why you need a vacation (even when there’s no time)

Americans notoriously receive less annual vacation time than other countries, on average – but did you know that we use less of what we get, too? A Glassdoor survey earlier this year indicated that the average U.S. employee only took 51% of their eligible vacation time in the last year and 15% didn’t take off any time at all! In fact, only 25% of employees reported using all of their allocated vacation days.

It’s time to change this. Vacations are good for employees, and they’re good for businesses too. At Intuit QuickBase’s Fast Track blog today, I talk about five reasons why you need to take a vacation, even if it feels like there’s no way to make time for it. You can read it here.

{ 175 comments… read them below }

  1. Government Worker*

    My supervisors are instructed to deny our vacation requests if we have less than 50 hours, “in case it’s needed for an emergency.”

    1. Anon.*

      Yikes!! That’s the corniest response I’ve heard…ever!!

      I’m an hourly worker (freelance/contractor), and I don’t have the luxury of PTO, and I need to self-manage to make sure I’m not getting too stir crazy. I can get pretty simplistic: work=$$. So it can be hard to justify a vacay for myself.

      1. Allison*

        I’m in that boat too, it’s not fun. Granted, I have some “cushion funds” so I can take a sick day here or short vacation there and still pay my bills and whatnot, but I definitely avoid taking time off when it’s not necessary. I end up working holidays so I can take time off for family vacations. Even then, when my family rented a beach house for a week I only took a couple days off to join them. I worked for 4 hours on Thanksgiving last year! Contract work is better than no work, and contract work for a good boss is vastly better than a permanent role working for a jerk, but man, I really hope this contract gig becomes full-time employment soon.

    2. AVP*

      So, can you take it if you’re getting to the end of the year and there’s no time left for an emergency to happen? That sounds like a good recipe for the whole company being out at once.

    3. NavyLT*

      That doesn’t surprise me. I’ve always told my sailors to make sure they have a cushion in case they need to take emergency leave. I’ve never recommended a leave request be denied over it, but people generally will try to maintain some sort of cushion. (Then we deploy and no one takes leave, and eventually people end up with the opposite problem, where they’ve got too much leave on the books and have to use it or lose it.)

    4. Observer*

      In some places it gets worse. In the NYC Transit authority, if you take all of your sick time, you are considered a “sick time abuser” (and will generally get counseled for it). The official reasons is that they are concerned about what happens if you have an illness that requires an extended period of being out of work.

    5. Sara*

      what do you mean less than 50 hours? as an employee? in PTO? (I’ve alwyas been an hourly worker, so I’m not too familiar with how PTO/sick days work)

    6. Amy B.*

      Our last HR manager was like that. She said she was keeping track of people that used all or close to all of their PTO because that was “leave abuse”. I looked at her like she had lost her mind. (I couldn’t say anything at the time because she took any “feedback” as a hostile takeover of her position and started screaming at me.)

      I did speak with our director later and he put an end to the tracking. Interestingly, she had a family situation and had to go in the hole for a couple of weeks of PTO. Thankfully, she is now gone.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        We had HR like that. I had over 300 hours on the books of saved sick leave. The HR person insisted that I be counseled on “sick leave abuse” the year my Mom died and I took 6 days leave.

        1. Glorified Plumber*


          At least I am glad to see engineers everywhere have a low quantity of respect for HR.

    7. Windchime*

      They used to do something similar at OldJob. Sick and Vacation were combined into PTO, which I’m normally all in favor for. But some department managers would insist that you must always keep 24 hours aside in case you got sick. So if you wanted to take a week of PTO, you had to have a minumum of 64 hours in your account, even though you were only asking to use 40 hours.

      So basically, you never got to use all of your PTO if you were a healthy person.

      1. WorkingMom*

        That’s so ridiculous. We’re all adults here, can we just be responsible to manage our own time off as we see fit? If I use up all my PTO and then get the flu – I have no option other than to take time off unpaid, that’s my problem to deal with. (Although we can roll over 40 hours, so that’s never a problem here.) I make sure keep at least 40 hours through year end, so if I need them they are there. If I don’t need them, they roll over. The whole “must have a cushion” doesn’t work if it’s use or lose it each year!

        Also – I worked for an NPO once, that didn’t have any set PTO time. It was the type of role where you managed every thing in your territory, however you saw necessary. So there was no bank of PTO to pull from. Management assumed that if you took time off you’d make sure everything in your territory was managed while you were out on vacation, etc. If you were sick unexpectedly, management could always jump in and cover meetings on short notice if needed. Surprisingly, it was not taken advantage of! If you got your work done and managed your territory, no one cared how much time you took off. If you didn’t manage your territory well, that’s a performance issue regardless of time off. It was pretty neat the way it worked!

  2. De Minimis*

    I’ve found that it really needs to be at least a week off to be relaxing. For a long time I would just try to do the occasional Monday off and/or Friday off, but it doesn’t provide the same “recharging” benefits.

    1. Ali*

      I agree. I took six working days off last year and felt so much better when I came back. A weekend away doesn’t work as well. I’m taking about eight days off coming up next month. I have three days of vacation time (five total) at the beginning of the month and then am taking another 4.5 days of PTO after that. Plus my internship (now second job!) is basically giving me two weeks off except for some very minor work. I can’t wait.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      The sweet spot is two weeks for me.

      Less than that – not fully relaxed. More than that and I start to stress about what’s going on at work.

      1. Anonie*

        Ditto! I started taking two weeks instead of one week about 5 years ago. Even if I don’t go anywhere I still take the time. Just sleeping in and not having to be in rush hour traffic for two weeks does a world of good for me!

        1. Sabrina*

          10 days is 2 weeks. Unfortunately if that’s also the only amount you get for sick days or needing a doctor’s appointment or an interview, you’re SOL.

    3. OriginalYup*

      I agree. I like taking periodic Fridays/Mondays too, to be able to run errands or go out to lunch or even just sleep in, but work is still on the background track in my brain on those days.

      I’m just realizing as I type this that I’ve never been away from work for more than 6 consecutive business days. I need to try for a full two weeks off someday!

      1. Kay*

        I’m not really sure about the full 2 week thing. There are many jobs out there that only get 2 weeks a year. It seems like a bad idea to take it all at once. I did do a full week this year and it was really awesome. I barely thought about work the whole time I was gone :-)

        1. Kelly O*

          I tend to agree with you, and I also think it’s important to remember that people recharge in different ways, so a “one size fits all” policy will obviously not work for everyone, especially depending on the role you play in your organization, or what your company actually does.

          I like stretching weekends – either a Thursday/Friday or Friday/Monday off works really well for me, personally. It’s long enough for me to relax, but not so long that things pile up. When you only get two weeks a year, it makes it a lot easier to take more frequent breaks, especially when you get the chance to use it in conjunction with paid holidays.

          Personally I’d rather have shorter, more frequent breaks. It recharges me better.

          My mom gets two weeks of vacation, but her company requires they take one full calendar week each year. Most people try working that around holidays so it doesn’t take five full days of their time. Thanksgiving week is pretty much a ghost town around there.

          1. M. in Austin!*

            I’m the same way. I’d rather have a lot of long weekends (though a whole week off would be nice!). I just started my job 3 months ago so I will only accrue 8 days of vacation this year and 10 next year. The holidays can easily suck up 4-6 vacation days, and that leave me (and a lot of other workers, I’m sure) with hardly anything left.

            I think it’s sad that so many workers only get 10 days off a year. That makes 1-2 weekend vacations a luxury most people can’t afford.

          2. Jamie*

            My favorite is the F-M-T long weekend. Because I wake up on Friday and YAY – I don’t have to go in.

            Then on Sunday night I YAY because I don’t have to go in on Monday. Then Monday I’ll continuously forget I took Tuesday so when I remember it’s like a little gift to myself all over again.

            I totally agree there is no one size fits all for this – people and positions vary too much.

            Two weeks would be way too much for me – I was out for 3 after my surgery and was working from home after the first one and even with that felt out of the loop and discombobulated. Two weeks with no structured thing to deal with – like a move or a wedding – it would feel like a waste of days better taken when I need a little long weekend.

            My goal this year is to have no vacation days to cash in at the end of the year – to take them all. I’ve never done that and I’ll consider it a sign of growth if I do.

            1. Eden*

              This is so timely for me, I have been thinking of how to take time off in my new position. I’m totally borrowing the F-M-T thing, for exactly the reasons you mention. Great idea, plus it’s a whole week off, essentially. I’m sure I will forget about Tuesday also.

              I love being able to take a whole 2 weeks off (I was at my last job long enough to get 3 weeks), but while I’m still new at this job and haven’t accrued enough, this is a great way to stretch the time I’ve got. Thanks for the idea!

            2. Felicia*

              I think the F-M-T weekend would work well for me and is probably what I’ll do (I just got my first ever permanent full time job , so this whole vacation thing is new yay me!) But I think more than 5 days I’ll get bored and anxious, and much less and it won’t feel long enough. Seems perfect! And the only places I’d be able to (maybe) afford to travel are totally doable with 5 days. I used to get bored at the 2 week winter break we’d get K-12, and then the 1 month winter break we got was torture it was too much.

            3. Red Librarian*

              I already have Fridays off but I’m totally stealing this idea and taking M-T, then when I come back I only have to work W & Th!

    4. LBK*

      I prefer long weekends really. If I take a week off, the stress of catching up on everything I missed almost completely negates the relaxing effects of taking time off. It’s like cozying up in a nice warm bed for a few hours and then rolling off the edge into an ice bath. Kinda defeats the purpose.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      True. Even five days (long weekend) doesn’t cut it. Just when I start to relax, it’s time to go back to work and I get Sunday Night syndrome and all that relaxing goes right out the window.

      I’m taking eighteen days this autumn. It’s been years since I had that much time off that wasn’t unemployment. I wish it could be even longer!

  3. Meg Murry*

    I wonder if part of the issue is that in Europe or other places with generous vacation or maternity leave, companies have to plan for coverage when an employee isn’t there. In the US, especially since so many companies have let headcount go down through attrition, it seems like part of the problem is that there is no plan to cover someone’s work when they are on vacation – so taking a vacation means working like a crazy person the week before it and then dealing with chaos when you come back to the office. Its almost more exhausting to plan to be out than to just come to work.

    1. MaryMary*

      I think this is huge. Since I started my professional career, I don’t think I’ve had a backup. Maybe there was a person who could resolve emergency problems, but in general work stops until I return. Especially when I was working a job that required 60 hours a week just to keep everything on an even keel, it was very difficult to get my workload to a point where I could be gone for longer than a couple of days.

    2. A nony cat*

      This. I just started working in Europe (2 weeks is a common length for vacation time where I am, although one person will be taking 4weeks soon). People really get their $h!t together before vacation. There are designated back ups. There is a handover note. In my office, people also work late before the go away to completely clear their plate–both by finsihing tasks and delegating–before they leave, so that there actually isn’t anything to stress over while they are away (that’s the goal at least). The longer vacation periods also really force people to completely finish/delegate things–if you are only gone for a few days, some stuff can possibly wait for your return. But when you are gone for two weeks, you need to have all the loose ends tied up.

      1. TL*

        I worked with a lot of international people at my last job and they tended to take large vacation chunks – 3 weeks was average- to go home (it’s not so much part of the culture at my new job, though there are a lot of international people as well) and yes to this! Everything was delegated or taken care of, people were told what to do if X and Y came up, and they planned how to take care of things when they got back before they left, so it wasn’t super stressful to come back at all.

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        It seems like it might also be good for businesses to have loose ends tied up on a regular basis.

    3. LBK*

      I think it’s cyclical – the expectation is that you don’t take big blocks of time off, so you don’t make contingency plans for someone being out for 2 weeks at a time. Since there’s no plan, people aren’t comfortable taking that much time off, so since no one does it becomes the expectation…etc.

      1. Mints*

        This sounds true to me, too. If vacations are more common, (like six weeks per person per year) there are already processes for coverage in place

    4. Elysian*

      I think this makes sense. When I was a teacher I wouldn’t even take my sick days, because making a plan for a sub was 10000x worse than just coming to work when I was sick. This is true in my new job of vacations, too – I’m taking a day off soon for a long weekend and I’m already stressing about making up the work.

    5. Jennifer*

      Yeah, I think that’s it. Hell, I have two people as “backup” for me and yet somehow there will be a giant pile of work left for me to take care of by the time I come back anyway.

      1. De Minimis*

        At my work, some people have backups and some don’t. The latter group get slammed with work upon their return. We also don’t have any rules about required coverage in most cases. In the past we’ve had some of the smaller departments be completely unavailable for at least a few days.

    6. Sabrina*

      Yep. Even taking 2 days off for me isn’t worth it because there’s just too much to come back to, I end up wishing I hadn’t bothered.

  4. Brett*

    I’ve actually used 15 days this year…
    unfortunately, 10 of those days were to do work for my second job at conferences.

  5. Otter box*

    Every time I go on vacation, even if it’s just a couple days, I come back to a mountain of work that no one bothered to keep up on while I was gone. It’s not that they’re not cross-trained; it’s just that they think they have more important things to focus on. It means that although I’m refreshed on the morning I return, by the end of the week I am so stressed out again that I need another vacation.

    1. Brittany*

      This. I think it’s so hard to go away on vacation because once you come back, you’re just buried. It’s almost easier to just not take a vacation.

    2. Jennifer*

      Yeah, it just ends up being more work when you’re out and it kind of seems not worth it to leave during any kind of busy or even semi-busy season. Again, this is why I take two weeks off at the very end of the year–the one time when things aren’t constantly not coming in. I spent half a week catching up on when I was out for a whopping two days because they only do the things that had to be done immediately when I was out. (And not always those, either.)

      The thing is, I don’t feel “refreshed and rejuvenated” when I come back from vacation. That feeling is G-O-N-E within the first half hour of sitting back at my desk working through the giant pile. Really, is it worth it? Am I a better lackey because I was gone for a week? No, I’m a more frazzled lackey because I was gone for a week. I go on vacations because I can’t do that stuff I do on them (i.e. trips) otherwise, but I do NOT do vacation for actual resting. HAHAHAHAHAHAH.

    3. Tris Prior*

      Yes! I had a boss who would assure me all my work was covered. I’d present to her my backup plan, she’d agree to it… and then I’d come back and not a damn thing that needed done had gotten done. She’d tell my co-workers not to do my work, or on the occasions that she agreed to back me up and then did nothing, she’d say “I didn’t think it was that important.” Meanwhile I was the one stuck soothing an irate client.

  6. Lisa*

    Most american companies and managers it seems to me do not look kindly on people who take all their vacation. Taking more than a week at a time even if you have the time is looked down upon. I get it that people have to cover so 4 weeks is too much at once, but why is it so wrong to take 2 weeks? It seems like we have to apologize as Americans for taking our PTO or feel badly about it, when other countries don’t seem to need to excuse taking this benefit. My brother in law has 6 weeks off and only takes 2 weeks a year (only 1 week of it at once), because he says management uses it against those that use their time. Raises, reviews, better sales leads, more access to bosses. He is still required to answer his phone and emails too on vacation.

    1. Anon.*

      That’s the truth. I know of someone who had a once-in-a-lifetime trip to China and wanted 3 weeks off. It was a no go for the company. She quit. I don’t blame her. Fingers do get pointed at you, in some places, if you do take, what they consider excessive time off (e.g. more than 1 work week).

      1. BRR*

        Yeah, I know some employers who have the motto, “if we can go more than a week without you, we can go forever without you.”

    2. Red Librarian*

      Yup, my family went abroad at Christmas for a week and then I wanted a week to myself upon returning so I took two weeks off. When I was telling co-workers, one asked how I “managed to swing that.”

      Um. I asked my supervisor and he said yes?

      1. Ali*

        At my job right now, we have a team member out for three weeks (though his time is almost over and he’ll be back on Monday). I’m not saying people shouldn’t take their vacation time, but we’re particularly busy right now plus our old manager quit. Having someone out for three weeks has been a headache with our heavy workload, plus others are taking time off for vacations and office events. Our new manager has at least acknowledged what a headache the summer has been for everyone. But when you have someone out for three weeks (who’s been on the job for just a little over six months no less), it does create some annoyance and resentment, at least in my company.

        1. Alter_ego*

          To maintain some semblance of anonymity, I’m going to be vague, but we recently had a coworker take 3 weeks off to return to his home country, that he hasn’t been to in 25 years. Stressful for us, but we get it. Except, due to identity theft that occurred after he moved to the US, his passport was confiscated upon arrival into the country, and he hasn’t been allowed to leave. We’re coming up on 3 months now, and there’s no real timeline on when he’ll be back.

          So I guess my point is, 3 weeks is a headache, but it can get so much worse.

        2. Red Librarian*

          I think you’re misdirecting your annoyance — if someone had their three weeks approved during a busy time and still others are also taking off during that time and everyone is getting stuck with extra work and whatnot, that’s a manager problem, not an employee problem.

          1. Ali*

            It’s part of the reason why I’m job searching. Our managers approve time off 99.9% of the time (their words), which is nice for flexibility, but with so many people out at bad times, that’s when it turns into a nightmare. It’s not like some companies that have blackout days on when people are advised not to be absent. Getting to do what you want is nice, but it can also really drag down the people who are left behind.

    3. Jennifer*

      Because if you’re out for two weeks of work, it boils down to 4 more weeks of having to do makeup for all that work after you’ve been gone.

    4. Kirsten*

      I know I’m lucky to work at a (Fortune 100) company that has a generous PTO policy and people are encouraged to take it! I didn’t take a ton of time off the first half of the year and my boss emailed me a few weeks ago to let me know I had a lot of time left. He wanted to make sure that I didn’t lose the days at the end of the year, since we can only carry over 5. I’ll actually be getting an extra week starting next year, so I’ll have to be diligent about taking more regular time off. I tend to save it just in case my kids get sick or I need time off for them, even though I don’t usually need to take too many days for them (knock on wood!).

  7. Enjay*

    My mother died suddenly when she was 42, so I’ve known since I was young that life is short.

    I take my vacation time with no regrets.

    1. M. in Austin!*

      Sorry for your loss! My father died unexpectedly at 30, so I know that life can be WAY too short. You never know what could happen.

  8. Carrie in Scotland*

    I have 34 days allowance (20 days annual leave) with the rest made up of public/statutory/local holidays and certain other days as agreed with the trade unions. Also, am allowed to carry over 5 max from one year to the next – good because I started this job in June and have 11 a/l days to take before the end of September (academic institution) which I might struggle to take.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This isn’t a White House thing; the executive branch can’t change this. Congress would need to pass legislation. People interested in that should contact their members of Congress. (That said, it’s highly unlikely this type of legislation would pass in the U.S. any time in the near future; there isn’t political will for it.)

      1. Lisa*

        I know, but they do respond to petitions that reach 100k. I am just curious what they would say.

      2. Observer*

        Technically, you are right. But, given how many government agencies have unofficial, or official, policies that limit the amount of time people can take – often **even when they are entitled to it the PTO** , an executive order could be a big deal. And, it can’t hurt in terms of changing the culture, as well.

  9. Ali*

    No. 1 is so true for me right now. Things at my job have been all over the place with shift changes, others on vacation, projects and so forth and I feel beyond burned out. Some days I feel it takes a toll on my productivity to the point where I don’t even want to do anything after a certain point in my shift.

    No. 5 works for me too. After I took about a week off last year, I decided from that point on I’d schedule extended vacation at least once a year, no matter what. I’m considering taking a cruise next year so I can truly unplug and not have to worry about work e-mail, filling in for people, etc.

  10. jill*

    I’m lucky enough to get 20 vacation days per year (plus 10 sick days, 3 family days). I also work an extra 100 hours a year which is banked at 150 hours. taking eight weeks is impossible so I end up with a two week vacation, two one weeks, a scattered long weekend and the rest paid out.
    I am thankful to live in Canada :)

    1. Felicia*

      Unfortunately not all of Canada is that awesome :( It varies from province to province and employer to employer. But IIRC, all provinces have to give at least 10 vacation days which is what I get, and in the US there is no legally required minimum of vacation days. SO it’s better!

      1. jill*

        True!! I am lucky to work for the provincial government right out of school.
        In newfoundland the minimum is 4% of wages to go towards vacation time. I’m unionized.

        1. Colette*

          I think most provinces (anecdotally, I haven’t checked the laws) require the 4% of salary to vacation pay, but often that doesn’t translate to vacation – they can just save the money for you to request or add it to every pay.

          1. Chinook*

            You are right – Canadian law requires min. 4% vacation pay on top of your wages – the company can either hold it to cover your wages when you are not working (and pay out the remainder when you leave) or pay it out each pay cheque with the intention of the employee holding on to the vacation pay to cover any time off without pay.

            The one benefit to this is that it is an actual line item expense that either has to be used up or paid out (but only the 4% – if you get better than that, then that can be use it or lose it) and, since most companies don’t like carrying liabilities, they encourage employees to take their time off before the end of the fiscal year.

  11. Claire*

    I’ve been feeling SO burned out lately…I’m taking my very first real vacation as an adult next week, and mostly I’m just really stressed out about the travel and getting everything together. Hopefully once I actually land, the magical vacation power will rejuvenate me.

    1. TL*

      The first real vacation as an adult is awesome.
      Seriously. It is awesome to vacation as an adult. Just the feeling of it will make you relax and energized.

        1. Elysian*

          If you have kids. Or you could not, and then take amazing vacations forever. :)

          I actually didn’t like my first “adult” vacation. I felt like I was running away from everything and it just wasn’t very restful to me. I much prefer them now that I’ve figured out how to compartmentalize better and am more settled in my career.

  12. Carrie in Scotland*

    Further to my above comment, I do know someone who works at an oil company that has offices over here but its headquarters are in the US and his holiday allowance is in line with US policy rather than UK/Europe – but he does get half day Fridays every week….

    1. Cb*

      That’s so sad for them! I’m HTBN so my vacation days are added to my paycheck which is nice.

        1. Cb*

          Ahh, sorry, UK term. Hours to be notified, basically a zero hours contract so you work when scheduled.

          1. Carrie in Scotland*

            I’d never heard that term before either, even being in the UK. Zero hours – I guess it’s good if it works for you/your lifestyle but I could not do it personally.

    2. De (Germany)*

      That doesn’t sound legal to me, it isn’t in Germany, at least. Is it legal in the UK?

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        Sadly, De, yes they are. There is a whole bunch of articles here: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/zero-hours-contracts

        The opposition party is claiming that he would regulate this and get employers to offer a contract after 12 months on being on a 0 hour contract. A friend of mine’s boyfriend is on a 0 hour contract and sometimes he ends up working 50 hours a week (way WAY more than our stated max of 37.5 a week) but is too afraid to say no in case he doesn’t get enough hours to live on….

        1. De (Germany)*

          Hmm, maybe I am being thick here, but from what I can find, zero hour contract employees are legally entitled to the same minimum holiday leave as everyone else, 5.6 work weeks. Just because lots of companies do it doesn’t mean it’s legal.

      2. Carrie in Scotland*

        I’ve replied to you De, but it’s moderating as it has a link :) but basically, I think it’s unethical but loads of companies do it…so it can’t be illegal here. But I’m quite oblivious to the issue really… *goes to read up on zero hour contracts*

        1. Cb*

          It’s a big thing and the universities are notorious for using them for tutoring and part time work. The unions are working to eliminate them but it sometimes ends up a bit silly. My zero-hours contract was switched to a 3 hour per month contract, which I suspect is defeating the purpose. I typically work 30-40.

          It is part-time work in addition to my fellowship so it works out well for me (gives me the flexibility to scale back when I’m on fieldwork etc). but it’s awful for people working in shops and things.

          I do get a portion of my pay as holiday pay though.

  13. Relosa*

    I’d be more than happy to take a vacation if I had the money to do so. Alas, no PTO at all whatsoever for me. Or anytime soon. Yes!

  14. Tina*

    Thankfully, I work in a university that provides generous vacation time and offices that encourage you to actually use it all. There are definitely times where you shouldn’t be out for extended periods of time (other people aren’t expected to cover, just pitch in for emergency situations with our students), but I’m able to take it at other times. Once the spring academic semester is over, we go into overdrive of vacation scheduling, because that’s “use it or lose it” season due to our end of fiscal year.

    I can’t remember the last time I took more than a week off at a time. Usually I do long weekends or random days here or there. But my husband has far less vacation time than I do, so I end up using much of my vacation time hanging out by myself, and it can get boring after a while.

    1. Meg Murry*

      Yes, use-it-or-lose it vacation that coincides with the end of the fiscal year is such a stupid idea. Quick, quick, get these invoices processed before the end of the fiscal year. But wait, have questions? The person you need to ask in on vacation, sorry. Even better when the people delivering interoffice mail are all on vacation and we have the 5th level backup delivering mail that needs to be processed yesterday to the wrong office or not picking up at all.

      1. Malissa*

        I actually broke a whole office of doing this. I pushed my team to take more vacation early in the year. Two years of almost nobody in the office in December was all I could take.

      2. Alter_ego*

        Our office just solved the issue by switching our fiscal year to June-June, but our vacation still runs January-January. There were a lot of good reasons for the switch, but it also means that December is was less of a nightmare than it used to be.

        1. Tina*

          Ours is already June to June, and frankly some offices are so quiet in May and June, that as long as a few people are around, the office is pretty much fine.

  15. Dani X*

    I always use all my vacation days. That is a benefit the company gives me and I am not going to let it go to waste – even if I end up sitting at home watching tv and eating bon -bons. :-)

  16. anon-2*

    Hey, many years ago , I worked in a place where managers may have been “bonused” on the amount of vacation time employees gave back.

    It got to the point where we counseled new employees – “Take your vacation time. If you don’t, management puts pressure on us to give it back, too…”

  17. Mena*

    My company switched to unlimited vacation time this year; the assumption is get your job done and take time off. That said, it is hard to get away. I’ve carved out time ahead and worked toward having projects under control and being out of the office.

    But, I think with the job market that way it has been these last few years, people in the US are a bit hesitant to be taking off (whether it is ‘out of sight, out of mind’ or just general fear of losing their job).

    1. Anon.*

      I wish there was more of this. The work I do is project-based, with slow and busy periods. When I was full-time I hated having to put time in when there was nothing to do. Of course, you can always make something up, but after getting something done, it’s nice to have the opportunity to rejuvenate.

    2. Student*

      I think this is really just a management method of deterring people from taking vacations. Arranging coverage for off time used to be a routine management obligation, and they have managed to shift it to employee shoulders. With this new method, if you can’t find coverage, it suddenly becomes the employee’s fault that she can’t get away, instead of management’s responsibility to make she she can.

  18. Holly*

    I keep thinking I need a vacation, but my timesheet says I’ve taken 16 days so far this year (some of that was time gifted from the owner). Granted, some of those were spent in a hospital with my Dad, so not “vacation” in the sense of a mental break, but it would probably look really bad to take any more time off….even if I actually have the PTO. =/ Perceptions vs reality.

  19. Not an IT Guy*

    I’ve only taken 3 of my 17 days off so far this year but I’ll be expected to forfeit the rest due to lack of coverage (I’m constantly reminded of the hardship to the company whenever I take time off). But in this day and age you have to do whatever it takes to stay employed, no matter what the cost.

  20. Chocolate Teapot*

    I am allowed to carry a few days over from one year to the next, so I use these as emergency buffer days, e.g. for travelling at short notice if needed.

    1. Rebecca*

      I wish we could still carry days over. We used to be able to carry over 5 days to the next year, but when our company was purchased by another firm, they did away with that.

  21. Rebecca*

    I get 15 vacation days and 5 sick days per year, and I use every minute. I just took a week off during the week of July 4th, and it was wonderful! I didn’t go anywhere, but I got up when I felt like it, did stuff on my own schedule, hiked around my neighborhood, and just generally goofed off for 9 days in a row.

    I’m practically salivating over being out of the office from the afternoon of December 24th to the morning of January 5th (if I’m still here and haven’t snagged a new position), because due to the company’s holiday schedule, it will require 3 of my vacation days to accomplish.

    The other thing I do is take every break during the work day. I’m permitted 2 15 minute paid breaks per day. I take them and go for short walks. It does wonders for one’s outlook.

  22. C Average*

    Many people at my company don’t use their vacation time, but from what I’ve seen, there are few if any institutional barriers to doing so. We get quite a bit of PTO, more than enough for a two-week vacation and additional as-needed days off throughout the year, and those who want to take it generally can and do.

    (Then there are those like me who are forever running into the 300-hour cap–when you hit the cap, you stop accruing. My manager and I actually came up with an agreement whereby I take the final Friday of every month off, just to stay under the cap, because I don’t typically take much time off. No particular reason; I am just not much of a vacation-taker. I suspect it’s because, until just a few years ago, I worked an unpredictable retail schedule and didn’t make much money, so lengthy planned vacations just weren’t realistic for me.)

    One thing my company does that I love is the sabbatical. When you’ve been here for 10 years (and every five years after that), you get a six-week paid sabbatical, and you can add your PTO to that. Your work email gets turned off while you’re gone, and your team has to function without you. It’s not just a great benefit, but it really reinforces the idea that NO ONE is indispensable. When your sabbatical arrives, you go. No exceptions. Even if you’re the Global Grand Poobah of Awesomeness, you go. And the company keeps on keepin’ on.

    1. Frances*

      My dad’s accounting firm does something similar — the reasoning being that if you have to hand over all your clients to someone else for a month it helps catch any irregularities. His sabbatical is next summer and my parents are already driving us nuts trying to plan out a family vacation for part of it.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      I love that idea! I’m not sure what it was, but at 10 years at my current job I got so burnt out I seriously looked into taking a leave of absence for a few months. A sabbatical would have been amazing.

      Actually, I know what it was – nonstop crises for 10 years. Ugh.

  23. TotesMaGoats*

    I get a lot of leave and I know I should use more than I do. I might use two and a half weeks of my leave every year. But I work at a university and get lots of other days off as well. I should still use more. We have a cap of 400 hours carryover of personal leave each year. I’ve had to work to stay under that for the past four years. And I was hoarding leave for my maternity leave which was nice.

    I think I would probably use more but now that I’ve got a kid I want to have some for emergencies. My husband can’t get off as easily as I can. Thankfully the boy hasn’t been sick at all but I had a coworker whose kid regularly got sick in his first year and she was down to almost no leave of any kind.

    I always try to make sure my staff take leave and as much as they can. We have a two week limit, so no long European vacations but leave is still encouraged.

  24. Kelly O*

    My last company only gave you five days total time off for the year – sick, personal, and vacation – so it was kind of non-issue. Most of my time off was unpaid, so I’d have to work extra to build up a cushion, or just not go anywhere. My time was mainly spent as sick.

    Here, we get two weeks, but most people don’t take it all. Last year I know several people who lost all their time because of things going on that prevented them from being allowed to take the time. And they didn’t get paid for it, it was just lost. This year lots of people are just taking it so they don’t lose it. My old office-mate only worked a couple of days a week through December in order to take all her time, which was great for her.

    I’m considering taking a few days here and there just to be sure I don’t lose it. I have been here a year and still sort of live in the scarcity environment of OldJob.

    1. Episkey*

      At one of my last jobs, I only had 8 PTO days a year — for sick, vacation, personal etc. It was one of the large reasons I left that job — so I hear you.

    2. Scott M*

      When we have big projects that prevent people from taking time off, we are allowed to roll over more vacation time into the next year.

    3. OhNo*

      Five days a year?! Good god, you might as well not have time off at all, at that point. And I’m speaking from experience – up until the beginning of July, I had been working for ~2 years, full time, with no PTO at all.

      I’m actually quite giddy with excitement over the idea of having vacation days. I was so pleased that the very first thing I did when I accepted the offer that included PTO was to schedule a weekend off in the middle of August.

      And I have sick time now! Will wonders never cease!

  25. Red Librarian*

    Our PTO ends in June and doesn’t roll over, so I always make a point to use it although then it’s hard to take time off in the summer because you haven’t accrued anything yet. We are allowed to go in the negative but I hate doing that so I usually take at least a week off at Christmas and couple days throughout the year.

    Our vacation and sick is rolled into one which is also kind of annoying since I then have to keep a kind of reserve bank in case I need to call off, which only ends up being once or twice a year if that, but still.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Ours does the same thing, though we do get 40 hours rollover. We get several hours of PTO each pay period. Unfortunately, the year ending in June leaves people struggling with family vacations that have to coincide with school leavings and such.

      I did not take all my PTO this year and ended up losing some of it. And I’m not going to have enough for my vacation, so will have to borrow ahead (which we can do), but that will be worth it. I’ll know better next FY how to manage it. I’d like to travel more than I do now.

  26. Apple22Over7*

    I get 5 weeks (25 days) annual leave I can book off, plus 8 bank holidays/public holidays (the dates of which are set and can’t be changed). My company also then usually gifts 3-4 days extra leave to cover the period between Christmas & new year that isn’t already designated public holidays. Overall, it’s 8-9 days more than the legal minimum required (I’m in the UK) which is awesome.

    I do tend to use it all, although I’ve never taken more than a week off at once. I like to space out my breaks a little, and to be honest 2 weeks away from work would bore me, especially when I can’t afford to actually go away anywhere for longer than a week. I don’t think there’s so much of a pressure in the UK to not take holidays – maybe it’s because they’re a basic employment right here, so people know they have the right to take the time off, rather than it being a “benefit” which has potential to be taken away from them at a moments notice.

    I used to have a co-worker at an old job who used up all his annual leave booking every other Friday off, giving him a 3-day weekend every other week. Whilst that suited him to the ground, I think that would have driven me crazy and I much prefer to take the time off in larger chunks.

    Coincidentally, I’m on holiday today and I’ve made the most of the sunshine sitting in the park and reading a book without a care in the world – it’s been fab! I’m back in the office tomorrow, but after a 4-day weekend I feel a lot more refreshed.

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      Oooh so lucky! Have been staring out at the sunshine and then the weather has the audacity to be wet/raining/overcast on the weekend. :(

  27. AmyNYC*

    I think 15 days should be the minimum. That’s enough time for a full week vacation, plus a few long weekends and holiday travel. Currently I get 10 (and the office doesn’t close for “minor” holidays – Columbus Day, MLK…) and I use it all but feel like I’m rationing it should something come up unexpectedly.

  28. Purr purr purr*

    I’m a European living in Canada and the vacation allowance is a huge issue for me. I get two weeks paid leave (leave amounts are different from province to province). Back home it was six and a half weeks annual leave. I moved here knowing that but never expected the lack of annual leave would have such a huge impact on my productivity. I’m tired and feel burned out so my productivity has tanked. I definitely prefer the European system – it allows more time for ‘life’ and getting refreshed.

    1. Felicia*

      I like the European system much better ! (i’m also in Canada, and also get two weeks). When i heard in the US some people get no paid vacation though, which is perfectly legal there, I found that shocking.

      1. Purr purr purr*

        Me too. I can’t imagine never having time off from work. I don’t want to say it’s slavery because they’re getting paid but it’s only one step above slavery!

  29. aebhel*

    I’m actually in an interesting place wrt vacation time right now. My job offers pretty generous vacation–10 days the first two years (plus paid holidays, accumulated sick time, etc) and 20 days after that. I’m in my first year and just used up all my pto for maternity leave–but they’re shifting the vacation allotment from the calendar year to the fiscal year, so about a month after I got back from my leave, I ended up with another 10 vacation days that I have to use up by the end of next May.

    I’m taking a Friday for my sister-in-law’s wedding, but I’d kind of feel bad taking all that time on top of the maternity leave. Wondering if I should just get over it or if this is kind of an exceptional case (since in the normal course of things I wouldn’t have the time back until January 2015).

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      This is what I don’t understand about non European – specifically the US holiday policy. You were on maternity leave. You should not feel bad for taking 1 (one single work day!) off to go to a family member’s wedding. Go :)

      1. aebhel*

        Oh, I don’t feel bad about the one day–that I’m definitely doing. I’d feel a little bad about taking the full two weeks, though, since in the normal course of things I wouldn’t have it at all.

    2. JayDee*

      So you’ll have 9 months in which to use 9 vacation days? Take a couple days at the holidays and a few long weekends and that will be gone in no time. It’s not like you’re planning to take 10 straight days a month after returning from maternity leave. Everyone else must have the same “extra” time as well since the change. So don’t feel badly about taking it. You aren’t getting something extra and additional.

  30. Dan*

    I’m in the US. When I go on vacation, I *GO* on vacation. For me, three weeks is a minimum, sometimes I take up to five. My record is 38 straight days in a row out of the country.

    Next year, I’m doing Australia for 24 days or so.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Ha, me too.

      I’m a total globetrotter. Two weeks, at a minimum, in some far-flung corner of the world.

      It’s my priority – I save for it, plan it, and do it.

      That’s how I roll :)

  31. Somewhere in the Northeast*

    Several years ago I had planned my first family vacation. We went to Disney in May. I only got 10 days of total PTO and I actually had to do some fancy scheduling to get a longer trip (using Memorial Day which was a scheduled day off) because most of my PTO days were used in January and February for school snow days. When I got back from my vacation I actually got a warning regarding PTO use (even though I only used what I had and never had an issue with having to take an unpaid day. All of my days were scheduled!) and it ended up reflecting as a negative issue in my review.
    This year I’m planning for that. I just started a new job and due to my later in the year start date I am getting only half the days allowed a year. My new company allows employees to carry over up to 240 hours into the next calendar year. My goal is to carry over as many days as possible so that in the event of snow days or emergencies, I don’t end up using all of my PTO before the vacation we want to take next summer. And I’ve spoken to my manager, at length, re: the PTO usage policy. She encourages using the time. It’s too bad more companies/managers in this country don’t.

    1. Windchime*

      Yeah, we are encouraged to use our PTO here at my job. Sometimes it’s tough during crunch times like big software go-lives, but for the most part taking vacation is encouraged.

      I just checked — I’m accruing at the rate of about 6.5 hours per pay period, which amounts to 3 1/2 weeks per year. The year is January through December, and we are allowed to carry over our yearly allotment plus 40 hours. So I could carry over 4 /12 weeks if I want (ha! Not happening!). I like constantly accruing time; I can just keep using it through out the year. I took a week in May and am taking a week in August, but I still have a nice cushion because it keeps accruing.

  32. Mints*

    I’m in the US, but I’m glad (again) that I’m in California. Because even though I don’t get that many days, I don’t have to “use it or lose it” and I’m saving some days to cash out when I quit

  33. Parfait*

    Geez. Our company REQUIRES us to use all our PTO. I sometimes wish we were allowed to roll some over, but having read all this? I’ll take it. PTO is a part of your compensation and I can’t believe some of the above anecdotes.

  34. Gene*

    Just back from a 2 week vacation and I still have 200+ hours on the books. I’ve reached the age where a long medical leave is a real possibility. So I like to keep at least a 4 week cushion of vacation time in addition to my sick leave bank (currently at about 9 weeks.) That will carry me until LTD kicks in without a break in pay.

    I’m also planning a 2-3 week road trip next year, so I’m stashing time for that. Luckily, there is no stigma attached to using one’s vacation around here; boss is currently planning a 4 week trip to Japan in October. A few years back (OK, 15 years back…) I took 5 weeks to go to Australia.

  35. M. in Austin!*

    Hey AAM, maybe you should have a poll? I’d love to hear how many days everyone gets and when they use them. I’m especially curious what people do around the holidays since this will be my first year using PTO. Gotta spend them wisely.

    1. M. in Austin!*

      Also, people probably need to state where they live and what level they are at career wise. I’m USA and this is my 1st year as a professional… I will only accrue 8 days of PTO this year. yippeeeeee!

      1. Tina*

        I work at a University in MA, and I get 24 vacation days a year (it’s based on level of position, not years of service, though I’ve been here a long time), plus the university closes between Christmas and New Year, so you don’t have to use your vacation time.

      2. Jennifer*

        I’m in Houston, TX at a bank, but not in the branch. I get 20 days vacation, 5 sick, + some but not all legal holidays.

        I really feel for those that only get two weeks. That was me a few years ago. People would always ask why I didn’t take a long vacation. I couldn’t. The day-here day-there around the holidays would eat it all up.

        Now I take 2 single week vacations and the rest are the day or two type. One week is a vacation where I really get away. The other is usually sleep in a bit and then get the to-do list done. Also, I can work remotely so I don’t have to take time off for the exterminator/cable guy type stuff. I also don’t have to take time off for a dr appt unless it takes more than 2 hours. My job demands more than 40 hours anyway, so my manager gives us some leeway.

        She takes all her vacation and expects us too also.

        1. TrainerGirl*

          In my last job, I had 4 weeks, and at one point we could purchase an additional week. Even though I never used it, and always got the pay back at the end of the year, it was nice to have that one week cushion just in case.

          In my current job, I only get 10 days. Not that I can use it…we went from having a team of 7-8 to just 3, and possibly going down to 2 if someone gets transferred. I really do wonder if/when time off will be possible.

    2. Waiting Patiently*

      I work in a school system (prek) our contracts are a little different than the salaried teachers. We get all the breaks and vacations –except they are unpaid for us. I get 5 PTO and 8 hours of personal time. On one hand it’s good on the other not so much…

    3. Anonylicious*

      I’m a mid-career government contractor and I get 20 days PTO + several federal holidays. My vacation and sick leave both come out of the same pool, though, and I’ve already used over half of it. (Mostly on sick days/doctors’ visits; I’ve only taken two days of actual vacation.) My company also offers bereavement leave that I believe I won’t get charged for. Unfortunately, I’ll probably have to make use of that in the next several months.

      1. De Minimis*

        I’m a regular GS civilian employee and get 4 weeks annual leave per year. Sick leave is in a separate pool and earned at a different rate. I get 4 weeks of AL because I have around 9 years of service [not at the same agency though], newer employees get 2 weeks a year. After the 15th year you get six weeks a year and that’s as much as you can earn.

        We of course get all the federal holidays [but only the actual holiday itself, so you have to use your leave if you want to be off the day after Thanksgiving or Christmas assuming they’re on a weekday.], and there are also a lot of other types of leave you can be granted depending on the circumstance. My facility has also been giving out “time off awards” for good performance, so I got an extra three days of annual leave this year. Seems like these days a lot of agencies are going that route instead of trying to find the money to give cash bonuses.

        I tend to use about half of my leave intermittently, a day off here or there–either to make a long weekend or sometimes when I need to head home early for an emergency type situation that doesn’t involve illness. During this past winter I used a couple of days to stay home when my commute seemed a little too dicey to attempt, even though we were open. I like to keep at least a couple of weeks available for extended time off. This year I’ll probably take more time off for the days after the major holidays, it was no fun being at work on those days.

    4. Claire*

      I’m a teacher in Scotland, so I get school holidays. I have six weeks off in the summer (all of July and the first bit of August), a week off in October, two weeks off over Christmas/New Year, and week off in February and two weeks off at Easter. Then there are a few long weekends with Monday holidays as well.

      The amount of time off is brilliant. The lack of flexibility as to when you are off is somewhat frustrating at times, but it’s more than made up for by the amount.

      Everyone can hate me now ;)

    5. De (Germany)*

      I’m in Germany and get 29 days off. Plus about five national holidays. I usually take two to three long weekends, the time between Christmas and New Year’s, a week and two weeks.

    6. MinB*

      I work for a non-profit in Seattle. There are 5 paid holidays per year (President’s Day, 4th of July, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, and the day after Thanksgiving). The days around Christmas and New Year’s are intermittently furloughed.

      On top of that, I get two weeks per year of PTO, which you only accrue after you’ve been here 6 months. I’ve been here 8 months so I have 2 days built up. I’m dying for a day off but there’s family visiting in a month and I have to save them for that.

      Sick leave policy is… fuzzy. I’ve taken a handful of days for really bad colds and they were unpaid. I have no idea what/if there is a limit on sick days.

      Honestly, it really sucks. I’m going to try to stick it out for two years so I’ve got a solid start to my post-college resume and then try to jump ship to some place with better benefits.

  36. De Minimis*

    The federal government some kind of “use or lose” point [although I think “lose” just means getting it paid out] but I’m not sure what it is. My first year at this job I saved a lot of my leave to use later on and I did end up with a certain amount of “use or lose” leave, but I used it well before there was a chance of losing it. Think I’ll look it up….it’s pretty complicated, but you can carry over six weeks of leave, anything beyond that is “use or lose.” A new employee would have to go a few years without taking any leave before they had to start worrying about it.

    1. Anonylicious*

      I don’t know how it works for government civilians, but “use or lose” in the military means you straight up lose the days you don’t take after you hit that point.

      1. De Minimis*

        I’m not positive on it…when I was with the Post Office I know they paid out the excess leave but they might have had their own rules.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      You’d be surprised – I know people who always have 240 hours on the books and then lose all accrued leave above that every year.

      I think it’s insane.

      We can also donate leave to a leave bank or to people who have medical emergencies, so a lot of the use-or-losers do that.

      One of the reasons it happens is because a lot of us earn comp time when we work extra, so if you’re working a lot of crises or something, you quickly accrue a ton of comp time that you take before annual leave.

  37. Cath in Canada*

    For the last four years, I’ve been saving up almost all of my vacation time for one long trip in the late autumn. This year, I have no such trip planned, so I’ve been taking a few days here, a long weekend there, a week here… although I do like longer trips, too, it’s definitely better for me to not have to go for so many months with no time off at all.

    Having said that, I don’t expect my next vacation (next week) to be all that relaxing or refreshing, given that I’ll be spending it with my parents… I think I’ll need another vacation after they leave! (They’re lovely, but very very high maintenance).

    (p.s. I get 22 days this year – we start at 20, then after five years with the employer we start accruing an extra day per year, maxing out at 35 days after 20 years employment)

  38. CollegeAdmin*

    While part of me wants to take my vacation time, I am currently “stockpiling” it instead. We can store up to four weeks of vacation time (we earn three per year, and they roll over), and it gets cashed out if/when you leave.

    I’m hoping to find a new job in January 2016 (after I finish my grad degree) and have a full 4 weeks to cash out. That money will then be funneled either to student loans, which I’m trying to pay off super early, or to moving expenses if necessary.

    I’m curious: has anyone else done this?

    1. Julie*

      I ended up having over 100 PTO hours when I left my last job. Considering how few days I was given each year, it was a lot of time and I was our first person in the office to be able to cash out PTO since before it was a vacation/sick leave policy.

      Mine was included in my last check and after taxes I had about $1100 to play with (and now you can probably guess part of why I left if you do the math). It was a welcome relief but in so many ways I wish I hadn’t felt like I could have used more of the time (which brings me to the other part of why I left) but what’s done is done and I’ll use that money to buy a new couch and chair (maybe!) when I buy my new house.

    2. Mints*

      I’m stockpiling too. However, there’s no actual rule about how much I can. (HR got really dodgy when I tried clarifying)
      But I’ll probably have two weeks, which would be like one bonus pay period when I quit (I’m actively looking). I’m planning to spend it on new job miscellaneous expenses and treats to celebrate escaping. New clothes, new bag, massage, fancy dinner, desk accessories.
      Although, looking at that list, even though I’m planning to splurge, this wouldn’t be a whole pay check, and now I’m thinking I might do a weekend trip or something. Or be responsible and pay off stuff. Hmm

    3. Unanimously Anonymous*

      Another “stockpiler” here. I’ve been at my company long enough to get 160 hours of vacation a year, and we’re allowed to have a max of 2x your max annual accrual. My job’s one of those where a vacation of more than a VERY few days = a cauldron of stress when you get back…so I tend to do nothing beyond the occasional 3 to 5 day weekend. There’s also the fact that our executives get the itch to do a reorg (inevitably including staff cuts ) every few months. I always assume I could get the axe at any moment, and an extra few grand in the last paycheck will keep the wolf from the door a little while longer.

  39. Be the Change*

    I’m taking time off that is way longer than I’m comfortable with because my partner put on a huge pouty guilt-trip when I suggested X instead of 2X weeks. We’re going out of the country for 2X weeks. I have the boss’s permission (obviously) and my team says they’re fine, and I DO plan to stay in touch especially in the days where we’re sitting around the living room and not much else.

    I’m anticipating coming back even more stressed than when I left because there is a TON going on and it can’t be wrapped up before I leave. I just hope that my partner and I don’t fight too much about my wanting to do some work. This is hir (his/her) family and friends we’re visiting for 2X weeks — and I won’t have PTO available to visit mine. I am just a spot peeved about all this, as you may be able to tell. However, I consented with full knowledge, so I’m trying to bludgeon my attitude into submission here.

    1. TT*

      I can see why you would be frustrated with that situation, since you’re using all your PTO on the one trip. Can you make some kind of agreement that the next vacation is to visit your family or your choice of other activity?

      I had a slightly different situation with my husband. He has so little vacation time, he doesn’t want to visit his parents in another state because he’d rather use his time for other things. And his family usually visits us at least twice a year because most of the family is in our state, so hubby doesn’t really see the need to do it. But it’s been a good 3 or 4 years since we’ve gone to visit and his parents have been asking us with increasing frequency about our next visit, so this year I insisted he save some vacation days for that and we went a couple months ago.

      1. Be the Change*

        This is a long-standing conflict: work-life balance. ;-) I value work more than my partner does and both our attitudes are pretty entrenched.

        Yes, I understand where you are coming from with your husband too. “They come here all the time, why should we burn two vacation days to travel?” If I have to explain it….

  40. Scott M*

    We are somewhat lucky that our unused PTO can accrue so that we can use it in case of an extended illness. It’s meant to supplement short term disability. In that case, you get your full salary until you use up what has been ‘banked’, then you go on short term disability (which only pays a portion of your salary).

  41. Monodon monoceros*

    I am currently working in Europe, and don’t know how I will transition back if I move back to the US. I am very much enjoying my 30 days vacation + about 14 holidays and unlimited sick leave (although I’ve only used 1 sick day).

    1. De (Germany)*

      14 holidays? Now I am jealous :-) my guess is France or Bavaria, is that right?

  42. Crazyxl*

    I’d love to use my vacation time….the only problem is I can’t ever get it approved. We have minimum staffing requirements and that’s exactly the number of people we’re allotted for each shift. That means that every leave request will be denied because approving it would put us under minimum staffing. I accrue a certain number of vacation days each year, but I haven’t been able to use one in years.

  43. Elizabeth*

    I’m in the camp of “no one does my job when I’m gone”, which means taking time off is problematic. One day off tends to require a lot of juggling of meetings onto other days and results in at least 100 emails from various camps. When I was gone for 10 days, even with a holiday in the middle, I had over 1500 emails upon my return about 75% of which needed some response from me.

    I have managed, without meaning to have it happen, to take off the last 5 Fridays. Doctor’s appointment, friend’s kid’s birthday party in our pool, holiday, family reunion, friend visiting from overseas. Other than the family reunion, I was sort of available to folks in the office for emergencies, but nothing came up that actually required my immediate intervention.

    Because of the length of my tenure here, I’m always in danger of maxing out my accrual on vacation. Last fall, I cashed in 200 hours of PTO at 60% pay rate and paid for my husband & me to take a cruise. I could have easily cashed in another 100 hours and not had any worries about being out. Even with the time I’ve taken off, I have 33 days banked at the moment. I think I can bank another 16 days before I start losing again, earning about 10 hours per pay period.

    I’ve been informed that I have the kind of PTO balance that makes accounting departments nervous, especially since we pay out accrued PTO when someone terminates voluntarily.

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      If something happened to you, like an accident that required you to be out for months, they WOULD have to deal with it. This situation is ridiculous!

  44. Hummingbird*

    I have not taken a vacation in a year. I’m owed on at one job, but they are balking at any week ideas I have. I’m still not sure what I want to do; since I have 2 jobs, it would be a vacation just from one so I can’t go anywhere.

    I’m hoping to squeeze in a nice trip next year. But between now and then, I know I will “die” of exhaustion and stress as well as go bonkers for having not gone somewhere (as I love to travel).

    On another note: I have a couple of coworkers who are in their young 20s. They both have taken on the job just this year. Yet, they have a full week’s vacation planned in which they are going with their parents to some shore resort. They are not paying for it; mom and dad are. Shouldn’t they be able to tell their parents they can’t go now because they have a job? They get hired and then put the job back in the same position they were prior to hiring. It’s one thing if they put a couple of grand down of their money while job searching, not knowing what would happen; I get you can’t put life on hold forever. But when it’s the parents’ vacation (or extended family), can’t they say they can’t go?

      1. Hummingbird*

        Actually they have to work x amount of time in order to get a paid vacation. They are not getting paid to take this time off. Why were they hired if they are only going to take time off right off the bat?

        Meanwhile I’ve been around for a few years and can’t get the same manager to agree on my time – partially because he’s too worried about their times. While they might have had an agreement to go, I think someone of their age should be able to tell their parents they can’t go on vacation this year.

          1. Hummingbird*

            Actually, their parents know they have the job and continue to demand their (adult) child goes!

        1. Sloop*

          Ah, ok – wasn’t clear from the first post. It may have been something that was negotiated as part of their employment. There are examples of this all over AAM – “I’m a finalist for a new job but need to take a week off for a previously planned vacation, what should I do?” I guess from my view, it doesn’t really matter if the new hire paid for the trip, or their parents did. Maybe it was a graduation gift and the parents can only take time off in the summer? Most reasonable employers will allow a new hire to take some time, either unpaid or borrowing against PTO they haven’t technically accrued. Unfortunately, I think you’re conflating the issue with the fact that your employer won’t approve your time. Is it just a fact of life that you need to submit your time request earlier? My mom works for the gov’t and because of seniority, she had to submit for her weeks off before the end of 2013. I wouldn’t like that, but those are the rules at her office and everyone seems to be OK with it.

          1. Hummingbird*

            It’s two different jobs in which the same scenario is happening. Basically I said to both, “Can’t you just stay home alone and work?” But they said that they wanted to go; it’s a tradition in the family to go every 4 years or so. They were just hired in June coincidentally, and now want vacation time (a week’s worth) in July. The newer job for me I thought we were of the understanding that due to its seasonal status that no vacations were given – only days off in extreme circumstances. In my older job, the employee is just there until mid-August before heading back to college.

            As for me personally, there is no set time limit to submit a request at the older job where I’m given the week. In the past, I’ve requested two weeks ahead of time and other times 6 months. But now, he doesn’t know which end is up with everyone, and is being quite reluctant. When I bring up vacation, he changes the subject as fast as humanly possible. He thinks that I have to wait until I’m done with the seasonal job, but I told him I just want to take a week when I can/want to. The subject gets changed very quickly.

          2. Heather*

            It does sound like you’re taking out your annoyance with your manager on the other employees. If they’re new and taking the time unpaid, they probably asked for it as a condition of taking the job. It’s not their fault your manager isn’t letting you take time off and taking the attitude of “if I can’t have vacation time, no one else can either” is definitely not going to solve that problem.

            A side note…your repeated mentions of your coworkers’ age give the impression that you believe taking time off work to vacation with one’s parents is somehow childish. Have you considered that they’re doing it for their parents’ sake, not their own? Every few years my parents like my brother and I (and our spouses) to vacation with them because they didn’t have enough money to do it often when we were kids, and they like to spend time with us. It makes them happy and they’re paying, so I don’t begrudge using some vacation days on it. If I heard that a coworker thought I should be old enough to tell my parents “no,” I’d hit the roof.

  45. Sloop*

    Does anyone have an issue where they have -too- much time? I get 3 weeks vacation (am allowed to – and rolled over – 1 week) 5 Personal days, and 7(ish) sick days. My fiancée and I are both in high stress industries and there’s really no good time to take a vacation. We’re trying to buy our first home, pay down student loans, and pay for a wedding / honeymoon, and I have a tough time rationalizing taking a week off to go somewhere. I get bored and no is when I’m not in the office and I have used 5 days with no plans to burn the extra 3 weeks I’ll lose by the end of the year. It’s stressing me out to leave it on the books but I also don’t want to take time off just to putter around the house and/or shop!

    1. Perpetua*

      Can you take at least a couple of extended weekends by the end of the year? You can even make a deal with yourself that you’re going to use them for something other than cleaning and/or shopping (a movie marathon? a nice walk in the middle of the day? etc.). :)

      Vacations exist for a reason, especially if you’re in a high stress industry.

      1. Sloop*

        I am going to try to! I keep telling myself that I need to block off at least a week of days off (either all at once or for long weekends) by the end of July. I like being in the office around Christmas and New Years because I’m not a holiday person and use it as an excuse to not hang at my parents all week, but might take thanksgiving since it’s all about the food. :)

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