VTO is an acronym for two leave categories: volunteer time off and voluntary time off.  It is vital to understand the difference between the two leave categories to develop effective leave policies for employees. 

VTO Meaning

The term VTO stands for both volunteer time off and voluntary time off. These are two unique leave policies offered by organizations to help employees give back to the company and save poor scheduling costs, respectively. 

HR needs to understand the intricacies of both to create leave policies that incorporate a number of unique leave types.

What is Voluntary Time Off?

Voluntary time off (VTO) is a leave category used by companies to balance staffing requirements with frequently changing workloads. Creating schedules is an exact science but sometimes, due to certain issues too many people can be scheduled in a shift. In that case, a large cost can be incurred by the company. When this happens some companies allow the extra employees to take unpaid time off to save costs. 

Although companies try to pitch voluntary time off as an opportunity to employees, it is a benefit for companies. Voluntary time off needs to give employees the opportunity to take time off without repercussions too. If it’s only one-sided it may seem manipulative.

Voluntary time off if done right can give employees an opportunity for work-life integration while bringing down costs for the company.

What Is Volunteer Time Off?

Volunteer time off is a class of paid leave and a benefit for employees. Companies provide their employees an opportunity to participate in community events as volunteers while giving them paid time off. Companies offer VTO to their employees by partnering up with non-profit organizations or letting them choose an organization independently.

Is VTO Paid?

Volunteer time off is when companies offer paid time off to their employees to provide them an opportunity to volunteer within their community. Along with the benefit of allowing employees to do what they love, companies also earn brownie points from the perspective of corporate social responsibility. 

On the other hand, voluntary time off is granted by companies to their employees without pay. 

Voluntary Time Off Policy

On the one hand, voluntary time off can be accessible to an employee who is a full-time worker for the company. On the other hand, employees that take voluntary time off or unpaid leave could lower their hours below a threshold for full-time status. 

To prevent the latter from taking place, companies set up voluntary time-off policies that can facilitate the workers to keep hold of the benefits and gain promotions even after the workers take voluntary time off. As a result, the voluntary time off policy is insignificant if the employees decide not to use it. Another concern is that voluntary time off can also result in emptying an office and disrupting its operations due to an imbalance between the remaining work and available workers.

A company can require approval for voluntary time-off requests. In a similar aspect, companies can also make a voluntary time off policy where the employees are required to use up their paid leave before they become eligible for voluntary time off. Allowing voluntary time to be utilized can encourage its usage, and the policy can allow the employees to take voluntary time off after they deplete their paid leave.

Voluntary Time Off

Voluntary Time Off Best Practices

One of the best practices of voluntary time off is the integration of cost-cutting measures. For example, a company may have to pay the employer share for workers that take voluntary time off. However, at the same time, the company can avoid the cost of paying salary and wages to the employee who has voluntarily taken time off. In this way, a voluntary time-off policy can enhance employee satisfaction and prevent companies from facing economic challenges.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Voluntary Time Off

Voluntary time off policies can be beneficial for companies to deal with the unproductive hours spent by employees. However, sometimes voluntary time off can also create a mismatch between staffing and workload. 

Employees can also feel confused and conflicted while deciding to take VTO or continue their regular work and earn money. This can create a negative impression about the company and the employer among employees that saving money is more crucial for the employer than the employees’ efforts to be available for a shift.

Volunteer Time off Policy

Companies that willingly invest time and effort in embracing their corporate social responsibility allow their employees to take VTO. Companies do it to provide their employees an opportunity to participate in community service programs. 

Volunteer time off policy or VTO policy is a way for companies to give back to the communities. While at the same time giving its employees something else to focus on outside work. Companies also believe that taking care of the community helps build a brand and gives employees a sense of pride to be associated with a company that focuses not only on profit-making.

Employees may take up to 24 hours per calendar year towards any volunteer activities. Additionally, companies may have an approved list of charitable organizations with volunteering guidelines. Employees have the option to choose more than one organization within the stipulated hours. The hours’ break-up can be as follows:

  •  Half-days off for group volunteer activities, which would be sponsored by the COMPANY (8 hours)
  •  Hours off for personal volunteering by the employee

Employees have to fill out the VTO Request Form and submit it to their manager 7 days before the requested time-off. Such approval is at the discretion of the manager and HR. 

Volunteer Time off Best Practices

Volunteer time off best practices is focused on uplifting communities with collaborations with non-profits. The practices might include administrative tasks and event planning of the VTO program. Volunteer time off or VTO time duration must be balanced with other forms of leaves to provide employees with adequate discretionary time for vacation and sick leaves. 

The best practices for volunteer time off include suitable guidelines and regulations for employees while choosing which organizations to support in their VTO time duration. Volunteer time off best practices should address specific questions such as:

  • Can employees volunteer in political movements?
  • Do the values of the non-profit align with your organization’s values and goals?
  • Who approves the VTO requests? 
  • What is the process of verification that would be required from employees?

VTO Benefits

VTO Benefits for Employers


If a company faces issues in hiring new talent, volunteer time off can allow the company to attract potential employees. According to a report by Forbes, people between the ages of 18 and 34 were likely to want to work for a company that is actively involved in community advancements and has previously helped communities grow. 

Offering VTO is a great way to attract Gen Z and millennial talent.

Low Employee Turnover

Volunteer time off practices helps companies retain their employees as they get involved in something outside of their work. One of the best practices of volunteer time off is charity events, allowing the employees to volunteer and engage with teammates and coworkers.

VTO benefits the companies by facilitating employee retention, which leads to a major reduction in attrition. As the employees are retained for a longer period, hiring new employees is less, reducing hiring costs.

Corporate Visibility

Employees who are a part of events focused on enhancing the standard of living of a society or community are more likely to spread a company’s positive brand image. The companies can benefit to a great extent by integrating this practice on different levels.

Why is VTO Important for Employees?

Ideal Situation for Empaths

There has been a rapid technological advancement around the globe that has transformed how people communicate with each other. As a result, the empathy in people has declined as most of the conversations are limited to smartphones and virtual meetings. However, there is no shortage of people who want to help the poor and deprived communities to flourish and live fulfilling lives. 

The presence of compassionate people among the employees is the main reason behind the increased importance of VTO benefits in recent years. VTO opportunities offered by the companies make the employees participate in the well-being of their community.

Sense of Community

In addition, the employees feel a sense of pride when their company’s values align with their interests. VTO is also essential for employees because it attracts employees passionate about the company’s social values and responsibility. 

As employees feel a sense of purpose, they tend to feel satisfied with their work, which also improves their health significantly. VTO gives employees positive feelings towards work-life balance and builds strong bonds with coworkers and employers.

The company that initiates the VTO program also benefits as its brand popularity and reputation increase in the community.

VTO Impact on Business

The benefits of offering VTO to employees provide a competitive edge to businesses. Some of those include:

Attracting a Committed Workforce

The VTO policy helps to attract employees who have a sense of purpose and passion for social and community values. Such candidates would be open to aligning the same with the company’s ethos and values as well.

Higher Retention

Any policy that enables employees to fulfill their values convinces them to stay put with the organization. In addition, it leads to a reduced turnover rate, especially among millennial employees who engage extensively in volunteering and charitable activities.

Increase in Employee Job Satisfaction

Paid volunteer hours harness a sense of fulfillment among employees as they believe the company is committed to making a difference for the community at large. Consequently, they are inclined to put more effort into the work leading to an increase in productivity. Employees enjoy a positive outlook towards work-life balance and develop stronger bonds with colleagues.

Drawbacks of VTO

Some pros and cons are associated with every HR policy, and similarly, volunteer time off policy has certain drawbacks in its implementation. For example, in small businesses, the unavailability of an employee due to volunteer time off could enhance the workload. In this aspect, it is vital to stay ready before such a situation arises.

What is VTO Amazon?

VTO Amazon refers to voluntary time off at the e-commerce giant, Amazon. VTO Amazon is nothing more than an opportunity for Amazon’s warehouse workers to end their shift early when the overall workload is low. The employees are not paid for the cut hours. 

Amazon provides an opportunity to its warehouse workers to get some relaxation in their shift in case they have less work and staff availability is adequate. It allows Amazon’s warehouses to save on costs while allowing the workers to take time off. Associates at Amazon can sign up for VTO different alerts and opt for the fast-filling slots. Additionally, when a VTO opportunity is there, workers can make themselves available at their convenience.

However, it has been claimed by several associates that managers harass employees to take VTO when an opportunity comes through. 13 unnamed current and former Amazon warehouse workers stated in an interview that an environment had been created in which workers are strong-armed into taking VTO. The employees also stated that VTO opportunities were not offered occasionally. But instead, they were offered daily, even during the peak holiday season.

In sharp contrast, Amazon has made it clear that it offers voluntary VTO opportunities to the employees. Employees are free to take or ignore them depending on their needs.

VTO Amazon


Final Verdict on VTO 

VTO has two meanings. VTO, volunteer time off, can be defined as the practice that involves allowing employees to draw full pay while giving time off for volunteering at non-profit organizations. As voluntary time off, VTO can be defined as the practice of allowing employees to take time off without their pay being affected to balance the staffing requirements. 

If done right, VTO can be beneficial for both the company and its employees.