posts, Casey enjoys hanging out with her partner and three cats, Eddy, Larry, and Marcus, going on long walks in the Green Belt, and, predictably, reading.

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