Glossary of Human Resources Management and Employee Benefit Terms
The acronym VTO refers to one of two leave categories: voluntary time off or volunteer time off. Understanding the difference is essential when developing your leave policies and promoting them to your employees.
Voluntary time off is a leave category that some companies use to balance staffing requirements with quickly-shifting workloads. When more employees are available to work than needed on a given day, they are given the option to take unpaid time off without repercussions on their employment status. Online retail giant Amazon is a high-profile example of this practice, encouraging its warehouse workers to take VTO as a measure to increase efficiency and save on staffing costs.
While voluntary time off policies can help reduce unproductive hours in warehouses and call centers, they can also perpetuate a mismatch between staffing and workload. In addition, employees may feel conflicted when making the decision to take VTO or to stay and earn the money they need, especially if management has VTO quotas to fill. This can lead to the perception among employees that saving money for the employer is more important than the efforts they make to be available for a shift (such as commuting to work and arranging childcare).
Volunteer time off is a form of paid leave where employees receive their regular compensation for hours spent in service to an approved charitable or community organization. Volunteer time off policies can help attract employees to an organization by giving them latitude to make a difference outside the organization. They also provide employers with a way to support non-profits or communities with more than just a monetary donation.
Volunteer time off (VTO) hours should be balanced with other forms of leave to ensure employees have sufficient discretionary time for vacation and sick leave while fulfilling all their duties. It’s also important to develop guidelines for employees to choose which organizations to support with their VTO hours. Your policy will need to answer the following questions:
Is your organization in a position to volunteer in political causes?
Are there organizations that run counter to your organization’s mission and values?
Who will approve VTO requests?
What verification will you require from employees?
VTO, when implemented correctly, shows that an employer values their employees’ desire to make a difference in the world around them.