[Expert Hours] Join us on March 20th: Maximize Time Off While Ensuring Legal Compliance Register Now

Table Of Contents

Challenges and Strategies in Managing PTO for Global Teams

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Table Of Contents

Some say that labor separates humans from animals, but it seems that animals understand better than us that you need to rest from time to time. We humans don’t seem to take a hint before we burn out.

Taking time off is essential not only for our overall well-being but for our productivity as well — you can’t pour from an empty cup. That’s why your staff needs to rest regularly and rest well.

However, experienced team leaders know how tricky it is to keep the workflow smooth while multiple team members take time off, often at the same time (think summer vacations and holidays). Working with global teams adds another layer of complexity, and it seems that someone will always need to bear the brunt of the PTO slipping away when they need it the most.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to overcome these issues and maintain a productive worldwide team at all times!

Let’s dive straight into this international puzzle, identify all the possible problems, and discuss the solutions and strategies at our disposal.

Time Tracking Difficulties

Time zone discrepancy is likely to be the first issue you’ll face when managing PTO on a global level, especially tracking when exactly are they working or taking time off. 

For example, let’s say that it’s noon, April 8 in Los Angeles (GMT-7). 

You’re waiting for a team member in Manilla (GMT+8) to deliver a report that will allow the rest of the team to carry on with their work. You’ve already noted that April 9 is a national holiday in the Philippines, so you’ve taken that into account when planning your team’s weekly schedule.

Except it’s already April 9, 3:00 AM in Manilla, and your team member is probably sound asleep and will likely remain unavailable for over 24 hours, putting the rest of the team in a deadlock.

If there are remote workers on the team working with a flexible schedule, and your deadlines are as rigid as a traffic pole, this may turn into a dumpster fire. 

Luckily, this can all be avoided with a couple of easy fixes: 

  • Use time-tracking tools — You can use one of many time-tracking, scheduling, and work-management tools to keep track of your team members’ time zones, regular work hours, and scheduled vacation days. This lets you assume a birds-eye perspective at time zone differences and plan your team schedule accordingly.

  • Set clear expectations for your team members — Ensure that your team members understand the importance of accurately logging their work hours and scheduled PTO.

  • Use a PTO tracking calendar to keep track of national holidays, scheduled vacations, and all PTO types in advance — All countries have important national holidays, when people celebrate and spend time with their family: think Christmas, Eid al-Fitr, or Diwali. Add summer holidays, doctor appointments, parental leave — and you already have a lot on your plate. Using a leave management tool with a built-in calendar provides an instant, neat view of every leave.

Work Coordination and Deadlines for Remote Teams

Asynchronous work is a lovely idea, but the reality may look less than appealing with all the issues (such as the one above) that come with it. A simple oversight can easily wreak havoc on a team’s schedule.

To ensure work is coordinated and deadlines met, complement your meticulous plans by creating more effective communication channels.

Here are a couple of ways to do so:

  • Create a shared PTO calendar — A shared PTO calendar where employees can mark their planned time off for everyone to see helps the rest of the team plan their work accordingly. This amounts to fairness and transparency, while also taking some of the work off your shoulders.

  • Use collaborative work tools — It’s a good idea to handle everything you can via tools that allow for both simultaneous and asynchronous work. Figma and Google Docs are the most commonly used and loved for this reason. Screen-sharing apps and remote access tools can help you overcome trickier issues and let the more savvy coworkers step in.

  • Encourage cross-training — Cross-training employees lets you quickly and seamlessly delegate responsibilities to other available team members. They can cover duties usually handled by other coworkers, and keep the uninterrupted workflow.

Staying Compliant With Local Labor Laws and Regulations

Each country handles PTO differently.

Most European countries have a legally mandated minimum PTO, while in the U.S., employers don’t have to award paid time off at all. Also, paid time off might not always imply 100% compensation coverage.

Guessing and assuming without proper legal check-ups can lead to serious disagreements with employees and even penalties. 

It’s necessary to consistently stick to local labor and leave laws — taking the following steps is all it takes to stay compliant:

  • Research the laws yourself — Most countries’ governments translate and make their labor regulations freely available for foreign-based employers. No matter what country your international team members are from, you’ll likely find relevant labor laws online, translated into English.

  • Assume good faith from your employees — Too often, employers and managers waste valuable time (and money!) by researching something they could easily learn from their employees. Build an atmosphere of openness and trust, and you’ll certainly be able to directly talk to your team members about their countries’ PTO policies, saving you time and effort.

  • Consult with legal experts  You can ask your in-house legal expert to research a country’s PTO regulations. Alternatively, you could hire a local legal professional to write down a report on their jurisdiction’s regulations and practices.

Keeping Employee Burnout at Bay

As common as it is in the contemporary work environment, burnout appears to especially correlate with remote work, with a staggering percentage of 86% of remote workers claiming to experience burnout symptoms.

This is likely due to the loss of firm boundaries between work and free time that happens when working from home. Remote workers typically feel pressured to stay “connected” at all times, even when taking a vacation, increasing the rate at which burnout symptoms may show up.

The danger of burnout is severely understated, not only for individuals affected by it but also for work teams. A team may find its overall effectiveness seriously jeopardized by one or more of its members simultaneously facing severe burnout, which may take a long while to recover from.

As such, keeping burnout under control is one of the main challenges global teams face today. Here are some ways to do it right:

  • Foster a healthy work culture — Let the employees freely communicate their grievances. Make sure to regularly check up on your team members and see that they’re not overworked.

  • Consider a mandatory vacation policy — In an attempt to fight against burnout, certain companies are experimenting with mandatory time off for employees, forcing them to take scheduled short vacations every couple of months. You don’t need to take such a rigid approach, but it’s probably a good idea to directly talk to your employees and encourage them to use their guaranteed PTO.

  • Institute a collective vacation — Some businesses and teams institute collective vacations when the majority of employees are likely to take PTO anyway, such as winter holidays. Since many teams tend to lose basic operational productivity during these periods, a collective vacation comes at no risk of productivity loss.

Vacation Tracker can help you keep the troubles of global PTO tracking at bay!

We’ve built our leave management tool keeping remote teams in mind, and have plenty of features tied together for a seamless PTO tracking experience.

Anja Milovanovic
Anja Milovanovic

A journalist turned content writer – Anja uses her investigative skills to produce high-quality SaaS, Marketing, and HR content.

Manage Time Off in Lieu (TOIL) in Vacation Tracker

Manage Time Off in Lieu (TOIL) in Vacation Tracker

Read more
TOIL vs. Overtime Pay: What’s Best for Your Business?

TOIL vs. Overtime Pay: What’s Best for Your Business?

Read more
Understanding Substitute Approvers in Vacation Tracker

Understanding Substitute Approvers in Vacation Tracker

Read more

Do you want to simplify PTO tracking?

Schedule a free consultation with our team to learn how Vacation Tracker can help you.

Request a demo