will taking occasional time off make me look unreliable?

A reader writes:

Close to a year ago, I started my first full-time professional job. Prior to that, I had been in college and I worked part-time in retail. I’ve always prided myself on being reliable. I can count the number of times I missed class in college on one hand, and I only called in sick at work if it really felt necessary, which was rare. I usually had at least one weekday off, which made it easy to schedule things like doctor’s appointments.

But now I work 8-5, Monday-Friday, and I’m realizing that it’s just not possible for me to schedule some things for times when I’m off work. I’m fortunate to be in decent health, so I don’t need for frequent, regular doctor’s appointments or sick days. But I’m really struggling with asking for even occasional time off to go to the doctor. It’s ironic, because before getting this job, I neglected my health because I didn’t have good insurance. Now I have decent benefits and finally have the chance to do things like get new glasses and have regular dental checkups, but I keep putting off going to the doctor because I don’t want to seem unreliable.

For the record, there’s no indication that taking a few hours off here and there to see the doctor is frowned-upon at my workplace. I just don’t know how to handle it. I feel so entitled and presumptuous just making an appointment and informing my boss that I need to use some of my leave on such and such date for a doctor’s appointment. I don’t know if it’s more convenient for me to make appointments in the morning and come in late or make appointments late in the afternoon and leave early. I’ve avoided asking my boss about this because I worry that talking about taking time off will seem like a red flag. I don’t know how much I need to space appointments out. I’ve heard people complain about employees taking excessive leave before, such as when people take sick days every week. But to me, taking a few hours off every few months feels “excessive.”

I feel like I’m overthinking all this, but I’m very new to the professional world and I just don’t know what the norm is.

Whoa, no, it’s definitely not excessive! You have paid time off, and it’s normal to use it.

Nothing you’ve described wanting to do even approaches excessive! It’s on the low side of what most people do, in fact. Really, from what you’re written here, you could just schedule whatever appointments you need to schedule and assume that it will be fine. A few doctor’s appointments and a few dentist appointments a year aren’t even going to register on anyone’s radar; it’s so, so normal.

That said, I can understand why you’re feeling unsure about exactly how to navigate this; it’s new to you and because different offices have different expectations around this stuff, there’s not one hard-and-fast formula to follow.

So, in order to get you a lot more comfortable with this, and so that you don’t have to just take my word for it (even though you could!): How’s your relationship with your boss? If you feel reasonably comfortable with her and/or she seems like a reasonable person, you should tell her you’re feeling unsure about how this works and ask for some guidance. Most managers will understand that this stuff isn’t always clear when you’re new to the business world and will be happy to help you get a handle on how this works in your particular office.

Raising it with her isn’t going to seem like a red flag at all. In fact, asking is going to come across as conscientious (a little overly conscientious, in fact, but that’s not going to be a bad thing). Just be clear about specifically what you want to know — e.g., whether she cares if you schedule appointments for the morning or afternoon, if she prefers for you to check with her first or to just let her know, and other logistics like that — so that you don’t just get vague reassurances. If you don’t specifically ask those questions, you’re likely to just hear “it’s totally fine — schedule whatever you need,” which is going to leave you still worrying about those details.

But really, this is 100% fine and normal, and you should stop feeling entitled or presumptuous. Getting used to this is just part of the switch to a professional, post-school job.

{ 192 comments… read them below }

  1. Katie the Fed*

    This made me think of my first few months at my job, when I called my boss from the doctor’s office to ask if I could schedule a follow-up doctor’s appointment in two weeks. He was like “um, what? Of course – why are you even asking me that?”

    It’s just hard to get used to professional environments sometimes!

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      On a related note, I never understood why children had to ask to go to the bathroom. If they need to go, they should go like adults do. I have far too many memories of my classmates wetting their pants because they weren’t “allowed” to go.

      1. fposte*

        1) because sometimes children say they want to go to the bathroom when all they want to do is get out of math and 2) because the teacher needs to know where the kids are.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          Agreed. Also, kids haven’t necessarily learned the skills of telling when it’s a good time to leave the room. My first graders will ask to go to the bathroom right in the middle of me giving directions for what we’ll be doing for the rest of class – I’ll ask if they can wait sixty seconds to hear the end of the directions or if it’s an emergency. It’s usually not an emergency. They’re also usually not trying to get out of something; they just don’t have that level of decision-making yet.

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            I will note that when it is an emergency (and I trust the kids on whether it is!) then they can go regardless. And I never ask a kid to wait more than 2-3 minutes.

          2. R&R*

            I did this in the first grade. I remember raising my hand to ask to go while the teacher was speaking and she lowered my hand, making me wait to go. At the time, I thought she was a mean, but now that I’m older, I realize I was being a little disruptive.

      2. A Teacher*

        What fposte said. I’m legally liable for your kid in my classroom while they are in my care. We also had a fight when three students coordinated and planned to go to the bathroom at the same time. It was recorded and we were told to only allow for emergencies. I will allow them to go, but I also give them 5 minutes before I call for security, one can go at a time, and if it becomes a pattern its a problem. They also have to leave their phones in most cases.

      3. Koko*

        One of my favorite things about high school was having teachers who said, “You’re in charge of your bladder. If you need to visit the restroom, just let me know you’re going.”

      4. Allison*

        I was one of those kids! 3rd grade, I needed to go but each time I asked the teacher she’d say “not right now.” I figured I had to wait until a “good time” to go but that never came and I couldn’t hold it in all day, so eventually I just went in my pants. Luckily, my family moved to a different town not long after.

        I get that there are times you just can’t let the kid go right now, but when you gotta go you gotta go, so at least try to find a time when that kid can go, and if necessary, tell little Ally “okay, you can go to the bathroom now” rather than make her keep asking until you let her.

        1. TootsNYC*

          My mom wet her pants at the blackboard because she had been refused permission to go earlier.

          So she told us all that we were supposed to ask nicely, but if we really, really had to go, and the teacher wasn’t letting us, we should just get up and go, and not worry about getting in trouble.
          I swear she said, “I will beat your teacher up if you get in trouble for it.” (Maybe she said “fight,” but I was in kgarten, so…)

          Then she said, “now, if you take advantage of that and use this to goof off in the bathroom, I will punish YOU.”

          I remember loving that my mother would fight for me.

          1. KR*

            My dad always made me understand that he would fight for me tooth and nail to make sure that the school treated me fairly, but if I ever acted up or abused that he would definitely not have my back. Which was good because being in school can be stupid.

      5. Lily in NYC*

        My jerkwad 6th grade teacher made us raise our hands with our fingers pointed when we had to go to the bathroom – if you had to go “#1” you stuck one finger up in the air, and two fingers up if you had to go “#2”. Way to make kids at that age even more insecure! No one ever raised two fingers. And once I asked “May I go to the bathroom” and he said in a snarky voice “I don’t know, can you”? He assumed I said “can I” instead of “may I” – and I remember apologizing and “correcting” myself even though I had already said it properly. It was one of my first moments realizing that some battles are not worth fighting because the opponent is missing a few screws.

        1. I'm a Little Teapot*

          OMG, WHY did he need that information?

          My 6th grade teacher would ask children loudly about their, uh, bathroom troubles if they took too long, which was mortifying. She clearly took pleasure in humiliating kids in other situations, too, and would go out of her way to do it.

        2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          That makes me shudder. The idea of a hand symbol in general is good – some of my kids use an ASL “t” and I can just silently nod at them to let them go, which is much less disruptive than having to have a verbal exchange. But I do NOT need to know what my students are doing in the bathroom as long as it is something bathrooms were designed for.

      6. Sparklekitty*

        I had a former manager who made us ask to go to the bathroom when I worked retail. Ours was the only department where you had to ask. And even then she’d make you feel bad about needing to go, and try to convince you to not go. She’d somehow timed her bladder to only go during scheduled breaks or lunch and was apparently upset that nobody else had developed this skill.

          1. Doriana Gray*

            Yup. I had three UTIs in third grade because my teacher wouldn’t let us go to the bathroom at all. His response was always, “Why didn’t you go at lunchtime?” Um…because I didn’t have to go then. After one of my classmates peed herself, all the parents showed up at the parent-teacher conference and let him have it.

            His stupid rule was overturned. And even if it hadn’t been, my mom told me to never hold it again – if I had to go, I was to get up and go, and he could deal with her later.

    2. Former Retail Manager*

      YES! Also a Fed….I was very surprised at the fairly liberal leave policy. I came from a place that wanted details when you were sick so I always indicated the type of doctor I’d be going to, with the exception of the ob/gyn (gotta draw the line somewhere). I e-mailed when the appointment was, type of doctor, and how long it was expected to take and told that was all unnecessary. “3 hours sick leave” would do. Ooopsy!

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Although we say that, and then there will be a letter about someone whose boss is timing the amount of time they spend in the bathroom, or wants details on why they’re at the dermatologist. Because some bosses are insane.

        1. Snarkus Aurelius*

          Ah but The Office had the perfect response to that. Make up a disease or condition.

          Hotdog fingers
          Government-created killer nano-robot infection
          Count Choculitis

          1. Katie the Fed*

            “Government-created killer nano-robot infection”

            How did you know about that?!

        2. SMGW*

          At my last job we had to make sure everyone who sat in our area (four to a cube-section) knew that we were going to the bathroom. (Or the kitchen, or the printer, or anywhere else.) Your destination had to be announced so that they could know where you were at all times. Yeah.

    3. Amber T*

      When I started at my current job, my then manager just wanted us to let her know when we’d be out/leave early/get in late. No biggie, no consequence, just let her know. I was promoted and assigned a new manager right around the time I injured my leg and had to go to physical therapy. My PT is twice in a week in the mornings and tends to get me late to work 15-20mins twice a week. I told my new supervisor kind of apologetically and he looked at me like I had three heads. Like, why are you telling me this?

      Most managers are human and realize we all have doctors appointments and the like.

      1. OM*

        I always feel like my manager is annoyed when I tell him I have an appointment or I have to leave early, so then I always feel guilty when I tell him, or nervous to schedule something.

    4. KR*

      I still feel guilty when I have to miss work. I’ll be telling my boss about a dentist/vet/doctors appointment and how I’m sorry it has to be during the work day and he’s always just like, “Yes and? Deal with whatever you have to deal with.”.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I feel the same–and most of the jobs I’ve had did have a problem with it, because I covered the front desk and when I was gone, someone else had to literally do my job. It took me a while to get used to my current job–my old manager had to tell me, “You can manage your own time” before I felt even slightly comfortable with it. Even now I almost feel as though someone’s going to yell at me or get pissy because I need or want to be gone. It’s very hard to escape that mindset.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        I feel weirder about it if it’s a few hours of the day, versus a whole day. Not sure why because that’s completely illogical.

    5. Dr. Doll*

      I have a person who’s hourly and if they ever came in on time, every day, for a whole week, I’d faint from shock. Constant personal emergencies, illnesses, last minute I forgot the plumber’s coming, etc. But since they never actually use up all their PTO…. and yes, I’ve tried the direct route but since I can’t fire (union), not much I can do except document every evaluation period. Don’t be like that, OP! Not that it sounds like you would be, in a million years.

      1. Zillah*

        It doesn’t sound like the OP is in any danger of chronic unplanned latenesses. There’s an enormous difference between this and what the OP is talking about.

  2. Dana*

    I totally feel your pain. Although I have a lot of doctor appointments. I found the best thing to do was ask early and often about what was expected of me time-wise. It helped me get clear answers and know I wasn’t over stepping. You will seem very dedicated just for asking for clarification. Good luck!

    1. irritable vowel*

      From the managerial side, I agree with this approach. I have zero problem with staff taking time off for medical appointments, but I think it’s important for both manager and staff to make sure expectations are clear. I hired someone not too long ago into what is his first “real” job after grad school, and realized when he told me after the fact that he had come in late because of a doctor’s appointment that I hadn’t made my expectations clear (nor had he asked about them, but I’m the manager, so the blame was on me for not being clear in laying out what the preferred procedure is, ie. just let me know the day before if you’ll be in late or leaving early for an appointment). OP, if your manager hasn’t said anything to you about his or her preference, definitely ask!

    2. Viktoria*

      Same. I have a lot of doctor’s appointments, and it helps me to be up front with my boss about my needs and asking his expectations. I have the flexibility to manage my own time, while keeping him in the loop. In return, I try to be conscientious when scheduling them. First thing in the morning, lunchtime, or late afternoon when possible to minimize work disruption. My PCP works late so I go after work. Last year I learned the hard way that I am useless for work after an eye exam (dilation) so this year I scheduled it for the late afternoon.

  3. Nibbles*

    Ha. I just finally went to the dentist for the first time in a year (oopsie), and came in late to work that day. Turns out I have two cavities to get filled, so I’m taking more time off this week and next week. That’s what happens when your dentist only works on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

    1. Bowserkitty*

      Ha! That was my deal. I’ve now been to the dentist twice in the past two weeks (first checkup, second fillings) with a third appointment today for a mouth guard. Stuff happens.

      Luckily my dentist has better hours, but when you find a place you like you stick with it so I get that!

    2. TootsNYC*

      it’s also what happens when you don’t go to the dentist.

      Go to the dentist, everybody! On schedule!

      Cavities are SO much cheaper when they’re filled early.

      want to save big bucks? Brush. FLOSS!! and go to the dentist regularly.

      1. Bowserkitty*

        You know what happens when you don’t go to the dentist for three years?

        Cavities in the double digits.


        1. Cat like that*

          I don’t think I’ve been to the dentist for 3 or 4 years…now I’m scared.

          Forgive my ignorance, but don’t cavities hurt? Wouldn’t you be able to feel when you get the first one and then get it checked out because of the pain? I’ve never had one before.

          1. KR*

            Sometimes they hurt, and sometimes they don’t – especially if they’re in between your teeth or if you don’t eat a lot of food that will trigger pain. It’s always worth getting an X-ray so they can make sure your mouth is good all over.

          2. JMegan*

            Not necessarily. Sometimes you get one that’s really close to the nerve, and then it can hurt like a mofo, but most of the time when I have had cavities I didn’t even notice them until the dentist told me they were there.

            And don’t worry about the dentist judging you! Whatever your mouth looks like, I promise they have seen worse. And not going for 3-4 years is better than not going for 5-6 years, right? Totally do-able to get back on track, but you should definitely do it sooner rather than later. Good luck!

          3. Gene*

            If you wait until a cavity hurts, you will be getting a root canal instead of a small filling. I see my dentist every 6 months, and my periodontist every six months, so I have a mouth related appointment every 3 months. And I need to see the perio because I didn’t see a dentist for too long and we’ve been getting the periodontal disease under control.

            Hie thee to a dentist, posthaste!

          4. Karowen*

            Yeah…I once looked in my mouth – I think my throat hurt so I was checking if it was red – and saw a hole in my tooth. This was a normal mirror, I was normal tooth-brushing length away, I had my glasses on but had no other magnification, and I could clearly identify a spot on my tooth. I spent the next few days brushing extra vigorously and thinking I had to be crazy before I went to the dentist, who told me that I was this close to needing a root canal and to not eat any sugar until they could get me in to have it filled – because then it would’ve been a root canal.

            So, no. Not always. Sometimes I’ll feel them but for the most part I don’t.

          5. Honeybee*

            Before I started my new job with dental coverage, I hadn’t been to the dentist in probably about 3-4 years. When I finally did visit the dentist for a cleaning I didn’t have a single cavity. In fact, the dentist mentioned that my teeth looked pretty good. (I’ve never had a cavity before.)

            I’m not saying that you shouldn’t go – you should definitely go to the dentist every 6 months for a cleaning (I’m doing that now!) I’m just saying don’t be afraid that your mouth is a minefield because you haven’t been in a long time. It could be bad…or maybe not. It depends on how you eat and how you take care of your teeth.

            1. Beezus*

              I’m the same. I went a few years without a checkup when I moved to a new area and could no longer see my childhood dentist. I didn’t have any cavities when I finally went back. I go regularly now. I’ve never had a cavity, and neither have my siblings. Some of it is luck, genes and early life dental care, too.

              1. the gold digger*

                I am so paranoid about my teeth that even when I was in grad school and didn’t have insurance, I still paid to get an annual checkup. Thank goodness I needed nothing else in those two years because it was already a sacrifice to pay for the checkup and cleaning.

                (And yet my teeth thanked me by requiring a root canal five years ago and six gum grafts in the past two years.)

              2. Alienor*

                I think a lot of it is genes. I brush, floss and rinse like it’s my second job, and I have a mouth full of fillings and two crowns, one with a root canal. My teenage daughter brushes once a day in the morning (unless I catch her before bed and make her do it then too) and has perfect checkup after perfect checkup. Her father was also a once-a-day brusher who never got a cavity, so I guess she must have inherited her superpowered teeth from him. She also inherited absent wisdom teeth from me and naturally straight teeth from both of us, so it’s like she hit some sort of dental trifecta.

            2. TL -*

              10 years. I went 10 years without seeing a dentist (honestly, longer, but I did see an orthodonist) and I had two tiny cavities that they filled but told me they were hardly worth the effort.

            3. Elsajeni*

              True — I did need several fillings when I went to a dentist for the first time in 5 years, but I think only one of the cavities was actually new; the rest had been filled before, but the fillings had worn away or fallen out over time. (They do have a finite lifespan, apparently!)

          6. Nibbles*

            Mine rarely hurt. I’ve had cavities in the double digits and I think only about three of them have ever hurt, and then only when I was eating or drinking something really cold.

          7. TootsNYC*

            Don’t be scared–go, go! Sooner is better, things only get worse. Stop it now!

            Cavities usually don’t hurt when they’re small–they hurt when they’re big. If you can sense a cavity through tooth pain, it’s pretty big. Catch them when they’re small; they’re essentially rot, and they only get bigger. If you can get them filled when they’re tiny, it will save you SO much money when you are 55 years old. Like, $6,000 in a single year; $12,000 over three or four. Don’t ask me how I know.

            oh–you mean getting them filled? It’s not that bad, honest. They’ll give you a shot most of the time when they go to fill it.. Only once did I have them fill a cavity without Novocaine.

          8. Ife*

            Fun story about tooth pain and cavities… I didn’t go to the dentist for a few years because I was in college/other bad excuses. I went to my dentist that summer after I graduated, and I had developed such a deep cavity in my back molar that when they put the filling in, the tooth started to die and I had to get it pulled a few weeks later (they warned me that was likely to happen because of how deep the cavity was). Never felt any pain prior to the filling… so no, they definitely don’t always hurt!

          9. Jinx*

            It depends. I’ve only had two cavities in my life, and it was very noticeable that something was wrong with that side of my mouth. However, ever since I got the fillings I get occasional pain and sensitivities that remind me of the way the cavities felt, and it’s completely thrown me off.

            My husband managed to rack up ten cavities during the college years when we didn’t have dental insurance, and he hadn’t made a peep about his mouth hurting (and I second the notion above to deal with it before that point, because OMG that was expensive). Two of the cavities required crowns, and one of those got bad enough that it was giving him trouble when he ate and foot got in it, but he didn’t even register any of the other ones.

          10. Rye-Ann*

            I would recommend making an appointment soon, and bracing yourself for the possibility that you do have cavities. But for what it’s worth, I skipped the dentist for…pretty much most of college (so, about 3 or 4 years), and when I finally went, everything was fine. I brushed my teeth twice a day during that time, so I kept up on basic maintenance, and I ended up being okay. I guess what I’m saying is…yeah, you might have cavities, but you’re not doomed either. Don’t wait too long though, because the longer you do, the more likely it is that something will be wrong!

          11. Bowserkitty*

            I’m really sorry to scare you!! I should mention, I have a thick form of saliva that basically makes me more prone to cavities, but not everybody does. (My ex had ridiculously poor dental hygiene [and in general] and despite all of the sugary drinks and cigarettes, he’s never had a cavity. Ever. He has miracle saliva, as I used to call it.)

          1. Mpls*

            Do you have a dental school nearby? Sometimes they will have supervised student doing cleanings as part of a school clinic – can often be cheaper alternative.

            1. Karowen*

              That’s how we got our braces done as kids. I think my parents paid about half for 3 kids to get braces as they would’ve to have 1 kid get braces at an orthodontist. (Or something like that. Maybe half for each kid? Either way, added up to a LOT.)

          2. TootsNYC*

            If you can’t find some way to get to get dental care cheaply, be ultra sure you are flossing and brushing. And use an enamel-rebuilding mouthwash.

            Be religious. Every night when you think you might skip, say to yourself: “Six thousand dollars.”

            1. Bowserkitty*

              I’m going to do this from now on. I am admittedly still trying to get back into the routine. I tell myself “this is how you become a proper adult.”

              I’m almost 30, so….it’s about time.

      2. Kyrielle*

        Yes, this.

        Because last week, I got to have a tooth prepped for a crown because it had too many old fillings and we were getting close to the “decay will result in a root canal” threshold.

        Don’t do what I did when I was younger and ignore your teeth. They will *not* return the favor by ignoring you.

        1. KR*

          Y’all are scaring me into flossing – which is good because I don’t do it nearly enough. Thank you.

      3. Amber Rose*

        Can’t afford it. I don’t know how anyone can. Saving big bucks is meaningless if I can’t afford the smaller bucks. They aren’t that smaller. I could replace my front door for less.

        On the other hand, if my teeth rot so bad they pose a health risk, fixing them will be free. So. There’s a stupid fact for you.

  4. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Hi people who read AAM on your phone: My ad network tells me that they think they’ve fixed the issue that was causing redirects away from the site. (They think it’s one ad platform that appears to be unscrupulous, and they’ve blocked it.) If it continues to happen to you, will you let me know? Thank you!

    1. neighborhood friendly QA tech*

      Not getting redirected, but had an absurd number of ads in this post on mobile. 11!

  5. EA*

    On a related note- if the OP is reading- try and take a vacation. You said you started this job close to a year ago- so in most field taking a week off, or a long weekend, would be fine. I’m only saying this as someone who neglected vacations for the first 2.5 years I was out of college. I couldn’t afford it, thought staycations were stupid, so I never took any days off. This lead to burnout. Anyways- OP, you seem conscientious, don’t be like me. You will perform better if you take care of yourself.

    1. Joseph*

      This is actually one reason that some workplaces require people to use vacation in the year it’s earned rather than allowing carry over days: If you let people build up vacation, then they never get around to taking them (usually due to pressuring themselves to not take time off rather than external manager/company pressure) and you end up with people struggling or leaving because they get burned out.

      1. Shell*

        Yeah, my current job is one of those places. We run lean because it’s a small place, but we’re encouraged to use our vacation. In fact, the first time I took a vacation day (half day, to go to the circus with my family) my boss looked at me and said “have you taken time off all year? No? Take the whole day!” I laughed and explained I’m banking my time because I was thinking of taking a trip elsewhere in a month or two.

      2. accidental diva*

        Or your my SO who with their contract gets paid out every 18-24 months when there’s a transition and currently has nearly a month worth of time saved… trying to convince them that working to death is not attractive nor is going into work when you’re sick (which is a returned with a chorus of “I’m the only reliable one”) – I want the next contract to have a cap on it so they will use their time!

    2. Ama*

      Yes, this. I have been struggling a bit in my current job because the “quiet” periods are not that quiet compared to my old job (in academia, where summers/holidays are basically dead), so I kept waiting for an opening in my calendar that just never happened. I’ve finally realized — after nearly working myself into a nervous breakdown last summer — that I just need to pick out a reasonably good week/long weekend and make my project deadlines/meetings fit around that, instead of trying to fit my vacation around when I have ongoing projects … because I’m *always* going to have ongoing projects.

    3. F.*

      I haven’t had a full week of vacation (other than being unemployed) in 10 years and haven’t been anywhere for an actual vacation in 18 years. This was due to divorce, poverty and a severe episode of depression. Now that I have the money, my husband cannot travel and I can’t get a week off work because we are so understaffed. OP, take the vacation time and don’t feel the least bit guilty.

  6. Jill of All Trades*

    If it makes you feel better, I schedule my regular things for the same day, like a dental cleaning in the morning, eye check after that, and ob/gyn in the afternoon (always this one last since I always end up waiting for over an hour for my doctor!!!!!). Then I take the whole day off and it’s just the one occurrance, and then just a small amount of time for the mid year dental cleaning.

    I get the sense that you are accustomed to jobs that focused on occurrances and dinged you as unreliable even for planned absences if there were more than 2 schedule alterations. It doesn’t sound like you’re in that type of job now though.

    1. Dorth Vader*

      I was going to suggest the same thing. It’s a lot, and it can be a little draining, but if you’re really concerned about taking parts of several days this could be the solution.

    2. KR*

      That was the sense I got too. Schools can also be terrible with planned or unplanned absences in my experience, which can lead to a lot of guilt over taking over your own schedule. I had college teachers that were so rigid with their attendance policies that they considered any absence “unexcused” and were of the opinion that you should always be in class unless you’re dead because otherwise you were wasting their time and missing valuable teaching time and class discussion.

      1. Felicia*

        I had one teacher in college like that who also gave attendance marks, and I lost marks for missing a day to go to my grandfather’s funeral. It’s not that she didn’t believe my grandfather had died (I could have proven it). She just said going to a funeral is not an excuse to miss class.

        1. KR*

          I’ve had teachers like that. Really terrible. It’s like they forget that the student is paying for the class.

          1. Sarah*

            I had a professor in college who wouldn’t let us use the restroom. Really. Some professors just get a big head or something.

            1. Bowserkitty*

              That’s ridiculous. One of the biggest differences I noticed was suddenly being able to use the restroom during classes without permission. I felt like I was being treated like a proper adult, or that it was at least the first step towards it.

        2. SJ*

          My mother’s father died when she was 18 and in college, and she asked a professor for a 2 day extension on a paper or something so she could help her mother with funeral arrangements and be with her grieving family and the like. He said no.

        3. The Strand*

          This comes up on higher ed forums all the time. It’s bad apples who lie about it who have made many instructors cynical about any request for time off. Tell your kids to get a copy of the death certificate, or the notice of the funeral, and if they push back, bump it up to the dean of students office.

        4. Sunflower*

          Yup in my classes we were allowed to miss X amount of classes- I think it was 4 – before it started affecting your grade. Anything after 4 your final class grade was reduced by 5% EACH ABSENCE. Didn’t matter if the absences was excused or not. So if you missed more than a few classes, you had to late drop. I remember when my gradmom died and I had to miss a quiz to attend the funeral. We were allowed to drop our lowest quiz grade and the teacher told me this one would just have to be the one I dropped.

          1. Laura (Needs To Change Her Name)*

            … this is my policy, and that is why it exists. You have a certain number of free absences, for any reason. Lowest grade drops, for any reason. This way I don’t have to judge the worthiness of family deaths vs illnesses vs job interviews vs mental health days va hangovers.

              1. JessaB*

                If you’re a reasonably healthy person yes. If you’re disabled and have illnesses, no. Honestly, if you’re an adult and are passing the course, it’s really not their business how often you’re out. Unless it’s a lab or some kind of hands on thing that you can’t make up a lot of, or some kind of practicum. But classes? I just don’t see where it matters if you do the work at a high enough level. As someone who gets major lung infections every time someone with a serious cough/flu thing is in the same building with me, and having been in classes where the teacher was like that, well I would never have gotten through school without arguing it every time with a dean or with disabled student services. Cause one person coughing around could cost me a full week of classes. And it’s still not socially on to wear masques like they do in Japan all the time. And it definitely wasn’t when I went to Uni over 30 years ago. Although if I was taking classes now, I totally would in rooms where we’re all squashed together (large sit 200 people in a theatre type classes I’m looking at you.)

                1. Ellie H.*

                  It’s possible it depends on the class to a certain extent but to my mind going to class is hugely important. I find it so disrespectful to the professor/teacher to just skip. If you didn’t want to attend class, you shouldn’t have taken the class.

                2. LiveAndLetDie*

                  It also depends on the type of course it is. If you’re keeping up in an undergrad by doing your readings and assignments but you have to miss courses now and then, that’s one thing, but in certain fields the higher-level stuff is where you have to be physically present in the class to get a vital part of your lessons. In my MA history courses, class attendance was KEY to your grade, because the classes were where you would discuss the readings as a group. They weren’t lectures or instruction, they were “prove you did the work” sessions, and you learned as much from the discussions as you did from the readings themselves. If you missed more than two, your grade reflected it. They also only met once a week, so there were a grand total of maybe 15 in a semester. The only times I ever missed such things were for family emergencies and illnesses so powerful I couldn’t move.

                3. Lady H*

                  But you’re looking at this only through your experience. There are exceptions to every rule; in your case, I would assume you’d be working with school to accommodate a chronic illness. However, most students are not chronically ill and don’t need to miss four classes. It makes more sense that there are exceptions to the rule rather than making attendance optional.

                  I can’t think of many classes that I took in college where I would have been able to truly get a full learning experience after missing 4+ classes. Just doing the reading for the class would never make up for missing lectures from brilliant professors, or missing out on classroom discussion, or hands-on labs. It’s just not the same experience if you show up occasionally just to take quizzes—so it makes sense why attendance policies are in place. Your anecdote about your experience doesn’t negate that, nors does it make your experience invalid, it just means that it doesn’t apply broadly.

                4. MT*

                  Perhaps this doesn’t apply when there are 200 students in a class, but in any quality seminar-style course each student is to understand that their contribution to the course discussion is a part of the course itself. You don’t get to just “get” an education without contributing; society doesn’t work that way.

      2. Sparklekitty*

        Oh my God, I had one of these teachers. The second class I had with him was September 11, 2001. We all showed up and were understandably frightened and confused (even though we were 500 miles inland) and he just started up the lesson as if it were a regular Tuesday. When someone protested, he responded, “What? It’s not like they’re gonna fly a plane into us.”

        Two weeks later, he told us he’d gone to Nashville for the weekend and if we “ever wanted to fly anywhere, now’s the time to do it!” with a big shit-eating grin on his face.

    3. pomme de terre*

      Agree that scheduling multiple things in one day can be a great use of time. Unless there’s a huge crush of work, I almost always try to knock out a few things when I take a half day and it’s not always doctor visits. Get your teeth cleaned and your hair cut or something! Last week I had a doctor’s appointment that wrapped up early and I managed to run to the bank and drop off some clothes for charity (and treated myself to a fancy coffee) and still made it to work on time and had a very productive afternoon! Use your time off, and use it wisely! And sometimes using it wisely includes treating yourself to a fancy coffee. Or saying you’re taking a half day for two medical appointments, and one of them is a massage. It’s healthy!

      1. the_scientist*

        I’m in fact doing this this week and I’m super excited about it. I have an annual volunteer committee meeting this week, and it’s one of those things that just takes as long as it takes, meaning that I needed to take a full or half day for it. Well, I decided to take two full days and I’m getting a message, going to this meeting, AND going to the dentist, as well as studying for an exam. I’ll make sure to treat myself to a daytime yoga class and some tea in there too, but those two days are going to be incredibly productive. OP, if you’re feeling guilty, this approach might help. Also, don’t feel guilty about using your vacation time, though. It’s part of your compensation package.

    4. Honeybee*

      Oh yuck. I understand the purpose but I would hate to go to three health care providers in one day, especially a dentist and a gyn appointment in the same day!

    5. LibrarianJ*

      I would love to be able to do this (would be so much better for my work schedule and mental health), but how do you get them all to line up? Any tips? When I call for an appointment at any of my doctors’ offices, usually they offer me the first day/time my insurance will allow — and no matter how polite I am, asking for a different slot tends to make them grumpy (double that for each additional time that I can’t instantly accept). I’ve tried telling them up front what days/times work for me, but that usually also irritates them. It’s impossible enough to get appointments around ‘work conflict that can’t be cancelled unless I’m dying,’ I can’t imagine how I’d be able to negotiate enough to actually line up appointments at different offices!

      1. Jill of All Trades*

        In case you check back in here, I make the hardest appointment first (ob/gyn), the next hardest is the dentist and my guy has a FABULOUS staff and they love me so the only obstacle’s availability. The eye doctor is the easiest to schedule (don’t know why) so they go last. I should add that I don’t have chronic conditions and these are just the standard issue checks/cleanings/new eye prescription, so I can line all of this up months in advance while everyone’s schedule is open. Finally, my work is pretty predictable and for the most part I know months in advance what days will be good or not.

  7. Sally*

    Wow! I am so glad to know that I was not alone in feeling this!
    I also have had a lot of difficulty in being comfortable to use my personal time, and finally after 10 years (and several different jobs) am I finally comfortable to just do what I need to do appointment-wise!
    I think that it was due to the fear of being perceived as an “abuser of time off” that I was always trying to prove that I was not “one of those people.”
    Sigh, now I know that no one probably noticed or cared!

  8. Amber Rose*

    I had this talk with my boss when I started this job. His reaction was similar to Alison’s here. Your health is important, and doctors work the same hours we do. Do what you gotta do.

    You could ask if there’s a preference for morning or afternoon or if you need to check in with anyone. I just have to give a heads up to literally anyone (so at least one person knows I’ve left) and sign out, for example. Those are normal procedural questions that are not any kind of flag.

  9. Terra*

    If you ever have a boss who gets upset about you for saying that you need to come in late or leave early to accommodate a doctors appointment in a 9 to 5 office setting that is a boss you will probably end up wanting to run screaming from. I speak from experience. So if nothing else it can be used a decent measure for reasonableness.

      1. JessaB*

        Yes. On the flip side of that, there had been a trend maybe 20 years ago of doctor’s offices being like 10-6 or something, but I guess that didn’t work out financially. I’d love a doctor who was maybe closed Monday and open Saturday even for part of a day because of that.

  10. Cat like that*

    I’ve been out of college for 5 years now and I still feel weird about taking time off for appointments. I specifically pick doctors who work on Saturdays for that reason. I think that’s just the type of person I am…I’m uncomfortable not being where I’m supposed to be when I’m supposed to be there.

    1. Megs*

      And if you’re not burning out, that’s totally cool, but I think the phrasing of this is odd: “I’m uncomfortable not being where I’m supposed to be when I’m supposed to be there.” Sick days and vacation days are part of your compensation. You’re supposed to use them.* This isn’t grade school with a perfect attendance award (which is crummy anyhow, because kids have health issues too, ffs!). Declining to take your paid days off is kind of like saying “thanks for offering me $22 an hour, but I really do need that much, how about $20?”

      *And if you have a boss who treats people who take vacation worse than people who do, your boss is a jerk.

      1. Gene*


        We discovered if one takes no sick leave during the year, one gets a letter with the Mayor’s signature on it, congratulating one for a year with no sick leave incidents. So, that and $2 will get you a coffee.

        1. Searching*

          Ugh. Stuff like that is how you get an office of people who come in sick and get everyone else sick. Its not just your health- its the health of your coworkers and clients (and their kids and anyone else they come in contact with) to be respectful of too.

    2. Honeybee*

      I tend to find providers who work on Saturdays and in the evenings too if I can, but that’s because I would prefer not to use my sick/vacation time for doctor’s appointments if I can avoid it.

    3. The Strand*

      Megs is right. Very few companies provide leave and then expect no one to use it (it really is a sign of a sick department or manager). They want to have happy, healthy colleagues working for them.

      You’re probably in your late 20s now, but as you get older, taking regular time off becomes really more important. Don’t feel that you need to justify it to yourself – the fact that they gave it to you is all the justification you need.

  11. Laura (Needs a New Name)*

    I hope you’ll bring this up with your boss! I supervise student employees and I know for a lot of them it is their first employment experience. I try to be really up-front and explicit about lots of scheduling things – this is what I need to know (and DON’T NEED TO KNOW OMG PLEASE DO NOT DESCRIBE YOUR MUCUS) when you’re taking time off, this is what’s OK/not OK in terms of hours and flexibility, etc. I am really explicit about this because it is what I would have wanted as an employee, but I know lots of my colleagues aren’t – but would be super receptive to being directly asked! It just doesn’t cross their minds.

    1. KR*

      I’m sure your employees appreciate this a lot and I’m happy that you do this. I supervise high school and college aged young adults in both of my jobs and I’m constantly trying to coach them on workplace norms. It’s hard because one is in a retail setting where a lot of office norms don’t really apply and the other is a non-traditional workplace, but it’s so rewarding when successful.

    2. Honeybee*

      I used to do this when I supervised student employees, too – not only that taking time off is okay and healthy but also how much to share. One time I had a student take a picture of what was wrong and text it to me. At 7 in the morning. Um…#pleasedon’t

      1. the gold digger*

        Two weeks after I started this job, I fell off my bike on my way to work, hit my helmet, broke my prescription sunglasses, and had to get a CT scan and stitches.

        I took a photo of myself and texted it to my boss to explain why I would be late. Because we already had that kind of relationship.

      2. irritable vowel*

        This happened to me, too – someone came in and said something like “sorry I couldn’t be here yesterday, I burned my arm and had to go to the hospital,” and had the bandage off *to show me the burn* before I could say “OMG stop!”

        1. Kit*

          Some folks just really want to tell people about their afflictions. I totally get why so many elderly people do so. For instance, this week I had to take a day and a half off for dysentery. Did I need to tell you about that? No, but I have DYSENTERY. The only good thing about dysentery is getting to tell people about it (and make Oregon Trail jokes).

    3. TootsNYC*

      I once hired a rookie (it’s been a while since I’ve had an entry-level spot under me), and this was actually one of the things I proactively explained.

  12. Laura*

    OP, I feel you! I recently started a new job and am using my (excellent) insurance to go to the dentist and eye doctor. Both have required some follow-up visits and I am still nervous about asking my boss for the time, but she is ALWAYS understanding– especially since she has kids who get sick all the time! Unless your workplace is particularly strict, you have no reason to be afraid. :)

  13. Snarkus Aurelius*

    You sound like me, OP! I was raised to always be working and never take time off because work was always more important. Neither one of my parents EVER took time off even when we kids were sick. (My mother has expressed a lot of regret about that after she retired.)

    When I first started working, I went as far as to find a dentist who took Saturday appointments just so I wouldn’t have take time off work! The VPs at my workplace would take every Friday off in the summer, and year-round, they wouldn’t think twice about taking week-long vacations multiple times a year. But me? I felt guilty about taking a sick day when I was actually sick.

    So, like AAM said, you don’t have to feel guilty. You accrued the time so use it. That’s what it’s there for! Taking time off becomes problematic when people abuse it. Like when my horrendous ex-coworker would take a sick or vacation day as soon as she accrued it because she, “didn’t want to leave [employer] with anything!” Or taking time off without ensuring that major things get done in your absence and expecting everyone else to pick up the slack.

    As you continue working, you’ll pick up the slack for other people, and they’ll (hopefully) do it for you when you need them to. And there will be times where something goes horribly wrong, and you can’t come to work at all and you haven’t planned for it. That’s okay too.

    If you really feel that bad about it, ask your boss if your time off is excessive in any way. My hunch is that there will be no issue with what you’ve proposed here.

    1. JessaB*

      And we were all brought up in schools that gave out 100% attendance cards and big awards and stuff. We get indoctrinated young in the US. And I remember the ones of us who were disabled (my really brittle asthma, my friend with child onset rheumatoid arthritis, etc.) and we were made out to be horrible kids because OMG we actually got sick and had to stay home. It carries over. Yes there are a lot of good companies, and probably on average MOST of them are pretty reasonable, but it’s the bad 2-5% and most of us have worked for at least one of em. So it’s really hard in the US with people actually believing that it’s okay to take leave even when it totally is.

      So it’s good when good companies get out ahead of this kind of thing.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        That’s another thing that bugs me about school: getting perfect attendance recognition. Awards like that don’t really mean anything. You showed up. It’s not really an achievement.

  14. themmases*

    In addition to just asking their boss how to proceed, the OP should try to put aside some of the complaints they hear from others– especially people they don’t work with. What’s appropriate varies based on your location, industry, your specific role, and how you go about taking the time. Even if you inconvenienced a peer from time to time, they can only really know the effect on them and not your reason, or your boss’ opinion. Only you and your boss can know for sure.

    There is a ton of disagreement out there about what is normal! I think we all make the mistake sometimes of thinking our own circumstances are more common than they are. You also won’t generally hear stories about all the coworkers we’ve had who used PTO appropriately because we were never inconvenienced to notice.

    If you are a conscientious person like the OP, in a good environment you can probably trust that you are behaving acceptably on balance, and if you aren’t someone will respect you enough to let you know. The OP will tend to be more than careful enough about this without having to agonize.

    1. TootsNYC*

      ” Even if you inconvenienced a peer from time to time,”

      And really, in many cases they will be inconveniencing you now and then.

      I am happy to be inconvenienced by the people who work for and with me. it makes me feel confident that if I’m going to need similar consideration, it will be forthcoming.

    2. JessaB*

      Yes, you don’t know how your company handles the majority of employees who use PTO properly because nobody should be talking about it. It’s private beyond x will be out and you need to cover.

      And if need to cover becomes an insane hardship then you bring that up. You don’t stop taking leave, you have a discussion about how to do it so that it doesn’t mess things up too badly.

  15. justsomeone*

    I’ve only been in the professional world for a few years now, but I’ve had a few jobs (internships, contracts, FTE) and at the start of each when I get a few minutes of my new supervisor’s “onboarding spiel” I try to ask a few questions right at the start. “I just want to be clear on the procedure for some of the basics. What do I do when I need to call out sick? What do I do when I need to take time for appointments, like the doctor or dentist? What’s the procedure for requesting vacation time, once I’ve accrued some?” I like to ask about all three scenarios up front because then I know how to handle all of them right away. It’s never gotten me any funny looks or bad reactions. All of my managers have basically gone “great question, x, y, z” and moved on to the next Thing I Need To Know.

    1. the gold digger*

      Depending on where you are, your boss may not require you to take PTO for doc’s appts, etc. I have never worked any place that does require it and am shocked to read that it would ever be required in a professional environment where a person does not get overtime or comp time for weekends and evenings spent in an airport on business travel.

      1. LQ*

        I think the difference is usually between hourly and salaried (or nonexempt/exempt – I know they are different but in this case close enough). Hourly it makes time to require PTO of some kind (we can take sick time – different bucket from vacation) for doc appts.
        When I was salaried and exempt I never took pto but I also never used all my pto at that job anyway.
        (Not every professional job is exempt/salaried.)

      2. Perse's Mom*

        I’m hourly (full-time). My schedule is set in stone. If the only appt I can get is during my work hours, I would have to schedule far enough in advance to put in a request for PTO for the hours off, schedule in advance and put in a request to make up the hours, or give insufficient notice for a request and be dinged for an occurrence and lose the $ for the hours missed.

        My sick and vacation time are one bucket.

      3. justsomeone*

        I am full time and hourly. If I go to a dentist appointment during work hours, I can use sick time to cover it so I don’t lose money. Alternatively, I can work longer hours the days around the appointment if I don’t have the sick time to cover, or don’t want to dip into it. But that’s because my boss is flexible with my schedule. But that’s part of my point – ask right away, on day one or two so you know as part of the onboarding. It’s a normal onboarding question. You can couch it in “well, life happens and I want to be prepared” if you want to soften it, or make it obvious that you have no immediate plans to take time off, but it’s ideal to ask right away and just know how your company handles it, and what expectations are.

      4. Dorothy Mantooth*

        I am full time and exempt, but need to use PTO (designated sick leave) for doctor/dental/whatever medical appointments. If I may only be half an hour or so late, I can just take a 30 minute lunch instead of a full hour to even it out. I work in higher ed in a student facing office, so there needs to be scheduled coverage from 8-5.

  16. Guava*

    I feel you.

    It took me a while, but the way I eventually though about it was: well, my employer gives me 12 days sick time (accrued one day a month). Therefore they anticipate that I may need to use one day a month for illness, family illness, taking mental health day, whatever… Some people use that time as soon as it’s accrued and others like me have 3+ weeks sick time just sitting there.

  17. videogamePrincess*

    Does the title make sense? I see two “wills” and I can’t seem to read them in a way I understand . . .

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      Yes, the second “will” needs to go. I’m guessing the original subject line was something like “I’m worried taking occasional time off will make me look unreliable”.

  18. Meg Murry*

    Another person chiming in to say “please go get your appointments taken care of OP!” I agree with Alison’s advice on how to discuss with your boss, and once you get that information, you can also say to the boss “Hey, so I was able to schedule some routine medical appointments for [date sometime in the future]. Is that date ok for me to [come in late/take a half day/take a day off as appropriate]?” Chances are, unless that is the day of some big event that hasn’t been put on your calendar yet, or its the same day 4 of your other colleagues will be on vacation or at a conference, the boss is going to be fine with it. You don’t need to go TMI into what the appointments are for – just “appointment” is enough for any decent boss.

    Because, trust me as someone who’s BTDT, it’s a lot easier to ask your boss for a half-day or a couple of hours off to get a routine check up and prescription refilled than it is to go sheepishly to your boss and explain that you are *surprise* pregnant and now you need lots more time off for monthly prenatal appointments and 6-12 weeks of maternity leave. (Of course, I didn’t tell the boss that it was because my BCP prescription had run out two months earlier and apparently we weren’t as careful with backup methods as I thought we were being, but I think the boss got pretty clearly that it was not something I had been planning on.)

    Now, my new adult lesson is to never leave a doctor, dentist or hairdresser’s office without the next appointment scheduled. Because if you are scheduling 6 months to 1 year from now, chances are you can get the appointment for first thing in the morning or last thing in the afternoon, or even Saturday if your dentist has such a thing. I’ve found that if I have an appointment on my calendar, I will take the time to reschedule it if it isn’t going to work out – but it can take me weeks from the “gosh, I should make an appointment to do XYZ” until I actually have that thought at a time when I can make the call to make the appointment.

    1. JMegan*

      …but it can take me weeks from the “gosh, I should make an appointment to do XYZ” until I actually have that thought at a time when I can make the call to make the appointment.

      And then often another week or two between the time you make the call and the time the doctor (or whoever) can fit you into their calendar. I’m with you, I always make my next appt when I’m leaving the office, for exactly this reason!

    2. Searching*

      I always schedule all my hair appointments for the entire calendar year at once – every 5 weeks (I have short hair), first thing Friday morning. My husband is incredulous that I do this – he’s more of a “let me swing by Great Clips right now” type of person. About 2 or 3 times a year I’ll need to change an appointment because of a work or travel conflict, but I’ve been with this hair stylist for so long, she can always make it work for me.

  19. Bowserkitty*

    Oh my gosh, this could be me, and it’s all leftover baggage from OldJob. My boss designated me the “face of the department” and therefore I needed to be there at almost all times. She wouldn’t say much when I took sick time (I’m pretty sure my immune system had been compromised by working at said job) but she did NOT like when I took time off to see family, even though others in the department would frequently take vacations and she would congratulate them on their travels. After the company layoff I realized I hadn’t had a proper vacation in well over a year.

    It’s much different here at NewJob and I’m slowly getting used to asking for the time off. In fact, I knew things were different when an internal deliveryman notified me he’d be going on vacation the following week, and that he hadn’t had a week off since June of last year. I mean….wow. It’s a good place.

    I prepared myself for backlash when asking for time to move apartments this summer and my boss didn’t even hesitate to approve. So. Weird.

    1. Bowserkitty*

      I should note OldBoss also asked me to not schedule doctor appointments during the week. =_=

      1. Hotsteak*

        That sounds like my experience. My old boss made us call him on his cell if we were sick, and would ask questions about what was wrong with us (then try and guilt us to coming in if he didn’t think it was ‘serious’ enough). Any Dr appointments needed to be before/after work or on our days off.

        My new boss is SO much better. Any absence less than a full day doesn’t need to be cleared ahead of time, it just needs to be blocked out on my calendar so people know I’m gone. I was in a car accident recently and have been going to my Chiropractor twice a week, in the middle of the day, and to be honest I don’t think she would have noticed if I didn’t mention it to her.

  20. Sammie*

    I’d advise some caution here. I’m now at my third employer in a row–who gave lip-service to taking your earned time off–but didn’t actually mean it. Or you could take it–but working 7-8 hours per day was still expected. I really like Alison’s “ask your manager” guidance. I would add–watch his/her body language and listen to his/her tone. When I request time off–the response is always “Yes”–but I better be working the weekend prior–late nights up until leaving date–and I better get a few projects done while on vacation. If your spider sense is telling you time off seems “excessive” that means something. Could it be that taking-no-time is an unwritten rule of your corporate culture–and that’s why you are having that feeling?

    ***Let me add that I hope your corporate culture is truly one of “take your time”*****

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      Ew, I’m sorry. :(

      The fact that my newish manager gives me sour looks any time I take PTO (I have been with the company four years, she has been here 6 months and my direct supervisor for a month) is one of the reasons I am kissing this place goodbye in two weeks.

      1. Sammie*

        Ugh–nothing like “the look”! Glad you are getting out!

        My manager is a workaholic who wants to avoid his family and I doubt (judging by people’s reaction to him) he has friends.

    2. The Strand*

      I hate that crap. One of my friends, every year, before she goes on vacation, gives plenty of notice to her colleagues and clients, but always has to pull a week of 12 hour days (including weekends) because her clients throw hissy fits when she’s gone.

      She gets back and her manager expects her to immediately complete or resolve anything that happened while she was out of town.

      This has been going on for years, as long as I’ve known her. I wish she would get another job.

  21. Mike C.*

    The thing to remember is this – that time off is part of your benefits just like your paycheck.

    Do you feel about about spending your paycheck?

    1. LQ*

      + to this. Benefits are part of your compensation package. Don’t feel bad about using your benefits. Health insurance, EAP, retirement stuff, time off, all of it!

    2. Girasol*

      I don’t know why it’s different but it is. If you come to the end of the year and haven’t spent your pay you don’t get it taken away. If you leave the company they can’t give you remaining pay at half-rate or have you forfeit anything you haven’t been paid yet. And nobody goes around saying “I haven’t spent a paycheck in *years*!” to impress coworkers and ingratiate himself with the boss. Your boss doesn’t keep tabs on whether you’ve spent all your pay or set aside a good chunk of it for when you’re sick. Vacation is like a benefit only…not.

  22. SL #2*

    I struggled with this too when I got my first post-college job. I still struggle with it now, to an extent, and I’m in my second post-college job. But one of the higher-ups on my team was very good about sitting me down 3 months into the job to explain that I should use my vacation time and sick leave when I want and when I need to and that not taking a sick day for years, like he did when he started here, was Not A Good Idea. We can bank up both sick time and vacation time over calendar years, but the idea is that you should never hit your maximum accrual of PTO.

    I really like the idea that justsomeone has, about asking upfront during the onboarding process about what to do when you need to use some of that time off. It’s good to get all of that hammered out at the beginning, particularly if you’re feeling unsure about it!

  23. SirTechSpec*

    To me, feeling nervous/”entitled and presumptuous” about using your already-agreed-upon time off to go see a doctor (!!) is a symptom of an educational system where you have to ask someone else for permission – which you might not get – to go to the bathroom or take care of other basic bodily needs. OP, I wish you the best of luck in recalibrating your expectations towards making your own decisions!

    1. TootsNYC*

      My kids have asked me this at home. I’m like, “you need permission to stop playing video games or reading your book?”

  24. Marissa*

    The best thing to do is ask. You might find out you don’t even need to take time off per se. At my company, it’s not required to take any time “off” for doctor’s appointments and other small things. I just let my boss know when I need to be out of the office and how/when I’m going to make up the time during the week. That way, I’m still working 40 hours/week and I don’t lose paid leave. Your company may require you to use PTO, but you’ll never know until you inquire.
    I think the phrasing I used when I first asked was, “Can you tell me how doctor’s appointments are usually handled? I’d like to make an appointment for X date, and I want to make sure I understand the process before I proceed.” You’ll know your personal schedule, as well as the office schedule, so there will likely be some obvious dates to avoid and some that look like you could fit in an appointment without missing too much or falling too behind.

    1. JMegan*

      Yes, and also ask if working from home is allowed occasionally. I have a WFH day this week because I have a doctor’s appointment scheduled at an inconvenient time, and I can still put in a full work day if I don’t have to commute to the office and back.

      OP, most bosses are reasonable about people taking time off when they need to. You’ve been there for a year, so my guess is that if they were not reasonable, you’d likely know about it already. In any case, it definitely won’t make you look bad if you ask!

  25. Margaret*

    Do keep in mind if there are specific times that are bad, based on your industry or your specific workload (e.g., I try not to have any non-urgent medical appointments during tax season; or if a certain day is particularly busy or you have a monthly deadline for payroll), but otherwise if you’re in a typical office environment and your work is relatively independent (it’s not like someone has to cover the phones for you or something), then in most offices you can book whatever you want whenever you want and a handful of doctors appointments over a few month is not remotely a big deal.

  26. Menacia*

    I tend to try and make appointments late or on weekends (my dentist office) because where my doctors are located versus my job are about 50 miles apart. I would not want to take an entire day off for multiple appointments but a few hours here and there a year to keep me healthy is well worth it. I think your boss would appreciate you approaching them with how they would like you to handle appointments that fall within the work day. As Alison mentions, taking personal time off is part of working, and how you use it is entirely up to you. While my office is pretty flexible, I ensure my boss and coworkers (when necessary) know I will be in late or leaving early, or be out as the case might be. It’s great that you are concerned about this because it displays a level of maturity and conscientiousness that a lot of people don’t have.

  27. The IT Manager*

    While I completely agree with Alison and everyone that you are concerned about this, you can also look for providers who have early, late, weekend hours. I found a great dental clinic that was open 7am-7pm (IIRC) Monday through Thursday and had weekend hours. If you wanted to early or late appointments, you had to schedule more in advance I think, but this made it easier to schedule an appointment without taking time off from work.

    I also found a dentist near work since that’s something that never been an emergency for me so it made for a shorter time off for an appointment.

    With my eye doctor, I looked close to home since I figured if my eyes were dilated, I wanted to be as close to home as possible.

    1. Doriana Gray*

      I just found a dentist down the street from my job and apartment and will be going tomorrow morning for a cleaning. I hope these people are good – my old dentist is an hour away. Simple cleanings took me out of the office for three hours.

  28. ThatGirl*

    I started my career working second shift, so it was pretty easy to get dr appointments done in the morning/early afternoon. When I started working first shift in a more corporate setting, I had some problems figuring out this stuff too – used to way overask/over inform because I was nervous about “overstepping”. But really, it’s totally normal to look at your calendar, see a day you have a light load or no meetings or whatever, and just let your manager know I’ll be coming in late/leaving a little early/taking this day off. I do clear PTO days with my manager first, but mostly as a formality.

  29. EJ*

    I always feel like it’s excessive for me…. Yearly physicals, eye doctor, dentist, dermatologist, OB/GYN, and right now after oral surgery I have a check-up every 2 weeks. That on top of public transportation always being late, scheduled vacation days off, occasional sick days, and work holidays, I feel like I haven’t had a full week of work in the past few years! (I definitely have.. just adding up everything, it feels like that!)

    What I try to do is either schedule as late in the afternoon and take the train just before my regular one.. or mid-afternoon and take a 1/2 day. Another thing that works is schedule appointments for the same day (one morning, one mid-to-late afternoon), you get more done w/o taking multiple days off!

  30. TootsNYC*

    Also ask because some places require you to register your sick time; others don’t like you to use sick time for doctor visits; and some places don’t give a flying leap, see you when you get here, I don’t need the details.

    If you can’t ask your manager:
    -ask someone in HR
    -scope out your teammates for someone who is sensible and clear, and sound them out. Then crosscheck with someone else. (Every rookie should be on the alert for who it is that can be a source of advice like this–you can’t just assume it’s the oldest person; you need someone sensible. But they can be really valuable.)

    The one caveat is, your manager’s opinion is the only one that matters, so if HR says one thing, your manager may feel a little differently.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      There are jobs that don’t want you using sick time for doctor’s appointments? That is bananas. I am super happy about the new law in Massachusetts, which explicitly says you have to earn sick time, which can be used for:

      care for the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse, who is suffering from a physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition that requires home care, professional medical diagnosis or care, or preventative medical care;
      care for the employee’s own physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition that requires home care, professional medical diagnosis or care, or preventative medical care;
      attend a routine medical appointment or a routine medical appointment for the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent of spouse;
      address the psychological, physical or legal effects of domestic violence; or
      travel to and from an appointment, a pharmacy, or other location related to the purpose for which the time was taken.

      (if your employer has 11 or more employees and is not the government.)

      1. ThatGirl*

        Well, I’m not sure what Toots meant, exactly, but we have one big PTO pool and my bosses always say not to bother trying to use 2 hours of PTO for a doctor’s appointment, we just make up the time as needed. Basically we shouldn’t use less than 4 hours of PTO at a time.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I may be basing that on out-of-date practices (considering that laws may have changed). My current employer considers it sick time, but I know in the past I’ve heard of others that didn’t.

        1. doreen*

          I had jobs in the past that wouldn’t allow sick time for doctor’s appointments – but it just meant you had to take the time out of a different bucket, not that you couldn’t take time off. My impression of the recent sick time laws are that they require employers to provide a minimum amount of sick time , but don’t prohibit an employer who already provides more paid time off from restricting the use of sick leave to actual medical conditions, as long as there is other leave which can be taken for doctors’ appointments etc. I think it would be fine under those laws for my employer to say” “No, you can’t use sick time for a medical appointment. Use some of the other 210 hours of leave you get instead” (They don’t , but there are reasons for that)

      3. stk*

        Seriously, it’s in everyone’s interest to let people go to medical appointments, if for no other reason than it reduces the chance of everyone else getting sick too!

        (And just wanted to say, nice username! Not often you see a Rex Stout reference.)

  31. SH*

    My supervisor asks me to schedule appointments at the end of the workday because it’s easier for everyone. I’d check with your boss to see what window of time is most convenient.

  32. Shannon*

    “I feel so entitled and presumptuous just making an appointment and informing my boss that I need to use some of my leave on such and such date for a doctor’s appointment. ”

    Your health is always more important than any job. You know how you avoid needing to take more time off in the future? By staying on top of your preventive and maintenance appointments.

  33. Boop*

    Relax, OP. This is exactly why employers provide PTO. It’s a courtesy to try to schedule appointments outside work hours or during slower times if you can, but managers know that’s not always possible. Doctors frequently keep banker’s hours these days, so it’s totally normal to take a few hours to see the dentist or get your annual check up. In fact, a good manager would prefer the occasional absence for preventive health than an extended absence due to a serious condition that could have been handled sooner.

    You’re an adult now. That means you sometimes have to take some time to handle adult situations like replacing your brake calipers or getting a filling.

  34. Shelly*

    I would encourage you, OP, to remember that it is also OK to take a vacation day, just because you want one.

    At my first job out of college, I was so nervous about taking vacation time. Some serious stuff went down in my personal life and I just couldn’t juggle everything. Finally, after crying at the office bathroom, my mother said, “Oh, for gods sake take a day or two off for your mental health.”

    And I said, “But people will think I’m flaky.”

    And she said, “No, they really won’t.”

    She was right. The truth is that you have personal time, so use it! No one is going to think you’re being a slacker. And it will help your mental health. Now a days, I often take a day once every few months just for me. Plus I work somewhere that the vacation time doesn’t roll over. That means that if I don’t use it, I lose it and that’s like taking a pay cut.

  35. GrizzlyUrsula*

    For stuff like the optometrist and the dentist, I usually schedule that stuff for the hour before/after lunch, or like an hour before I normally leave for the day – That way I’m only off for a couple of hours at most, since usually taking off an hour early isn’t that big a deal, especially in my office, but YMMV on this. Or try and get one of the first appointments in the morning and arrange to come in late that day. This might help you ease some of that unreliable guilt too, since you won’t be abandoning people all day.

    You should check also if this is even the kind of thing you NEED to take vacation time for – with a bunch of places I have worked, taking a day or half day off to go to doctors appointments, or even to sit around in your house and wait for a delivery person was pretty normal, and didn’t have come out of your vacation time – we had a sort of informal stock of personal time/sick time that was set aside for this.

  36. LQ*

    Take your time! It is your time!

    If you have things that you know you won’t feel good about the day after, don’t be afraid to take that time too. If you let your boss/workplace know in advance it is usually not a big deal at all (shouldn’t be). I’ve taken to just scheduling the full day after I have to go to the dentist off. If I do have to have a cavity filled I often end up with a migraine from the drill sound, vibration and the smell. So I schedule the day after off. If I feel ok? I go into work. If not no one is expecting me. It works great. (I’m also really glad I don’t get a lot of cavities!)

  37. DLB*

    We have an awesome policy where we can take up to two hours for appointments and not have to use PTO. I’ve rarely gone over the 2 hours.

  38. I'm a Little Teapot*

    I’m hourly with no PTO whatsoever, so I leave early and make up the time in the early morning or the evening of another day that week. It always makes me uncomfortable, though, especially since I don’t know of anyone who has as many appointments as I do. So I try to keep it only to really necessary stuff – I haven’t been to a dentist in about ten years (partly because of work, partly because of money).

    My company has said they’ll hire me on with benefits at some point, but I’m not holding my breath. I mean, why pay for benefits when you can get the work without? It bothers me more that I’m looking at probably years with no vacation, combined with a side job and freelancing.

  39. Éowyn*

    I am also adjusting to a change in mindset like this. I recently changed from a job (retail) where you had to work a full year before you got any PTO – and then only one week and two personal days per year, to my first professional job in the financial industry, where you earn PTO every pay period and can take up to four weeks off per year. I also have health and dental insurance for the first time in my life! It takes some getting used to, especially as I used to always work when sick, and couldn’t take certain days off, even without pay (oh, the joys of weekends and holidays in retail). You have to retrain yourself to see it as part of your benefits as an employee, something they give you because they want you to be happy and healthy, so that you can do your best work for them! I tend to be an overthinker, as well, but I’m sure your boss will be glad to have a conscientious employee and won’t mind you using your PTO when you need to!

  40. Liz*

    Like everyone else has said, OP, don’t sweat these small things. (And if you one day end up with an unreasonable boss who begrudges your lunch breaks let alone legitimate sick days, don’t sweat it then, either.)

    (I just fled one such unreasonable boss — and then, two months into my new job, I fell over and broke my foot. I keep finding myself on the verge of apologising to my new employers for being less mobile than usual.)

  41. Kaya*

    My old workplace offered us an extra day of PTO if we took no sick leave in six months. Given we were entitled to 10 days’ paid sick leave a year, it didn’t seem like a great reward, but it meant that the culture was always focused on coming in even if you were ill to get your name in the congratulatory email. It was a terrible system – people get ill! It doesn’t make someone a bad employee for taking time off to recover when they’re ill.

    Fortunately I’ve been very lucky with workplace flexibility (in the UK here) – we can work from home/come in late/leave early when we have awkward appointment times, deliveries or home maintenance visits. I have an ongoing health condition which means I have to visit a clinic a couple of times a year, but my doctor is only available on Tuesday afternoons for my particular condition, so it means working from home. It’s great having that flexibility and I’d hate to work somewhere where I felt guilty about every time I had an appointment, especially as I always make up the time. It’s real life! Good bosses should understand that. Take your PTO! Do something fun!

  42. John R*

    Are you exempt or hourly? If you’re exempt, you can take two hours to go to the doctor or dentist without having to use leave for it. At my company, we’re told to ONLY use sick time if we do no work at all on a particularly day.

    I’ve had days where I’ve worked six hours and then gone to the doctor for two. I put this down on my time sheet as “Out of Office”.

    Of course, there’s also an expectation that you’ll make up the time and if my boss were to see me be “out of office” for massive amounts of time I’d probably be questioned on it. But, in general, I work 40-45 hours most weeks so a couple hours here and there for medical appointments doesn’t even cross my bosses radar, i.e. she does the same thing.

  43. boop*

    I struggle horribly with this too. It’s a guilt complex working itself. Also, my workplace is set up in such a delicate way that if one person isn’t available the whole house of cards tends to collapse. One person quits and suddenly I’m working banker’s hours, which would be fine if I wasn’t several months overdue for an appointment with no possible catch-up date in sight.

  44. Rebecca in Dallas*

    I had the same issue when I started my first office job. Previously I had been in retail so always had one weekday off (That’s the one thing I miss about working retail!) so scheduling appointments was easy.

    I ended up asking a coworker after I’d been there for a couple of weeks, she told me how most people in our office schedule their appointments (usually at the beginning or end of the day, she said our manager didn’t care about an hour here or there as long as we got our work done). It’s also totally normal to ask your manager, just ask if they have a preference to how you schedule appointments. They’ll either tell you their preference, or tell you to do whatever works best for you! That’s how my current manager is, as long as I give her a heads-up (I’ll put it on her calendar) that I’ll be in late, leaving early or taking a long lunch she doesn’t care.

    My dentist and doctor are both close to my office, that’s actually made it even easier for me. I feel like I’m not taking a huge amount of time driving to/from the appointment, plus I can schedule it around lunchtime.

  45. R&R*

    When I started my first major job, I was in the middle of quite a lot of dental work. I needed to get implants because I have hypodontia and two of my adult front teeth were missing. Part of this process required that I have braces, so there were the adjustments to those I needed regularly, then once the spaces that I needed for the implants were wide enough, I needed to visit either the dentist or the maxillofacial surgeon frequently to take molds and place the actual implants, etc (one time I even had to visit the people making the crowns for my implants in order for them to match the color to the rest of my teeth.) and all of this was around regular dentist visits for cleanings/filling cavities. During the height of this frenzy, it almost seemed like I had an appointment twice a month!

    So how did I get through this craziness? First, when I was hired, I made sure that my manager was aware of the fact that I was going through this procedure and that it was going to require regular appointments. Then I made sure that I knew the company’s time off request requirements (in order to use sick time for appointments, we were required to request time off at least two weeks in advance). Initially, when I started, there was a three month period where I didn’t have PTO, so I would make agreements with my manager that if I took a half a day off during the week, I would work overtime to make up the time missed on the weekend. Second, I made sure to set the appointments in the afternoon if possible, that way if the appointment went longer than I planned, I wouldn’t wind up late to work. Once I had PTO, I would make sure that any appointments had at least two weeks between them so that I could follow company procedure and would let my supervisors know when I would be off so that they could prepare for it.

    It took a lot of planning in my case, and occasionally, there were circumstances where things went wrong, but if your manager is reasonable and this doesn’t happen often, they will understand.

    Otherwise, make sure that you complete your work and do it well and your manager won’t have to worry about the time you are taking off.

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