asking for lots of unpaid time off, a job interview at 11 p.m., and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Asking for six unpaid weeks off a year

I am in my fifth year of a job that I really enjoy. I could imagine myself staying with this company for many more years, but the idea of working full-time continuously for 30 or 40 years until I retire is too much. I am also an artist, but I have trouble completing projects when I am away from home 11 hours a day for my job. Creative work that should take weeks or months takes me years to finish.

The answer seems to be that I need to reduce my work hours. I’m far from rich, but I am able to live on 60-70% of my income. One option that is available to employees in my position is to work part-time with flexible hours that are capped at 28 hours per week. If I took this option, I would lose health insurance and 401k benefits. I could probably live that way for two years before my savings ran out, but I would rather have a more long-term solution.

I have an alternative idea. I would like to give up all 15 of my PTO days in exchange for 45 unpaid days off. I’ve calculated my employer’s cost to offer one paid day off, and it is more than three times what it costs them to offer one unpaid day off (factoring in all of their insurance and tax payments). This seems like a better system because I would still have access to health care and my income wouldn’t drop more than I could manage. I would also be available to work full-time or even overtime during their busy season when they struggle to keep up with the workload.

I worry that this proposal is too unusual and that it would seem like I am trying to cheat the company. I would have to talk to the company vice president for permission. He values uniformity and dislikes giving anyone special treatment. Still, it seems like there would be no harm in asking. Do you think this is an unreasonably unusual request?

I don’t think it will seem like you’re trying to cheat the company. You’re proposing swapping paid time off for no paid time off, plus additional unpaid days off. It would be a stretch to see this as anyone being cheated.

But the more relevant question is whether your company can easily go without you in your job for an additional six weeks of the year. Looking at it strictly financially, they might come out ahead. But if they actually need someone in your position doing your work during that time, then this might not make sense for them.

That’s the biggest question that would be on my mind if I were your manager and you approached me about this: Does the workload and/or workflow of your position lend itself to you being gone that much? Or will it leave holes that be difficult to cover? If there were a slow season where you could easily do this, I’d definitely be open to it, assuming you’re an otherwise good employee. But if there isn’t much of a slow season, I’d be wondering how we’d cover your responsibilities during that time. That doesn’t mean I’d refuse to do it — if you were an outstanding employee, it might be better to have you for 43 weeks a year than someone else for 49 weeks a year. But that’s what I’d be thinking about.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Dealing with work after a fight with your spouse

Yesterday I had a fight with my husband (not even a huge one, but about some ongoing issues in our relationship) and today I’m finding it a little tough to be at work. I feel tired and a little on edge, like I might cry, and I’m having a hard time focusing. While this is about my relationship, I know this issue comes up for people in many different ways. Do you have any tips for being at work the day after something bad happens that makes you distracted/unfocused, but isn’t bad enough to justify staying home entirely?

It’s okay to cut yourself a break. You don’t always have to be 100% on your game at work every single day. You’re human and you’re going to have occasional days where not working at maximum capacity. As long as that’s not happening all the time, that’s fine.

I’d treat it the same way you would if you weren’t feeling very well but weren’t bad enough to stay home — work on things that are less challenging and don’t require maximum brain power, to the extent that that’s an option. Alternately, if you respond well to distractions, sometimes it can help to immerse yourself in something that will consume you for a few hours. But it’s fine to treat this like being under the weather (to the point that it’s even okay to say, “I’m a little under the weather today” if you need to explain seeming off to colleagues).

3. I was scheduled for an interview at 11 p.m.

I applied for a job online with a large retail company. Today at 1 p.m. I received an email informing me that I have been scheduled for an interview at a local location at 11 p.m., same day. The email domain appears legit but the email itself is sort of sketchy looking and provides no contact information at all. My attempts to contact anyone re: this supposed interview have been fruitless.

Why would a hiring manager schedule an interview at 11 p.m. on a weeknight? I asked a friend who works in HR and she laughed out loud. Can I conclude that this is a scam or something?

I don’t know what’s going on with it, but that is very much Not Normal. Assuming this isn’t some kind of late-night business that only runs from like 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., it’s not reasonable to ask you to show up at 11 p.m. for an interview. And simply announcing that you’ve been “scheduled” for this weird time, and on the same day you’re being told, adds a whole new level of WTF to it. I cannot explain it to you, only tell you that I wouldn’t go.

4. Should you assume a Skype interview will be on video?

Would you assume that a Skype interview would be on video or not? I finished one today that turned out to be just audio — but having been caught out once in yoga clothes and wet hair, it seems safer to expect that if it’s over Skype (or a similar technology) that there could be video involved. It’s so much more invasive in some ways than going to the company’s office!

I’m used to working remote, so getting my webcam face on and not having dirty laundry in the background is not as much a trial as it could be. But still, that’s time that could’ve been spent doing other things. (Notably, either my current job or prepping for the interview.)

Also, I work in a field (though maybe don’t we all?) that requires looking youthful and effortlessly put together. So I guess this is both a gentle reminder to anyone with hiring responsibility who interviews over Skype and a question about why employers don’t tell you what to expect. If you’re coming into my house, let me know!

With interviews, if the employer doesn’t specify, I’d default to assuming it’s going to be video (since otherwise they’re more likely to just do it by phone). But if they don’t specify, it’s fine to ask when it’s being scheduled by saying something like, “Is this a video call or just audio?”

5. Should I put department lunches on my time card?

If you’re an hourly employee and the entire department is going out to lunch for someone’s birthday — ranging anywhere from one to two hours — or holiday lunch or whatever and the boss pays, should you include that time on your time card or no?

It feels tricky because I normally don’t take a lunch (just eat at my desk) or just take 30 minutes, but these things can go for hours, they’re required (not formally, but it would look weird if everyone goes but the hourly person), and everyone else who goes is on salary so they are all getting paid to be there. What’s the etiquette for these things?

Yeah, this can be tricky. If it’s something like a team meeting over lunch, that’s work time and you should log it. If it’s “hey, let’s all take Jane to lunch for her birthday,” that’s generally considered social even if it would look weird if you didn’t go, and thus not something you’d put on your time card. Holidays lunches are more likely to be considered work time, and if they’re mandatory they definitely are, but it can vary.

The best thing to do with the not-obviously-social ones is to ask your boss. Just say, “Hey, I’m never sure if things like today’s holiday lunch should go on my time card. It feels like a work event, but I wanted to check with you.”

{ 501 comments… read them below }

  1. Thursday Next*

    LW 1, if your company can spare you for six weeks a year, would you have concerns that they’d reevaluate the necessity/scope of your position? That’s a point I don’t think Alison’s response raised bluntly.

    1. Kelsey*

      That was my first thought as well. If an employee of mine came to me and said they could easily give up six weeks a year without their output suffering, well, I’d be wondering why I employed them full time to begin with.

      1. Banana*

        6 weeks is normal and standard paid time off in many countries. It’s crazy if employers can’t handle it, this means they’re understaffed

        1. SS Express*

          Yeah in Australia everyone gets minimum 4 weeks annual leave (vacation) and 2 weeks sick leave, and of course many organisations offer more than the legal requirements. The idea of not being able to manage without an employee for that long (assuming it’s not all in one go of course) is, well, foreign to me.

          1. Queenie*

            At a former job, I only got one week vacation my first year (the second year was two) with three sick days. I think I need to move.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              At my last job, I got none my first year, the first 90 days was at 90% salary as a probation period, and the second year I only got a week vacation. None of which was communicated to me during the offer.

              Left that job as soon as I could.

          2. Sandman*

            This is one of the biggest reasons I’m hesitating about going back to work after time home with family for a while. My spouse gets 5+ weeks a year and we want to be able to do stuff with our kids while they’re home; I love working, but the idea of going back to 5 days off a year in a new position is daunting.

        2. Tau*

          To be fair, we are actually talking 9 weeks in total, 6 weeks above their current 3 weeks. I think that’s enough to be unusual in most places. I also remember a coworker wanted to take off 6 weeks in one go, partially unpaid, and it took something like a year of negotiation with HR and constant arguments about start and end dates before he could go – this was in the UK.

          (Not saying OP shouldn’t go for it, and I am crossing my fingers for them – but using “other countries offer this amount of leave!” as an argument is not that convincing from where I’m sitting.)

          1. Thlayli*

            oh I hadn’t noticed that. Yes 9 weeks off is a lot!

            OP if you think your department could handle it, you should come up with a plan with your department manager for when the time off would be scheduled. Eg “2 days off a week for our 15 week slow season, work full time in busy season, and the remaining 15 days to be used throughout the year same way the standard 15 are used at present”. This way you would be basically dropping to part time during the slow season only, but keeping your health insurance. If your manager can say to the VP that she can work with this schedule, that’s more likely to be approved.

            And definitely don’t lead with “I’m an artist and I want more time off for creative work”. That will make you seem really out of touch with business norms. Keep that info back in case they ask why you want the time off!

            1. Snark*

              I’m sure someone else has pointed this out, but OMG YES it’s totally out of touch with norms to ask for more time off for an art hobby.

              1. Reba*

                This is field- and probably company-dependent!

                In arts-adjacent jobs this would not be an unexpected proposal (though OP would probably have let us know if that was their environment). But I also know a handful of people in techy roles (both in companies on the creative side and “regular” tech companies, for lack of a better term) who have negotiated extended sabbaticals either for travel or to work on creative projects. I also know someone who negotiated leave to work on a political campaign, which is very different but also a kind of limited-term passion project. Smallish companies.

                FWIW “keep[ing] that info back” to me seems more strange. “I need time off for … Reasons” is needlessly mysterious, while at least to my mind, “at this stage in my career I want to shift how I divide my time so I can pursue my art projects more deeply” is not so wacky.

                But yeah, this is extremely YMMV.

                1. Lavender Menace*

                  Eh, I don’t know. I work in an artistic/creative field that’s also in tech, and asking for 9 weeks off to work on a creative project not related to your job would be unusual here – especially after only 5 years. That’s the kind of thing that executives get to do here, or maybe people with 10+ years of experience who are really, really good at their jobs.

            2. AKchic*

              I’m also curious about the 11 hours away from home a day. How long is this person’s commute? I would assume the LW is at the office a standard 8 hours plus 1 hour for lunch, so that is a 1 hour commute each way for work? Is this public transportation or a personal vehicle? Why can’t they work from home some of this time? (Granted, I don’t know the industry, so this may not even be an option)

              1. AnonInfinity*

                Or OP could work 10 hours a day with a 1 hour commute or even work 11 hours a day before the commute. I did far longer days (on top of a 40-60 minute commute) on the regular for six years in two different industries. A 40 hour week is a privilege, not a guarantee.

              2. Alienor*

                I thought it sounded like a lot too, and then I considered that I leave home at 7:30 to be at work for 8 (I only live a few miles from my office, but traffic + parking takes a while), work from 8-5 including an hour for lunch, and then get home at 5:30, which is ten hours out of the house. That’s on a perfect day where I don’t have any delays or errands to do–if someone catches me with a question as I’m packing up to leave, and then I need to make a stop at the supermarket on the way home, that ten hours easily becomes eleven.

              3. Nonsensical*

                I work 8 hours + 30 minutes for lunch. Commuting home is generally at least 30-45 minutes each way.

                That means talking about 9.50-10 hours, assuming the person doesn’t live a further commute than 30 and if they take a hour lunch, it is easily 11 hours.

            3. Original LW*

              “2 days off a week for our 15 week slow season, work full time in busy season, and the remaining 15 days to be used throughout the year same way the standard 15 are used at present”

              That’s exactly what I was planning. Taking time off all at once would be difficult for me too. I would just be lazy and unfocused for two months and burnt out for the remaining ten.

              1. Globetrotting.Grantwriter*

                Hey LW! I actually was able to negotiate for this successfully at my first job. Like you, I had a passion I wanted to pursue outside of a career – I have been involved in volunteer work in Guatemala for about 6 years and wanted to be able to continue to contribute to the specific project I worked on while holding down a professional job after college.

                I work in grantwriting for a small nonprofit, and there are stretches at a time when we don’t have any large grantwriting projects due, so I actually asked for 8 weeks’ sabbatical while maintaining health insurance and still accruing PTO during the months of the year where I was working. I was being hired after an internship, so I knew the higher-ups really liked me and felt that I was in a position of strength to negotiate. They were happy to go for it, since as a nonprofit it saved them a significant amount of personnel costs. I took 4 weeks of that unpaid leave in one go with a detailed plan in place for my coworkers and higher-ups to cover what small tasks needed to get done in my absence. There were a few minor hiccups when I got back, but nothing prohibitive to make me or the rest of the office feel like the whole thing was a terrible mistake. There wasn’t a great time in the fiscal year to take the second month of sabbatical, so I went down to 4 days a week for a few months instead (still to pursue a passion outside of work). Maybe my office is unusually flexible about right-sizing hours to meet the agency’s needs, not being a huge organization with an HR department, but given that I was able to navigate this successfully and with significantly less workplace experience than you have, I’m surprised the commentariat is giving you this much pushback on the idea. If your job is such that you have busy high seasons and listless low seasons, my experience has been that your employer will be as happy as you are to cut you loose for a few weeks at a time.

          2. Les G*

            Yeah, this is not a convincing argument. I know folks like to think that “Europe” is a homogenous workers’ utopia, but people do still go to work there. I don’t know anywhere that 9 weeks is typical.

            1. JamieS*

              Ha. Yeah if I didn’t know better I’d think all Europeans work one 4-hour shift a year with the rest of the year paid, the equivalent of $100k put in their retirement fund by their employer every year, and they get an employer funded personal jet ski the way some people talk.

              1. CoveredInBees*

                Less need for a retirement fund when the equivalent of social security is properly funded.

              2. Sandy*

                As someone who lives in Europe but is exempt from European labour laws, it’s not *so* far off. As a consumer, it drives me batty. Just buying school supplies for my kid requires taking a day off work; buying groceries requires major juggling.

                Stores are open 10 am to 5 pm, 6 pm if you are lucky. Monday to Friday, Saturday if you are lucky. NOTHING is open on Sundays. August is a ghost town, because offices give everybody their four weeks at once and just shut the place down.

                There’s a pharmacy by my house that has a big flashing sign advertising that they are open until ***7 PM*** Monday to Friday like it’s a big deal. And I suppose it is but MAN it drives me crazy.

                1. JustaTech*

                  I was in Munich on a Sunday and I was really surprised at how seriously they took the “everything is closed on Sundays” thing. Like not just government offices and specality retailers, but everything but museums and prepared-food establishments (restaurants and take-away, but not grocery stores). Like, you need a band-aid? Tough, wait til Monday.

                  As tourists we didn’t care, but I can imagine that get super annoying super fast for everyone who lives there.

                2. Sandy*

                  Ugh, two more examples based on JustaTech’s reply:

                  From the FAQ on Brussels Museums site: “What museums are open after 5 pm? Oh, so you’re a night owl are you?” <– no joke


                  It's not 6 pm close and then employees shut down the store. 6 pm is done time, so emplovers will frequently refuse you entry to a store as of 5:45 pm so they can get out on time.

                3. MK*

                  Personally, I find Sundays very restful exactly because I literally cannot do anything else then. Having grown up with no 24-hour-open stores, I have always taken it for granted that I needed to get my shopping done at set times; I assume I (and most people) plan accordingly without even thinking about it.

                  I find it unlikely that there is no pharmacy open in the whole town; I am pretty sure it’s against EU regulations. There is usually a rotating system where one is always open 25/7, though it might not be that close.

                4. MK*

                  Sandy, may I ask what you are comparing the Brussels museum to? Because I have been to museums in many countries, including the US, and 5pm is a pretty standard closing time. I doubt there are that many people who want to visit museums in the evening.

                  Also, yes, “we close at 6″ means ” the store is closed at 6″, not “as long as you get in the door by 5:59, the staff will stand around waiting for 45 minutes while you do your shopping”. That being said, I have never been refused entry 15 minutes before closing time. I have, however, been warned when I would need to hurry.

                5. Sandy*

                  MK, it wasn’t so much of a comparison as as laughing/cringing at the optics of 5 pm being “night owl time”.

                6. Expat*

                  Germany is not the whole of Europe. Stores in the UK are open on Sundays. There are some proper 24 hour supermarkets in London (Tesco’s at Earls Court.) And where I currently work, in Eastern Europe, I just got back from shopping at the grocery store at 1:00 am, and I’m about to go have a pizza now!

                  Even in Germany you are overlooking the possibility of shopping at train stations and airports, which are exempt from the blue laws.

                7. Banana*

                  Europe is a continent with many different countries. Where I grew up (a former Soviet block country) there are many stores open 24/7 and no grocery store is ever closed on Sundays. You only get 4 weeks off a year, some employers give more though. Health insurance is similar to Medicare – it’s basically a payroll tax that’s mandatory and you have to also pay a small sum when you’re unemployed. Every citizen under 18 gets 100% free healthcare no matter what. People love to complain about how bad their lives are and how hard it is to make decent money but they just things like free healthcare (everybody complains adults have to pay a $2 fee every time they see a doctor), cheap higher education, government pensions, a lot of bank holidays, paid vacation, paid sick days for granted. Every single company gives all its employees at least 20 days off and they’re fine.

              3. Logan*

                I have heard that Germans work shorter days and have more vacation time than the US, however it was also mentioned to me that when they get to work they push themselves hard, so there is no spending time on AAM or social media or sitting around chatting with colleagues for hours in a day. I think the North American workplace often views the quantity of hours as being more important than the quality (it’s more important to work for 8 hours than it is to complete X by end of day).

                1. SoCalHR*

                  ^^which is why I am convinced I need to work in Germany (and have even tried to do so). Lol.

                2. Lazy German*

                  *while trying to look busy at work*
                  Uhm yes, that’s how we do things over here.

                3. Indigo a la mode*

                  More time off + working harder during work time are directly correlated. I read a study that said most people only get about 3 hours of productive work done per 8-hour day. If we worked 6-hour days or had a longer weekend, we’d probably get more done in fewer hours too.

            2. T3k*

              I’m in the US and my last job, for salaried employees (i.e., not contractors) they offered unlimited time off, though it was strongly insinuated not to take more than 2 months off in a year (not counting an additional 2 weeks the company closes for during the winter). There were cases though where senior management would sometimes take 3 months at once (though this was more to do with wanting to keep the employee and have them recharge than leave). But by far, they were an exceptional company with a lot of mice perks, even for contractors.

              1. Just Jess*

                “Mice perks.” I can only assume that you work for a branch of Disney and are trying to tip us off.

            3. Sherry*

              My department offers half pay annual leave so you can take up to 8 weeks a year half pay. But if someone wants 6 weeks off in one hit, it’s usually pre-approved well in advance.

          3. Avis*

            No – OP said she would like to give up her paid time in exchange for six weeks unpaid time.

            1. Dent*

              The letter writer stated, “I would like to give up all 15 of my PTO days in exchange for 45 unpaid days off.” 45/5 = 9 weeks of unpaid time off. It was definitely confusing to understand because of the title of the letter.

              1. B*

                Personally I forgot that we were only counting 5 days in a (work) week. Dividing by 7 got approximately the same six (additional) weeks everyone else was talking about.

            2. JKP*

              No – OP says give up paid time for 45 unpaid days off.

              45/5 working days per week = 9 weeks off.

              1. Original LW*

                That’s correct. 45 days total, spread out, not necessarily full weeks. I’d essentially be asking for a pay cut in exchange for flexibility.

                1. seewhatimean*

                  Is it just easier to ask to have the job fact sheet reviewed and taken to a 0.8FTE or whatever it works out to? You’d be getting a pay cut, but more days that were your own.

          4. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

            It’s true that people have several weeks off every year in many countries, but this isn’t about that, it’s about asking something extra. In places where everyone has for example 5 weeks off, the expectation is that you take that 5 weeks off and are available other times (except for sick leaves and possibly an occasional unpaid day off if you really need it and have used all the normal vacation time). 6 weeks more than expected will be a problem. It’s not about the actual time, it’s about how it compares to your employer’s expectations. It’s also a different thing to have your European four or five weeks off at a time when everyone is expected to be on holiday and nobody else is working either, than in a situation when others are working at that time and needing you at work.

            1. Thursday Next*

              Yes, exactly. If the standard is 3 weeks at LW’s company, going up to 9 weeks (per Alison’s clarification) is a huge increase over the company norm.

              The question isn’t whether there are any places that offer this amount of time off—the ones that do are structured to handle it. It’s more about how this would be viewed in LW’s particular company.

            2. Just Employed Here*

              I dunno. I work in a field where the company has to be “on” every business day of the year. A lot of what we do has to get done every single day, or we’ll lose our license to operate (and our customers will desert us pretty quickly, anyway). Some longer term projects can be paused for the summer, but not all.

              We’re entitled to 5 weeks holiday, plus a varying number of public holidays (depending on whether they fall on a weekend or not). In addition, many employers (including mine) allows us to swap the extra holiday pay we’re legally entitled to for time off, giving us an extra 2.5 paid weeks off per year.

              I can’t expect to take these 7.5 weeks off in a row, and in theory my employer can (within some limits) simply tell people when they can take their time off. But in practice, this would mean most of us looking for another job well before next summer comes around.

              So in practice, employers make do with the staff they have, and those in the office right now (for example) might be pretty busy but have either just come back from a multiple week holiday or are looking forward to one.

              1. Just Employed Here*

                But yeah, this is all kind of irrelevant for the OP’s situation. This was just my long way of explaining that everyone having long holidays doesn’t necessarily mean the office isn’t fully functional all year round.

                1. Clare*

                  Is it consecutive? I couldn’t tell from the letter. That’s also something the LW would need to make clear with her manager if she decides to ask for this- is it consecutive, when she would take it, if not consecutive than how will it be broken up?

            3. Boss lady*

              We offer 4 weeks minimum and if it’s not used it can be paid out so we def encourage people to use it. However, 6 weeks is different, you can’t plan to stick within a budgeting period if you want to take it all at once. I would be ok with 2 x3 week breaks though. I did authorise a one off 6 week break once and really regretted it and I’ll only ever do it again for c level staff that are extremely valuable.

            4. Artemesia*

              It is never going to change in the US as long as people consider it unreasonable to want more. This kind of request may be the kind of thing that increases and eventually encourages businesses to think more creatively about work life balance. I have a friend who works for government in Canada; she was able to take a year off unpaid but with health benefits of course because they are a civilized country; she is spending a year in Paris. This is a benefit apparently everyone can exercise once in their working years.

              1. Laoise*

                LOL, I also work for the government on Canada. I’m on a zero hour contract, can have all my shifts cancelled with two hours notice, have no paid sick leave, no right to retain my position for any amount of time, and have no paid stat holidays. (The first pay period of the year is such a painfully tiny cheque, with Xmas, Boxing Day, and NY all unpaid.)

                Your friend is incredibly privileged and not a typical government worker.

          5. Falling Diphthong*

            Yeah, nine weeks is two months. There are absolutely industries (like the tour operator from a week or two back) where someone could take that kind of downtime and barely be missed, but the norm for “seasonal” work is more that there’s 3-6 months of high season and the rest you don’t need people. Rather than 10 months of high season.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Excellent example downthread of academia, where two quiet months is the norm.

              1. Cat Herder*

                If you are faculty. Many many other employees at colleges and universities have to be around all year. I work pretty intensively with students, most of whom aren’t here in the summer, and I can assure you that there is plenty for me to do while the students are gone.
                And then there are 9-month or 10-month employees— they are not working for three or two months of the year. (The institution may pay the salary over twelve months. Both faculty and non-faculty can fall into this category. Depends on the school.)

                1. Dankar*

                  My students are gone (no housing over break, except for a select few) and I STILL need to be in the office all summer. My supervisor has been strongly hinting that I should take 2 full weeks of my vacation in July, but that wasn’t doable for me this year.

                  Still, we get 22 days vacation, not including winter break, so I’m not complaining at all.

                2. seewhatimean*

                  Not faculty, but I am laid off for 3 months every year. I can pay to carry my benefits over the break, and am expected to give 3 wks notice if I am not intending to return, but I do qualify for unemployment insurance in the lay off. There is no salary though, and no paid benefits. It takes a long time to convince others you aren’t just “on holiday” , too. It sounds great, but it’s wearing.

                3. Lavender Menace*

                  Even if you are faculty, that is not the case. At research universities and colleges where professors balance teaching and research, professors are spending the summer doing research, sometimes traveling for that research, sometimes presenting at conferences and polishing up grant applications to submit in the fall (or sometimes over summer deadlines). Teaching faculty often teach summer classes and also often spend a good chunk of the summer preparing for next year’s classes.

              2. Artemesia*

                For faculty the expectation is that summer is when you do the research to get tenure or maintain that research for future promotion and visibility. It is a great perk but faculty in research universities at least are not vacationing during that time but working hard. Of course, they also have work that is intrinsically interesting which most people don’t have the luxury of.

              3. Monsters of Men*

                My parents are immigrants and go back to their home country every two years for two months at a time and they’re in non-academia fields (healthcare management & engineering.)

                However, they do not take time off at any other time in those two years. They use their sick leave & their vacation leave since it rolls over. Which makes way more sense than two months, every year, banking on you *never* getting sick or anything else.

          6. Artemesia*

            I thought he was trading his 3 weeks at pay for 6 weeks without pay. Many jobs would work with this kind of schedule. I know people in software development who have negotiated this sort of thing. Obviously for some jobs with ongoing client management it might not work, but in a project based organization, it might be possible to organize projects so that the OP simply wasn’t assigned a project with major milestones during that period. This ought to be the model we strive for in any business; we would all be much better off if there was the possibility of genuine time off to re-charge and travel or focus on personal passions. As it is now we wait until we are nearly 70 when many of us are dead or less able to have time for personal projects and travel.

          7. HollyWeird*

            At my US-based company we have the option to do sabbaticals or extended lengths of unpaid time in addition to taking paid time. Normally this would be 4 weeks unpaid but some people have done 8 with the job waiting for them when they got back, one person even took 6 months but she was not guaranteed her exact position upon return (although she got it). We have agreed that taking that time off wouldn’t exempt you from promotions or other advancement in the company either. This wasn’t the case when I first started but is something they began allowing after an employee asked. We have between 3-6 weeks in paid time depending on tenure and excluding holidays.

            Not saying it would work for every company but they did start allowing it for ours.

        3. JamieS*

          It’s not crazy for an employer to not be able to grant 2 months off if that’s not the norm in their country. Companies staff based on the norms where they live not the norms somewhere else.

          Also I have to imagine there are cases companies in those countries hire temp workers to cover employees on vacation particularly when it’s a smaller company. If OP’s actually needed for those 6 weeks, whether it be part or full-time, their employer may have to hire someone else and that’s a lot bigger ask than if that’s a normal thing to do.

          1. Thlayli*

            Yes this is the case in Europe. There are lots of small companies that hire a temp in when someone will be out for a week or two. This obviously depends on the role though. For something like a receptionist you’d need temp cover for any day off, but as an engineer I just plan my leave around my projects and my projects around my leave and do handovers to other team members for urgent tasks.

        4. Bun*

          Yeah, I get six weeks off a year, and when I’ve made it to 5 years of working with my office, I get bumped up to 8 weeks off. Then again, I work at a university, and I’ve noticed things are slightly different when it comes to time off in academia.

        5. En vivo*

          Yep, I’m in the US, and I receive a little over 6 weeks PTO every year. I also must use it or lose it.

        6. AMT*

          Exactly. I’m in the U.S., work at a major hospital, and my company gives me 31 days of PTO a year. Personally, I’d prefer that healthcare providers — especially in my field, mental health — be well-rested and not burnt out. (I mean, I’d also prefer that factory workers and accountants get that, too, but I know that’s a long way off in this country.)

        7. What's with today, today?*

          In the US 6 weeks is A LOT of time. My employer gives one week no matter how long you’ve been here.

            1. Windchime*

              What’s the alternative? If you need to pay bills and buy food and this is the only job you can find, then you suck it up and deal with just having one week. It’s really hard and it’s unfair, but sometimes there is no alternative. Not everyone lives in a big city where there are lots of jobs to choose from.

        8. NotAnotherManager!*

          Six weeks is not normal and standard PTO in the United States. If I walked into my bosses office and asked for six weeks off because that’s the norm in countries other than our own, I believe she’d at least half-jokingly suggest that I go and work in one of those countries.

          We can certainly aspire to a better work/life balance in the US and seek to emulate other, more sane places, but it’s not the reality that we’re living in here and insisting it is is going to look very out of touch.

          1. Iris Eyes*

            The OP isn’t insisting on it but is asking if it would be possible. Things are never going to change if people don’t have the courage to at least ask.

            “But we’ve always done it this way” is almost always untrue and almost always a stupid reason.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              You think individual employees asking for twice the vacation that they agreed to when they accepted the salary and benefits package is going to change US policy? That’s, at best, aggressively optimistic. Three weeks of PTO is also decent by US standards, given the number of small organizations that do not offer paid time off at all or offer only a week or two. My mother gets 3 sick days and one week of vacation per year, which I think is outrageous. Three weeks is not something to stand on the desk over.

              There is also a difference between “But we’ve always done it this way,” most often an excuse for not changing stupid department- or company-level processes and saying that there is a vast cultural difference between the entire work culture in the US and overseas. One person can advocate for overcoming a bad process with a better way to do things; one person asking for twice as much leave as they agreed to when they accepted the job isn’t a form of protest and is going to reflect more on the employee than the system. Some employers will take it fine and just approve or not; some will think you really don’t get it and question your judgment. It’s important to know who you work for.

              We do occasionally let employees take leaves of absence – I had someone take 8 weeks off last year for a personal project that involved travel. In my line of work, this creates a hardship for the team because there are industry-, practice-, and client-specific skills and knowledge that you can’t plug with a temp or someone unfamiliar with the work. His attorneys understood they would have only limited support when they okayed the leave; others would not have allowed it.

              1. Iris Eyes*

                The US employment culture has room for flexibility. I doubt that a month and a half off is in the cards across the board but if that’s something I want then that’s something I’m going to ask for. Its a matter of weighing the cost.

                If the company values me then they will try and work with me, if not then I will have to make a decision.

            2. Original LW*

              You’re right, I’m asking and not insisting. But one thing I worry about is that one person’s “asking” can sound to another person like “demanding.” I’m especially worried because in my case I may not get to speak directly to the VP, who would have to approve my schedule. I might have to speak to my immediate manager who would then have to ask his manager and the “asking” part of it might get lost in translation.

              Near the end of my first year, in which I was officially allowed no days off, I asked for a week off to go on a trip. Nothing was scheduled on my part. I meant to just get an idea of whether it would be possible. But instead I got no response for six weeks, until it was a week before I was going to leave. Reportedly the VP was “not happy.” I would have taken no for an answer, so I’m not sure why it became a conflict.

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                Could you write a short summary of what you’d like and provide that to be flow up the chain for approval? I think the initial conversation should be in person with the appropriate supervisor, but anything you can do to make it easier to fly up the chain would probably be appreciated (and also date/time stamp that you made the request in a timely manner, if that’s been an issue before).

                I had someone who took a leave of absence last year that was similar, and one of the most helpful things that the employee did was that, after they came to see me in person about what they were seeking, they wrote me a short note that provided the pertinent details (last day in/first day back, the availability they were willing to offer during their time off, that they understood X days would be covered by leave and Y days would be LWOP, that they had approval from their practice, and how they proposed covering the work that could not be delayed until their return – I know it sounds long, but it wasn’t a lengthy email!).

                That was a huge help because I could send it to the two additional people who needed to approve a lengthy LWOP, and nothing got lost in translation. Plus, HR could print the last email with the formal approval for the file.

          2. Expat*

            “… I believe she’d at least half-jokingly suggest that I go and work in one of those countries.”

            Why don’t you? Work permits are not impossible to get.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              Because I have no interest in moving out of country? I have a spouse (with a job and several years of service left to vest in his pension), two children, a home, and three cats. Both of my children have friends and lives here; one of my children has special needs and their care team, which had taken a lot of time and effort to cultivate is here. One of my cats is elderly and has health issues, and I’d not subject him to even an out-of-town move, if it’s avoidable. (He hates the carrier and the car.) I’m not uprooting my life for a few extra weeks of vacation, and I don’t have much interest, personally, in lengthy time off. I prefer to spread it out across the year.

              1. Expat*

                OK, but then your reference when talking with your boss shouldn’t be “they’d give me more vacation time abroad.” You’re implicitly saying that going abroad is an alternative for you, in that case. The reality of the matter is that people who are mobile (whether internationally or domestically) have more alternatives, are more marketable, and thus are likely to command a higher salary/benefits.

                Incidentally, there are many, many expats who have family and pets abroad. (A lot of international schools are better than public schools in the US, and often employers will throw in tuition into your compensation package.) That’s obviously not to say moving abroad works in every individual case — but I do think that you’re missing out on opportunities if you choose to stay in your home town because your cat hates his carrier.

                1. NotAnotherManager!*

                  Wow, all that to work with and your flip takeaway is not wanting to traumatize an elderly cat with health issues with international travel and quarantine? I guess you missed the part about a special needs child with a stable care team that has taken literally years to assemble.

                  Not everyone has an interest in living abroad. I’m fairly familiar with the concept and pros/cons from the many friends I have who’ve done just that or from growing up in a military area with tons of peers whose families were stationed abroad. Leisure travel is a perfectly adequate way to see the world for some of us. The point of my earlier comment was that that would be an absurd thing to say to my boss, so I have no idea why you seem to be taking it as a serious suggestion and advising me on a better way to handle that conversation.

        9. Anon Today Anon Tomorrow*

          But, do most people in those countries take all that time off at once?

          I get six weeks of PTO each year, but I can’t take six weeks off all at once without there being some sort of exceptional circumstances (extension of medical leave, etc.).

          My brother lives in Europe and has I think 21 days of mandatory vacation, and he can’t take all 21 days off at once every year (he can take all 21 days off if he provides about a year’s worth of notice). To me the issue isn’t the 6 weeks, it’s wanting to take it all at once that I think could be the issue.

          1. vonlowe*

            It’d be really uncommon – at least where I am (UK) you can request it but if it doesn’t suit your employer they can reject it and tell you when is better to take it.
            EG: at former job I couldnt take any leave from mid November to mid January because of the Christa’s busy period. (I also had to take time off as a week I wasn’t allowed a day off here and there – that is definitely not the norm though.)

          2. ZieZieZie*

            I don’t know where people are getting the “all at once” thing. LW talks about wanting to go part-time but that would lose benefits, so instead 45 unpaid days off per year. It sounded to me more like LW would like to work 3 or 4 day weeks or shorter workdays consistently than take a huge long extended vacation.

            I definintely work in a job where my productivity for the most part wouldn’t be impacted by being gone one day per week except during really busy times, and LW said they’d work full/over time during busy times.

          3. Ozma the Grouch*

            Most people don’t use their vacations all at once when given a decent amount. I think that is just the trend in the US because we are given so little. And vacation time is so much more precious here because it is such a rare commodity. Most people spread it out throughout the year to keep themselves refreshed. You may hear of some people taking longer vacations or trips from time to time. But most people spread out their vacations because they can. My Brazilian family will take longer vacations during the summer, the ones with kids will take short vacations during their kid’s winter break. And they all take sporadic vacations throughout the year. And of course, there is always the entire week of Carnival.

        10. Akcipitrokulo*

          Yes – 28 days legal min here – current job started at 24 floating, 8 public and 5 days unpaid no questions asked available if you wanted them = total 37 days that they had no issue with :)

        11. Ozma the Grouch*

          Agreed, Brazilians get 41 vacation days. Eleven of those days are “mandatory” national holidays (some industries are exempt from being completely closed on those holidays). That equals 8.2 weeks a year. The US could do way better. They also completely close the country down for election day so that everyone votes.

          1. Blue Tuna*

            It’s not so much closing it down as always having the elections take place on a Sunday, when most people don’t have to work. Those who do need to be given time off to vote, as it is mandatory.

            1. Ozma the Grouch*

              I was trying to keep it simplified for the comments section. I figured getting into the whole mandatory voting conversation would be a bit much.

        12. Nacho*

          “understaffed” is relative. Obviously companies in countries where 6 weeks pto/year is normal hire more people than the ones in which 1-2 is more normal.

        13. Jennifer Thneed*

          And exactly how is this helpful? Or are you just trying to get all the US workers to fall into despair? Look, we KNOW we have some crappy labor practices. Statements like this are not helpful.

          But to your point: organizations staff for what they’re used to. This US company has the staff it needs for a US business model where 2 weeks of vacation is roughly normal and saying that they’re understaffed for the business model of an entirely different country is, well, not helpful, and possibly a little snarky.

      2. Angelinha*

        It’s not like when you’re hiring them your options are “full time” or “part time, 40 hours a week, 46 weeks a year.” To be honest I could absolutely do any of the jobs I’ve held in 46 weeks. It’s not that I’m some amazing superstar workhorse, it’s that the consistent, fixed 40 hour workweek is an outdated concept for most jobs in 2018.

        1. Baby Fishmouth*

          +1 – with the rise of technology, most jobs that were done in 40 hr workweeks 30-40 years ago could now be done in 20-30 hours a week, in my opinion.

          My admin job would have been much more difficult and time consuming in 1985 – but tasks that would have taken hours now take minutes. I am sitting around doing nothing much of the time because I know how to use technology to get things done more efficiently.

        2. Monsters of Men*

          Interestingly enough, I wonder what the breakdown is of holiday time/mandatory days off/weeks off like Christmas in the scope of working for 52 weeks. It probably goes down close to 46 weeks.

          For example, at my job, there’s technically 20 statutory holidays we take off. So that’s 5 weeks gone already, which goes down to 47 weeks. Add in sick time/appointments/whatever else you may take off work for, or the time our work flooded and we couldn’t go in for two days, or someone drove into our front door (it’s a public building) and we closed for a week — yes, we get our work done in way less than 46 weeks.

          1. Monsters of Men*

            5 * 5 is 25. I’m bad at math. It’s technically 48 weeks. And then the other factors.

          2. seewhatimean*

            we don’t count stat holidays against our paid holiday time (although we are paid for them, and paid extra if we are required to work them)

      3. Phouka*

        At my last two jobs, I started out with 5 weeks paid vacation. I negotiated it up front, and no one batted an eye. It’s not that common int he US (where two week vacation seems to be the norm), but it’s not outrageous, either. I wouldn’t think twice about asking for more time, to be honest. The idea that six weeks off means “oh, well, maybe we don’t really need this position!” is a bit odd, actually. It’s pretty common in a lot of industries.

    2. Mike C.*

      There are lots of companies all over the world that offer this sort of time off.

      Also, teachers taking the summer off would fall into this category as well.

      1. neverjaunty*

        While this is true, the LW works at a company that ‘budgets’ for 15 days of PTO. Whether teachers or Europeans get more time off isn’t likely to factor into this company’s business decisions.

        1. Antilles*

          Agreed 100% – I’m surprised at all the people saying “oh well, it’s standard in a different country so a US company should be able to handle it no problem”.
          Companies are set up in a way to handle their own culture, not those from other industries or other countries. If they’re used to giving out 3 weeks of PTO, then going to 9 weeks off is a huge deal for *this company*, even if it would be totally fine elsewhere.

      2. Cyclical worker*

        OP 1: if you have a clear slow time, go for it! I work in higher ed and some colleagues have 10 or 11 month contracts. After the first year, I knew we had a super slow time in august so I proposed going to an 11 month contract and my boss was happy to do a trial run. It went so well we made it permanent. I also didn’t offer to trade all my paid time off, and i take time off throughout the year, though I don’t accrue during the month I’m off.

        1. Sam.*

          I also work in higher ed, and the office I left earlier this summer had some 10 and 11 month contracts. This included the one other person with my title – he worked for 10 months (minus the three weeks of PTO he took every year because there’s no reason to save it up long-term when you’re already off for a big chunk of the year); I worked for 12. When they created the positions, they thought there wouldn’t be enough in the summer for both of us, since the work is so cyclical, but that rapidly proved to be untrue. I was hugely outperforming him when we were both in the office, and my reward for that was having to cover his work for months at a time. And you know what? I resented the hell out of it.

          That’s the other thing OP needs to consider if she doesn’t want her coworkers to secretly (or not-so-secretly) hate her – even if the boss did decide to approve this, how will it impact everyone else in the office?

        2. Amber T*

          I would be worried OP not having any time off during the rest of the year. One long chunk of time off is great, but what about a day here, two days there? Will you not be able to get time off to go to a friend’s wedding, take your cat to the vet, take a long weekend road trip, or stay home in your jammies after a long week? I’m looking forward to my one-week off coming up, but those mini breaks vital too.

          1. Arjay*

            This was my thought too. Some of those days would need to be reserved for other time off / sick time.

        1. Specialk9*

          Yeah the teachers I know work such long hours during the school year and still work so much over the summer. It’s like the world’s biggest con for the least monetary reward.

          1. Justme, The OG*

            Yep. My job is education-adjacent and we are running a 3 week program for teachers (one week of professional development and two of summer school). They’re definitely still working over the summer.

          2. Ozma the Grouch*

            Child of a former teacher here. I saw right into that con growing up and decided at a young age to stay as far away as possible from the Education industry. It is truly the most frustrating and demoralizing industry there is. I can almost not believe that is has only gotten worse since my youth. Almost.

            1. Quill*

              Also a teacher’s kid.

              I tutored a bunch in middle and high school and those were the kids whose parents were willing to hire someone to help them out! I couldn’t have hacked it with most of the parents that drive my mom up the wall – one parent has actually told my mom that she will never bring her daughter on time to school because “I start work at 9.” And then there’s all the mess that teachers get into because even when they’re mandatory reporters, they are seldom taken seriously when they report to CPS.

              1. Kj*

                To be fair, no one is taken that seriously by CPS. I’m a child therapist and mandated reporter and feel like I am shouting into the void when I report 90% of the times. And the times when CPS takes you seriously is when you don’t want them to. And don’t get me started on being mandated to call CPS in one state to report something that occured there, just to have them tell you to call CPS in your state…..

        2. Persimmons*

          I only know one teacher who doesn’t work in the summer. The rest of the teachers in my family/social circle desperately need the extra income. Heck, a few of them are working weekends during the school year for extra money to buy classroom supplies, because the schools can’t afford them.

          1. Justme, The OG*

            Even if it’s not working a second job, teachers are still working over the summer. Breakdown and setup of classrooms, lesson planning, professional development, extra classes, etc.

            1. Red 5*

              Yes, exactly. Every teacher I know spends the summer either working another paying job or working on some other big projects. They take classes, go to seminars, work on curriculum, and all the other things they can’t get done during the school year for various reasons, but its still all job related stuff. Teachers do more off the clock work than pretty much any other field I’ve seen (because even if they’re getting a paycheck over the summer, they’re not getting paid for the summer, their school system just stretches out their paychecks to cover the break to help people budget, more or less).

              1. seewhatimean*

                And yet…in my family which is a majority employed as teachers, there was/is nearly no work in the summer for any of the many teachers I knew as a result of the immersion into the periphery of the profession for my entire life. Certainly no classes, seminars, curriculum or whatever. And frankly I wish teachers would understand that their situation (here, at least) is not really all that awful, they get paid reasonably well, and they DO get summers and long Christmas and spring breaks pretty much “off” (and that other people do work and struggle with paycheques either ceasing or being prorated over their “holiday” time.) They get an annual salary, paid in 12 installments (or whatever) like anyone else. They get to keep their very generous (here) benefits over the summer. They get good pensions, lots of professional upgrading opportunities, and their union is very supportive. It’s really not that bad a gig, and certainly is what they signed up for when they went into the profession. …there’s always parts of any job that aren’t ideal.

                1. Ego Chamber*

                  Where do you live? Narnia? Also are the schools near you hiring? (Asking for a friend.)

        3. Pommette!*

          I think that this really depends on geography, since teacher salaries and staffing levels vary dramatically from one jurisdiction to another.

          I’m in Ontario. I have a lot of my friends and family who are teachers. They are paid better than most of their equivalently-educated peers, and get way more vacation time, better coverage for illness, compassionate care, or parental leave, and better benefits. I know a few who take classes during the summer, but none who work. My grade-school teacher friends definitely make a lot more money while working a lot less than I did when working in higher ed!

          Teachers’ unions are some of the strongest unions around here (there isn’t much competition – most private sector jobs are not unionized), and they have worked hard to ensure that teachers are well compensated for their work. As a result, teaching can be a great career for someone who has the right personality and aptitude for it. Predictably, given those conditions, it’s hard to get into a teachers’ college here, and it’s extremely hard for new grads to find work.

          I’m definitely not complaining. Education is important and we should want to attract and reward good teachers. Someone who spends their days with a group of 11-12 year olds and goes home to do overtime in the evening needs and deserves time to recharge, and will be a better teacher for having had that time off.

          1. The Rat-Catcher*

            I have never considered leaving the US more strongly than I have in the last 2 years and especially after reading this post.

            1. Iris Eyes*

              Go for it! Taking a teaching assigment abroad is a fantastic way to boost your income while probably living in a place with a lower cost of living. I know of several people who went that route straight out of college and paid off loans and built a nest egg pretty quickly, then because they didn’t have to account for ol’ Auntie Sallie Mae they were able to come back to the US and take advantage of the AMAZING retirement saving opportunities. Did you know that most teachers have 2-3 tax deferred/exempt retirement vehicles?

              The Millionaire Educator’s blog outlines one family’s path if you are interested in a different narrative.

              But I definitely agree that teachers need to have less workload, some school districts are requiring that teachers be on call for student/parent texts at all hours!!

              1. Courageous cat*

                Ok but let’s all keep in mind too the inherent problematic aspects of taking a job as a teacher abroad just so you (general you) can “Experience the World” while not having any real teaching experience, meanwhile taking a job from a local trained teacher who needs the job and who could teach English just as well as you could.

                People love to tout this as a great solution but it’s increasingly being looked down upon for that reason, particularly in countries outside of Europe.

                1. Mad Baggins*

                  FWIW native English teachers are usually not taking jobs from locally trained non-native-English teachers. Usually native speakers work alongside with local teachers, who are the ones responsible for the actual curriculum and meeting with the parents, etc. because they don’t speak the local language and can’t be held accountable. If the native speakers work alone then usually it’s at a private school where getting to speak with native English speakers is part of the appeal. There are lots of problems with teach-abroad-tourism but taking jobs from locals is not one of them.

              2. Ego Chamber*

                I think you’re talking about something different than the post The Rat-Catcher was responding to? Canada isn’t significantly cheaper than the States (depending on which province you’re comparing with which state), and Pommette specifically said it’s a difficult industry to get into there so I doubt they’re just screaming for Americans to come take their jobs.

                1. Dahlia*

                  Yeah, because teaching is well-compensated in Canada, its very competitive and there are lots of well-qualified teachers unable to find work. Finding someone who wants to hire you with foreign credentials AND is willing to sponsor a work visa for you is going to be really tough. Easier if you have a highly specialized skill (a desirable foreign language, robotics or engineering or something like that) and I’d consider looking at private schools, which tend to pay worse and have a harder time recruiting.

                  I am a Canadian working in the US and I feel like there is a bit of cognitive dissonance here where Americans understand how many hurdles there are to foreign workers working in the US, but don’t appreciate that those same hurdles will exist for them when they want to work in a foreign nation!

          2. US Teacher*

            Many teachers in the southern US are pretty much forbidden from joining unions and are paid below the poverty line.

          3. Persimmons*

            I’m both chagrined and impressed. At least in my area of the U.S., teaching is a type of social work: you’re accepting a life of near-poverty and sacrifice to “do good”.

          4. Chameleon*

            My husband is in the US and he actually doesn’t work at all over the summer. He is required to do one development day close to the start of the school year but if he can’t or doesn’t want to he can make it up during the school year. He also gets paid enough that he doesn’t need a second job. But we live fairly simply, and he does routinely work 11-12 hour days during the school year so if he didn’t get the summer to unwind he’d probably have a breakdown.

            1. Artemesia*

              I taught high school for 4 years in the 60s before the internet. I got my masters evenings and summers. During the school year I had 160 students and they were writing essays about every 8 days or so which meant 160 papers to grade and of course creating courses was labor intensive especially those first years. I had no curriculum handed to me; I developed my courses myself from scratch. During the school year I worked every evening and weekend — 12 hour days were routine. And during the school day I had 6 classes and so on some days no break at all and others, an hour, which was not enough time to do more than administrative work. I was junior so I had no classroom but had to move with students every class and set up and teach in someone else’s classroom. We had 4 minutes between classes; luckily I had an iron bladder and could make it to lunch. It was assumed I would meet individual student needs and be available to talk with students at the end of class and also assumed I would be standing at the door of my classroom to greet the next class and be able to gracefully begin a lesson that was well organized and with confidence. But I had to lug all of my materials sometimes the equivalent of several blocks from one distant classroom to one at the other end of the sprawling complex in that 4 minutes. It was by far the hardest job I ever had, paid poverty wages — I literally could not buy new clothes that first year and had to wear college leftovers that were worn out and drove a beater I couldn’t afford to repair. When I taught women were openly discriminated against and had few lucrative career options. Now women like myself are lawyers and doctors. When I taught many men went into teaching to avoid Viet Nam — they were often bright creative excellent teachers. Now men like that are discouraged from this profession. The abandonment of public schools by our communities, the creation of inferior grifter charter schools (which on average do worse than public schools although they have more selective enrollments) and the subsequent decline in student achievement is an American tragedy.

            2. Lindsay J*

              Same. My mom is a teacher in the North East US. She did used to take on some work in the summer – tutoring or editing work mostly, nothing full time or working for another person or company.

              However, she hasn’t done that in close to a decade.

              She does do a ton of work during the school year though, and take stipends for things like running the school newspaper, being the adviser for one of the classes (like freshman class adviser where she helps them with fundraising, spirit week, etc), and things of that nature. She works like 5a-5p during the school year.

              Also, she’s been teaching her classes for so long that her curriculum is pretty much set for each. She will adjust it each year based on the previous year and changes in the field. But when she was a new teacher and had to come up with lesson plans for all of her classes, or when she takes on a new class and has to develop a lesson plan for that it is a lot more time consuming.

              1. seewhatimean*

                This sounds reasonable and relatable to my own experience. Of course there are a few years of hard slog when you start out in a profession. Every one of them requires long hours and frontloading of the work and set up for the rest of the career when things will level out somewhat, and if one counted those first couple of years as if it were a wage, it would suck. But it’s got perks and privilege that seem to be overlooked too often.

                I have a great deal of struggle over the education of educators as well, in this country, but that’s an entirely separate discussion.

                1. Starbuck*

                  I think the idea that someone who’s still learning the job doesn’t deserve fair compensation for their time is ridiculous… you start out at lower pay, and have to work longer hours? I’m an educator, but attitudes like this (and devaluing the teaching profession in general) are why I’m not considering becoming a classroom teacher and don’t think I ever will.

            3. ScienceTeacherHS*

              I’m often at school from 7 am to 5 pm during the school year, and almost always at school on Sunday. By May, I am SO TIRED and SO DONE with everyone.

          5. seewhatimean*

            “I have a lot of my friends and family who are teachers. They are paid better than most of their equivalently-educated peers, and get way more vacation time, better coverage for illness, compassionate care, or parental leave, and better benefits. ”

            Yup. You summed up my comment further up very much better…compared to equivalently-educated peers, they really do have a pretty good gig. And compared to higher ed positions, they come out far far far ahead of things, both in basic salary and in benefits and perks, and job security (4 month contracts don’t impress a bank if you want to actually buy a house or a car…)

          6. ZucchiniBikini*

            An Australian here with many teacher family members and friends. Our school year is structured differently to North America, Europe and Asia – we have 4 terms of about 10-11 weeks in length, with three 2-week term breaks (in fall, winter and spring), then a 4-5 week summer break.

            Every high school teacher I know works throughout spring break and usually fall break as well, as that is exam prep / marking season here and also when the majority of professional development is scheduled. However, almost none of them work the 2-week winter break (lots go away at that time, in fact), and typically they also don’t work most of the summer break (they go back to work a week before the kids do, so their break is 3-4 weeks long). Early-career teachers might do some lesson planning over summer, but more seasoned teachers don’t. For grade school (elementary), teachers generally wouldn’t work at all except in spring break which is a hub for PD conferences etc.

            However, that needs to be balanced with the high commitment expected of teachers during term (so much after-hours and weekends work is expected, I think most teachers end up working a 60-hour week, maybe more in exam prep season), and their moderate pay levels. I have always seen it as swings and roundabouts. Yeah, my elementary school teacher friends get 9 weeks off a year, but in the weeks they ARE working, they work longer and harder than most (certainly than me, but I’m a freelancer so the equation is less straightforward!)

      3. Les G*

        Which countries offer 9 weeks of leave, paid or unpaid? I’m only familiar with some EU countries where the norm is about 5 weeks.

        1. Live & Learn*

          When I was in Finland and Sweden I talked with some Scandinavians who mentioned 8-9 weeks being pretty standard in Sweden, Finland And Estonia.

          1. Swede*

            In Sweden, 5 weeks is the law and the government and muncipalities offers 6 weeks to employees over 40. I’ve never even heard of 9 weeks vacation.

        2. Smithy*

          I’m in the US, and I get 5 weeks of vacation, 2 weeks of sick leave, and then there are like ~9 public holidays we get off? So in the US, that’s still close to 9 weeks with public holidays and 7 without (not to mention if you get jury or bereavement time). Not that any of our managers are itching for us to end up with a vacation, followed by bereavement, followed by jury duty – but most teams could find a way to manage.

          I think a lot of this is knowing your industry, position, and company and exactly what that kind of large time off would mean. Is there truly a “slow” time where a mix of reassigning tasks and/or getting some light temp coverage would work? I’m sure there are plenty of jobs where it wouldn’t (including mine and all my time off) – but I don’t think it’s completely out there either.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            I’m in the US and get 240 hours of PTO, (a whole lot of) hours of sick time–I forget how much but I’m currently built up to 400+ and am considering donating some to the office pool, and the usual holidays. My workplace encourages us to use time off but my department is small and our skillsets are not interchangeable, so we try to stagger our time off so we’re still covered-ish. Somebody asking for that much extra time off *might* be approved for another department but would be a serious strain for ours.

          2. KHB*

            Sick leave is for when you’re sick. It’s not extra vacation. If the OP does manages to get her nine weeks unpaid leave, she’ll still need to allow for the possibility that she’ll get sick now and then during the other 43 weeks of the year.

            Same thing with public holidays. At least some of the year’s holidays are going to fall during the 43 weeks that the OP is working, and she’s probably still expecting to take those days off.

            1. Smithy*

              I only mention that to say that with sick days – my workplace is expected to adjust to such an absence without penalty. This year I did end up requiring bereavement right after a vacation (which for my office is 5 days). For my manager the end result was that I was gone for 3 weeks – regardless of the reason – and my work needed to be covered.

              There is the question of whether time off is a right or perk – but if the concern is to factor for time out of the office, then it’s all somewhat relevant. If 95% of my team of 30 wanted to take off the days from Christmas Eve to after New Years – for my industry that’d basically be no problem most of the time. There’s no other time in the year when that much time would be so untouched by a mass absence. It may well be that there one chunk of time or a few chunks of time in the OP’s work calendar when a larger amount of time being gone would just be noticed less.

              1. KHB*

                Sorry, I guess I wasn’t clear. My point is that it doesn’t really make sense to add up vacation plus sick time plus holidays plus jury duty plus bereavement plus whatever else – because the OP is still going to need the option of taking sick time, bereavement, etc. on top of the nine unpaid weeks she’s asking for. (Similar to your situation, she might get sick or get called for jury duty or have a death in the family after she’s already taken her nine weeks for the year.) Her employer needs to plan for the possibility that she’ll be out, say, 11 or 12 weeks in a worst-case scenario.

      4. AES*

        Teachers don’t fall into this category, as they are not paid/on contract during summer months.

        1. Justme, The OG*

          Not necessarily true. Most school districts here pay teachers for 12 months even though they are not teaching in June and July.

          1. Artemesia*

            The checks are distributed over 12 months but they are paid for 10. Same is true in Universities where faculty usually have 9 or 10 month contracts paid out in 12 installments; if they teach in summer, it is paid extra. Public school teachers usually take a second job in summer. Back when I taught in the 60s, many of my colleagues were park rangers in the summer; many others were in retail or waitered or had construction jobs or painted houses.

            1. Muriel Heslop*

              When I taught in my 20s I was a counselor at sleepaway camp and I loved it. I wish I had tried to be a park ranger!

        2. Ali G*

          That’s not necessarily true. My mother worked for 25 years in the public school system. She was paid all year round (how else would they continue benefits?) and was required to work a min number of days during summer break.
          I have a ton of freinds that are teachers now and they most certainly are paid all year round. Maybe higher ed is different, but the vast majority of K-12 teachers in the US are paid all year round. They are also not under contract – they are employees of the state.

          1. AES*

            In most places in the US, they are paid all year round because their salary is distributed over 12 (or 24) paychecks, but their salary is calculated using the length of time of the school year in their district. I’m not sure what you mean about them not being on contract because they are employees of the state, but state employees do have/sign contracts.

          2. Le Sigh*

            Yeah, my father’s school district gave you an option of how you wanted to take your paycheck. You could either get bigger paychecks during the school year, and nothing during summer, or you could just redistribute the same amount of money for a full 12 months. Either way, it was the same (very modest) amount of money annually.

            And it’s not like they’re not out there earning it — continuing ed courses and certifications, lesson planning, building out the classroom…all summer. Not to mention the fact that he put in crazy long hours all school year with very little downtime. I feel like people forget how many non-standard hours teachers put in. But hey, summers off! (Not directed at you Ali G, just a general sentiment I see a lot.)

          3. US Teacher*

            When I taught in South Carolina, we were forced to work five days for free (admin had to work ten) because the state idiots decided we were “paid too much.” $35K a year with 10 years experience. That’s why I left that awful state.

            1. Artemesia*

              Teachers also pay for their continuing education e.g. most states require a masters degree after X years of teaching; the individual pays for that. Unless the district is offering an in-service, the teacher pays for their own development. And of course teachers pay hundreds of years for school supplies in many cases or their students go without. I have made my favorite charity. This is a good time of year to fund teacher projects in your community as teachers are planning for the coming year. I just paid off a project for a first grade teacher who wanted interactive materials and games for a her class to study math.

      5. Anon4This*

        In my experience, suggesting that teachers “tak[e] the summer off” is a fairly fraught issue and one that tends to raise a lot of defensiveness and insistence that it’s not a “vacation”.

        1. AES*

          That’s because it’s not a vacation. In most cases (in the US, and with obvious exceptions for districts that have moved to 12-month school years) it is unpaid time. And as many others have noted above, many teachers are working second jobs during it to make ends meet, and/or doing a bunch of unpaid professional development labor.

          I’m not trying to nitpick here, and I know this is getting off-topic w/r/t the original question, so I’ll leave it after this comment, but calling this “fraught” and something that “raises a lot of defensiveness” seems dismissive–that language suggests that teachers are irrationally flying off the handle about the mischaracterization of a problematic norm in their profession. I’d position teachers’ (and their allies’) strong reactions instead as important advocacy that’s trying to work against the myth of “summers off,” which historically has been used to justify execrably low pay for people who are doing work that is absolutely fundamental to the success of the US as a whole.

          1. Stan*

            Even in districts that have moved to balanced calendars/year-round schools, teachers may still be paid the same. Their unpaid time is just divided up throughout the year instead of being in one chunk in the summer.

            1. ScienceTeacherHS*

              Which is actually worse! Taking away summer and splitting that time up throughout the year removes my ability to get a summer job and make some more money to make up for it. This is a conversation that comes up at my work about moving to year-round school. I’d have to be paid significantly more to think that was worth it.

        2. Muriel Heslop*

          It’s not a vacation; it’s essentially a furlough because our employer, the district, does not have work for us.

      6. Muriel Heslop*

        We don’t “take the summer off” – there isn’t any work for us. And most of us work in the summer. I’ve been doing testing all summer, for example and it’s been 30-40 hour weeks. It’s a lot less than the 50 hour+ week I put in during the school year.

    3. Kimmy Gibbler*

      Normally I’d agree, but if the company has an option for people in her position to go part-time (28 hours per week), I expect they probably have numerous people doing the same job or have some logic that allows for not everyone to have to be full time. Some hourly jobs (maybe a call center or data entry or something) where the focus is more on coverage than long-term project work might be better suited to a set-up like that. (Or not, I don’t know.)

    4. DD*

      This would be nine weeks actually- I’m assuming 45 days means 45 business days m, divided by 5 = over two months off a year.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, I said six in the post because she currently gets three weeks paid vacation. She’s offering to “return” that in exchange for 45 unpaid day (nine weeks), but it’s only a total increase of six weeks over what she gets now.

    5. Specialk9*

      My former coworker did something slightly different. She made an arrangement to wotk 75%, so she still had benefits, and had time to deal with a very troubled child. The reasons why they made this work: she was knowledgeable, had certs and a skillset that helped us win work, and the managers were decent kind people who cared.

      That might be less unusual, and less administratively prohibitive. Or it just might be another option to present – sometimes it helps to have several options to present a manager.

      1. Rebecca in Dallas*

        I know my uncle did this after my grandfather died, he worked half time for a couple of years so that he could help my grandmother with some stuff (my grandfather died suddenly and owned his own business, so a lot of loose ends needed to be tied up).

      2. Artemesia*

        I negotiated a 75% work week for a couple of years when my youngest child was a toddler. In my case, it meant dropping one project area and was fairly easy to achieve. When the child was school age, I went back to full time. It is great if you have two incomes and so can afford it and if you work with people who are flexible and help you get what you want.

      3. Muriel Heslop*

        I negotiated this when my son had a health issue that had to be addressed. I worked 75% for 2 years and it changed our lives. Thankful for a supportive principal and a fantastic department!

    6. Persimmons*

      This happened to me. I saved PTO for several years, took a month-long vacation to celebrate a life event, and came back to no job. By setting things up to run smoothly in my extended absence, I had proven myself to be unnecessary. (Not really, but they were thinking short-term.)

      1. Artemesia*

        I know someone to whom the same thing happened. He hadn’t planned to retire at 62 but there he was.

    7. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      I wouldn’t necessarily jump to this conclusion. It’s not uncommon for people to have 6 weeks of vacation (US company) if they’ve had a longer tenure with the company.

      I certainly wouldn’t expect a boss to reevaluate the contributions and effectiveness of these employees.

    8. Laurlema01!*

      Agree with you Thursday Next. I had a co worker that would work 1/2 days during the summer session and take the cut in the pay. She was told that if she continued doing it, that her position would be made 9 month without benefits. I would be afraid that your job would be eliminated if asked for it. Also, your company may increase your vacation / or PTO at the 5 year mark.

    9. CoveredInBees*

      I could see it swinging the other way. Maybe they don’t need OP 40+ hours a week but it is still more cost effective to have an employee who already knows the ropes take on that work, rather than a contractor or a part-time newbie.

      I know there are various reasons for not wanting to deal with part-time workers (except for consultants) but I wish “white collar” employers had less of a negative attitude about part-time positions in general. I’ve seen them viewed as somehow less professional and they’d rather farm out the work to an series of vendors than have someone who isn’t in the office all the time. I’m currently on the lookout for a part-time job that isn’t food service or retail and people respond as if I’m proposing I go to work in my robe and slippers to just goof around all day.

    10. Pebbles*

      I’m in the U.S. and have 5 weeks of vacation. That’s after having been at CurrentJob for over 15 years. My position isn’t one where they can do without me, so if I want to take a larger chunk of that in one go, I need it to be cleared by a few levels. Otherwise I’m able to just schedule time away without any push back.

      Maybe if OP were to frame her non-paid leave as something that wouldn’t be taken all at once that it might be more acceptable to her company? And work out exactly how much and when would be best to take it?

    11. Original LW*

      As to whether I’m expendable… Maybe, but there are a few factors that I think work in my favor.
      -I’m not asking to take the time off (9 weeks) all at once. Just days here and there, with permission, and maybe two or three full weeks off during slow periods.
      -I work in a skilled trade where experienced workers are hard to find. There are only a few thousand such people in the country. There are many inexperienced people that want to apprentice, but my company doesn’t really do that. I’ve been working for nearly five years and my manager respects my work.

      Working against me is the fact that almost half of the employees in the company do the exact same work as me. Their workload during the day shouldn’t increase that much since we are all hourly and do manual work. Though it could potentially result in people being asked to work overtime, which could result in some resentment.

  2. El Esteban*

    OP3, could it be a time zone error? I sometimes get Outlook notifications from my boss that list a time six hours ahead. I figured out it was UTC (ie. Greenwich Mean Time). And while I still haven’t figured out how to get it on to Central time, I at least know my boss doesn’t mean 9pm.

    1. Cambridge Comma*

      I was thinking about something similar. I would think that if it were a scam, they would have to try and be a bit more plausible on the surface at least, or nobody would ever show up (although they could be really bad scammers).
      I immediately imagined the location as an abandoned mall or something. There’s something so creepy about it and it’s odd that there is no way to contact anyone.

      1. Seriously?*

        The lack of contact information is a huge red flag though. If they had a way to contact the interviewer to clarify it could be easily resolved if it is an error. But just saying “You have an interview at 11” is really bad.

      1. hermit crab*

        My old boss definitely sent out some meeting invites for 3am! Nobody noticed until we tried to figure out why our standing Wednesday 3pm team meeting wasn’t showing up on our calendars. I would hope that an interviewer would be more careful, though.

      2. Ozma the Grouch*

        I was thinking it was an error like this too, maybe they sent out the invite and didn’t realize that the invite was accidentally set to PM instead of AM. And having a glitch where it has today’s date instead of another day tell me that maybe this was an incident of having to re-enter the invitation and they forgot to change a setting this time around? I’ve had calendars flake out on me so many times while setting up invites, it will always be the second time that I setup the meeting that I will forget one of the settings that I had remembered the first time. So at least in that sense I think it *could* be a plausible situation. So in that sense reaching out to this hiring manager and asking to verify the time would probably save everyone a lot of time.

        HOWEVER, the whole not giving you meeting time options and just telling when and where to be isn’t great.

    2. SS Express*

      I thought the same thing – some kind of error like typo, am/pm mix-up, different time zones etc is surely the simplest explanation.

    3. Thlayli*

      Possible, also possible it was a typo. but since it’s a local location and the email looked “sketchy” anyway, I think it’s more likely to be a scam.

      OP I hope we get an update. Hope nothing bad happened!

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        Coincidentally, I got some emails from our internal admin software yesterday, and they looked really sketchy although they definitely weren’t. So I wonder if the mails could come from the application system and look weird because of that.
        Otherwise I wonder what the scam could possibly be.

        1. Be vewwwy vewwwy careful!*

          They “hire” a customer service person supposedly for big name retail company. Then a customer needs to get a refund which they need you to process for them. Unfortunately, the check they send is for thousands of dollars more than the customer is owed, so you need to deposit it in your bank account, write a personal check to the “customer”, and forward the rest of the $ to one of their departments. By the time your bank has figured out that the check isn’t legit, you’ll have cleaned out your bank account.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Is this seriously a thing? That makes even less sense than the OG Nigerian prince/wife of Nelson Mandela check fraud email scam it’s based on.

      2. I Love Thrawn*

        And now my paranoia and suspicion is showing. It probably is something like a time zone error, but my mind went straight to how some criminals will wait for young women to get off work late at night, at malls, and grab them. Using tricks like wrapping something around the windshield wipers to get them to get out of their cars, stuff like that. Maybe someone is trying to get high tech and creative here. I hope not.

          1. neverjaunty*

            I’m a little skeptical that dudes who are assaulting women after work get much more sophisticated than “watch to see when she’s alone”.

          2. Nita*

            It may not be a thing, but it does happen. There was a case around here a few years back – someone who knew a cleaning woman’s schedule took advantage of her being alone in a building late at night to kill her :( I’d be way too creeped out to go to an 11 PM interview, with no clue who’s the interviewer, and no contact info.

      3. Data science geek*

        Possible, also possible it was a typo. but since it’s a local location and the email looked “sketchy” anyway

        ^Which could just as easily be confirmation bias

    4. JamieS*

      I can see a time error for a calendar notification but it sounded like the email had 11 PM in the body of it so someone actually wrote that out.

      1. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

        It could be some sort of auto-generated email based on an appt programmed into some sort of recruiting/internal/calendar program. I kind of assumed this based on the lack of human response.

    5. UtOh!*

      That may be, but there was no way to contact anyone to confirm, that is what stood out to me as this is probably a sketchy outfit and there is no way I would go to this job interview at 11 pm.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah, the no contact tips it to “Well if this is a legit business that accidentally autofills GMT in its emails, this is what happens–people don’t show up at whatever time you had in mind and you get no employees.”

        Lots of “isn’t it ridiculous that this potential employer….” stuff that isn’t, but this, OP, definitely qualifies as ridiculous, sketchy, and not giving you enough info to extend them a little slack and give them a chance to be nonsketchy with glitchy software.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          Agree. Best case, this business is really disorganized and do you need the job that badly? Worst case, this is shady and potentially dangerous.

      2. Ego Chamber*

        As an older millennial, I’m totally outing myself as a generation-traitor when I say this but… if it’s a retail job, just call the store where you’re supposed to go and ask for the person in charge of interviewing.

        know this is also super-discouraged from the employer side of things—usually—but if I was that interviewer, I would probably want to know if a) I had sent out one or more interview invites with the wrong time/date or b) someone was using my company’s name as bait for something nefarious.

    6. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

      Yeah – I assumed it was some sort of technology/software/automation issue.

      The bigger red flag to me is the lack of a human contact, rather the time thing because the time thing just has to be some sort of mistake.

    7. Ann O'Nemity*

      That explanation may be possible. I hate to say, my first thought was human trafficking. Like, come to an interview in the middle of the night and next thing you know you’re tied up in a van.

      Full disclosure, I just went to a charity event raising money to fight human trafficking, so the subject is top of mind.

    8. TootsNYC*

      I often have trouble w/ computerized calendar programs; sometimes the P.M. setting pops up following some automatic setting as I scroll the wheel or some other things.

      I’d assume it was supposed to be 11am, and that the notice was sent automatically somehow. You’d think the calendar program would say, “that event is in the past, do you still want to proceed?” but people often click error messages away without reading them.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        In that case, they’d handle it by sending a second email with the correct time. The way they’d do if they forgot to attach a document they said was attached in the header, they said something was happening in May instead of August, etc.

    9. pleaset*

      Time zone error or AM/PM typo with date typo too. But given the difficultly contacting, perhaps it is a scam.

    10. Earthwalker*

      Awhile back it used to be not uncommon for a male manager to schedule a late night “interview” with a female candidate, where the job he had in mind would not be anything like the one she was applying for. If a woman takes a late night interview, she should make sure it’s in a public place.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yes, a Harvey Weinstein’s hotel room kind of “interview.” That’s the first place my mind went.

        (Or they plan to rob you.)

    11. Bob Loblaw*

      I thought the same thing. Or if it’s a phone interview with a global company, is the interviewer located outside the US and not aware what time that is for the OP? I would just ask if they were aware the time was set for 11 PM, and if so, if they can accommodate an earlier time.

    12. Amber T*

      Yeah, sometimes it’s my Outlook that’s the problem too. On my work computer, it’s fine – calendar invites show up as normal. But if I try to log on to our secure browser email thing on my desktop at home, I’m magically 5 hours ahead. If I try to send out a calendar invite, it gets all screwy, so it’s possible this person’s email is like mine.

      That being said, red flags are still raised. I’d be cautious (and definitely not show up at 11pm).

    13. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      Or even a scheduling tool error. I recently had a situation where people sign up for times to speak with me and my scheduling tool went off the rails and started emailing them reminders, but changing the time of the appointment. All along, my outlook calendar showed the correct times, but I had several confused applicants (who I apologized to) and I *think* it’s now resolved. But perhaps someone who is less on top of things wouldn’t even notice what was happening.

    14. H.C.*

      My only alternative legit explanation is that the the position is a night shift (restocking / resetting / cleaning up the store after it closes) and the interview includes OP3’s day-to-day supervisor. But yeah, I’d absolutely get verification before going to that interview.

    15. Arjay*

      My husband’s last interview was for a job site that hadn’t been built yet. The interview location was at an area hotel. Thank God it wasn’t scheduled for 11pm, or my eyebrows would have flown off my face!

    16. D. Manbro*

      OP3 here. It was a global company and the email domain was legit, but I was unable to verify by email or phone so I didn’t go. If they meant 11am that wouldn’t have been much help as I received the original email after 1pm. I did receive an auto-generated reply telling me to contact a “salaried manager” (LOL as opposed to an unsalaried one?) if I had any questions but again there was no contact info given. Very odd.

  3. R*

    To #1 – It’s not uncommon for people to request one day a week off, unpaid. Most companies continue benefits for those who work 4 days a week and simply reduce salary to 80%. You wouldn’t have to sacrifice your PTO. If your company is iffy about the idea, you could propose a 6-month or 1-year trial period, with a review at the end. Typically people take Friday or Monday. Since it’s always the same day of the week, it tends to not be disruptive for other workers to have you gone.

    Also, it’s not uncommon for employees to request a longer period off on an unpaid basis, like a sabbatical. That would be a one-time thing for a few months or a year. But you couldn’t repeat that frequently (probably).

    1. Traveling Teacher*

      Yes, this is very common where I live. Typically it’s caregivers who request a flexible schedule like this so that, out of 5 days, the child/elder is only in care for 3 days/week if both people in a couple reduce to 80%.

      But, there are plenty of people who reduce their hours to work on their own projects, like OP, or even small businesses, or because they’re just in an extremely stressful job and have learned that they are much less likely to burn out.

    2. LGC*

      It depends on the way time is calculated, though – she says specifically that people in her field routinely work 28 hours a week, but without benefits. Assuming that we’re dealing with 7 hour work days…4 days a week would put her at 28.

      She could angle to work slightly longer days, like 8 hour days.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        With this particular employer, I suspect that their existing policy will be the sticking point. They currently offer part time work with no benefits. The OP wants part-time work with full benefits (albeit in a slightly different format). That could make selling her proposal more difficult than if the company didn’t have a policy at all.

        And as you say, if they’re calculating based on a 35 hour workweek, the 9 weeks unpaid time off works out to close to the same number of work hours as someone working the 28 hours a week, only with significantly better benefits.

        1. Tau*

          Considering OP says she has trouble completing projects “when I am away from home 11 hours a day for my job”, I’m going to suggest that her job is not on a 35 hour workweek (well, that or she has the commute from hell). In that case, 1 day off/week or 9 weeks unpaid/year would put her at more than 28 hours per week.

          1. Just Employed Here*

            I assumed she just had an awful commute.

            I’ve done the “Friday or Monday off” thing to care for children, and it’s great! There’s something so luxurious with it being a business day, quite different from “just” being off on the weekend.

            Friends have had every Wednesday off: it means you’re never at work for more than two days in a row!

          2. On Fire*

            Yep. If my commute goes perfectly, I’m away from home 10.5 hours each day. If there’s a wreck on the interstate, or if I have to stop by the grocery store, it could easily be 11 or more.
            And I’m picturing the OP as wanting to take a six- to nine-week stretch of time, since that would seem more conducive to getting into an artistic “groove” and finishing a project. As someone else mentioned, my concern would be that if OP can be gone that long, the company might decide they don’t need her. OP will need to be very careful in how she presents the proposal to avoid seeming entitled or tone-deaf to the company needs.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              Same. I leave the house around 6:30 and get home around 6:00, for a normal 9-hour (minus lunch) work day.

            2. AKchic*

              I know the feeling. I live and work in (technically) the same town, but I work on a military installation. My commute in the summer will always be faster because hey! no snow. On a good day in the summer, my commute *to* work is 35 minutes. In the winter? One day it took us 94 minutes to get to work and we were re-routed a few times and couldn’t take the highway route we normally take and had to get on base from another point and drive across the base rather than use our normal entry point.
              On my way home? In the summer it generally takes us 45 minutes because of evening traffic. In the winter, it can be a lot worse.

        2. Maddie*

          Exactly AN. I don’t think there is any way employer will continue full time benefits for part time work.

          1. WellRed*

            We allowed a seven week sabbatical for an awesome employee (unheard of at my company to do this) but it was so important to her that she planned on resigning rather than ask for the time off. She did NOT receive benefits during this period, but we still had her undying loyalty after this. Then, she got laid off about 1.5 years later (cheap company sees salary as an evil expensive). She probably would have been let go regardless, but her williningness to resign probably put a target on her. FYI: We still have a great relationship with her, due to how well we treated her and because of the sabattical.

          2. Lindsay J*

            Yeah, this was my though.

            A, they already have a mechanism to have part time workers without benefits.

            B, in the companies where I have worked, when you take unpaid time off due to a leave of absence or similar they do not pay into your benefits. If you took a full pay period off unpaid, you would have to pay the employers part of the healthcare premium to retain coverage. So in addition to not getting paid that pay period you would also have to pull money out of your savings to pay the premium, or risk losing coverage. Since you had no earnings, nothing would go into your 401k etc, you had no work hours so you would not continue to accrue time off, etc.

        3. Susan Sto Helit*

          A former colleague of mine with a long commute had negotiated a 4-day work week with 5-day hours – so she regularly worked a nearly 10-hour day (plus an hour-long lunch break) but got an extra day off every week as well. I think she’d calculated that four super-long days, with a lengthy commute either side, were worth it for the extra day of free time.

          One of the big differences is how it looks to other colleagues – if Jane starts working a four day week than that’s just Jane’s new hours, and no one is going to pay much notice. But if Jane is suddenly taking large amounts of time off every year, people are going to start asking questions and getting annoyed at a perceived benefit that they don’t have (even if it is unpaid).

          1. TootsNYC*

            I wonder if part of her calculus was that a longer workday (starting earlier, leaving later) had her commuting at a more efficient time, so she actually wasted fewer hours on the road. In many places, traveling even 1/2 hour later can turn a 1-hour trip into 30 minutes. (My husband drove someone from Queens to Newark Airport at 4am, and it took him 25 minutes instead of an hour)

          2. neverjaunty*

            Or even if tbt aren’t annoyed, they might very well ask for a similar benefit. “You can take up to another six weeks off unpaid” is something a lot of people would sign up for (even if they didn’t take the whole six weeks). What’s the company’s position then – sorry, first come first served?

          3. Nita*

            I have a relative who does this and it works very well! I also know quite a few people who have negotiated a partially work-from-home week (let’s say 2-3 days in office, the rest from home. I don’t know what kind of art projects OP is working on, but it’s possible this may also work, since a lot of commute time will disappear.

            My kids’ day care does have the sort of schedule OP wants for the teachers – several of them are regularly off for several weeks because they have family abroad. However, this only works because more than one person does this, and they stagger the long vacations so that there’s always enough coverage.

    3. Pebbles*

      My husband (and his coworkers) used to have this option each summer, where for 3 months he was allowed to take Fridays off and just be paid 80% of his salary during that time. It wasn’t a huge financial loss and he really enjoyed the extra time without having to take PTO. He didn’t get nearly as much done that summer as he had thought he would, but who does?

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      I assume that this is very industry-specific. In legal, working four days a week is pretty tough because the deadlines and schedule doing necessarily adjust to the part time schedule. We had someone who worked an 80%, and they probably still had to come in (or work from home) at least half of their off-days because something came up that required their institutional knowledge of the case or they were on a matter with redistricted billers where we couldn’t just sub in another person. This can also cascade down to support staff because the billing team still needs support when they need support. I would image consulting, sales, and a lot of other client-services businesses are similar.

    5. pleaset*

      I did it when I went to grad school – in an nonprofit organization in the US.

      I ended up working quite a bit more than I’d like – instead of ostensibly 40 hour weeks average where it was really 45, it was more like 36 hour weeks. But still quite a bit less.

    6. Original LW*

      I would do something like that, but I’m hourly and not salaried, which would complicate things. They are adamant about people working 40 hours a week so that the company isn’t paying for benefits when the work isn’t done. That’s why I wanted to offer a pay cut ($2000/year) in exchange for continued benefits (about $1800, including health insurance, unemployment insurance, worker’s comp insurance, etc.) during those unpaid days.

  4. Aphrodite*

    OP #3, the time stated would scare me off but what I find ever weirder is this: “My attempts to contact anyone re: this supposed interview have been fruitless.”

    Is it a nationally known retail company like Macy’s or Williams Sonoma? Does the company have a head office with listed phone numbers on their website? You most certainly should be able to get in contact with them via phone. But you make it sound as if you cannot. If that’s the case, I’d run far and very, very fast.

    1. Radio Girl*

      Oh, yes, run in the opposite direction NOW! Fast! You made a reasonable attempt to get more information. I am going to assume it was an error, but still…

    2. Sherm*

      Agreed. An 11pm interview could *possibly* be explained by a night-owl manager who forgot that 11pm is considered late by many, but the lack of contact together with a sketchy email would alarm me as well.

      Maybe I’m just paranoid, but I’m wondering if this is a scam website like “JCPennies” instead of “JCPenney,” and the OP has been trying the contact information on the website.

    3. Justme, The OG*

      Having worked for multiple large national retailers, the head office isn’t going to get involved in store hiring and interview matters.

    4. Antilles*

      The head office wouldn’t know anything unfortunately.
      That said, one thing to check is the hours of the store. Interviews in retail are typically done at the store itself and usually either during store hours or immediately before/after a shift. If the interview is off-site or well outside their normal business hours, that’s a huge red flag.

        1. Monsters of Men*

          Like those “WE HAVE JOBS! TEXT 88888” signs which end up being a method for human trafficking.

      1. Alli525*

        Head office wouldn’t KNOW anything, maybe, but they’d be able to contact the regional office or the exact store, which OP says she hasn’t been able to do.

    5. Triple Anon*

      If it’s a brick and mortar retailer, I would print out the email, take it to the nearest location, and ask a manager there about it. But it sounds like OP has done everything they can. In which case, it is sketchy and I wouldn’t show up.

    6. Lauren*

      I would schedule interviews as late as 8pm for local candidates, but only phone calls. I have also scheduled up to 10:30pm when it was for interns who were studying abroad. I gave them a ton of options, just so they could talk to us. They always chose the latest option, because of work and school commitments.

  5. sacados*

    OP4: Ugh, I feel your pain. I hate dealing with things like this.
    I am currently interviewing for US-based jobs while I am overseas. The time difference typically means that the easiest time for me to interview is early morning for me before I go into work.
    The first time I got a request for a phone interview, it was an early enough time that I really preferred not to have to get entirely dressed/ready/made up before the interview time — it would have meant getting up much earlier than I wanted to and given me no prep time. So when I confirmed the interview time, I specifically suggested that they could either call my phone or “do an audio call over skype.” Fortunately that worked out!
    For the next one, the interview time was slightly later so it made more sense for me to get entirely ready for work before the call so I could head into the office immediately after — regardless of whether it was video or not. So for that one I didn’t bother to confirm. When they skype messaged me to see if I was ready they asked should we do video or not; at which point I just said I was fine with whatever they preferred. And we did wind up doing video.

    1. SoSo*

      As a previous admin who scheduled these types of calls, I will say that sometimes it comes down to the manager or person doing the interview. I always scheduled it with the video option because about half of our staff preferred video, and it would be a 50/50 shot on whether or not they would want to use it in the interview as well. It’s not the best solution, but the only thing I can say would be prepared either way.

    2. Specialk9*

      Really?! I thought this one was so weird! A video interview is a huge savings in terms of time and convenience. Complaining about it seems pretty churlish.

      “Ugh I have to SHOWER and get DRESSED and clean up my background?! This video thing is so INCONVENIENT.”

      As opposed to having to do *all of that* except cleaning (while also having to put on shoes and pants), and having to drive to and park in an unfamiliar location, and having to be an hour early to account for possible traffic, and sitting and waiting and talking in person to a bunch of strangers, and having to be careful not to spill the coffee/tea/water on one…

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Sure, but if it’s not going to be a phone call, you don’t have to do all that. It would be a waste of my time to do my hair, put on makeup, put on interview-appropriate clothes, and clean for a phone call. So you should be happy do all that when you don’t have to, just because at least you don’t to drive? Do you do all that when you’ve been asked to do a phone interview? All the OP is saying is that employers should let you know ahead of time so you don’t waste your time (and doing that for a phone interview, for a lot of people, IS a waste of time), which is hardly churlish.

        1. Specialk9*

          “It’s so much more invasive in some ways than going to the company’s office!”

          This is the part that I was like, no, no that’s just ridiculous.

          1. Alice Ulf*

            I think this might be a reminder that what is unimportant to you may be very important to others. As a fairly private person, I could see how a video interview might feel like inviting someone into your home (albeit a very small part of it). Like Alison suggests, I would just assume a video call if the interviewer doesn’t specify, but I don’t think the OP’s perspective is ridiculous.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              I am very private and loathe having people in my personal space. My spouse moving into my apartment was an uncomfortable adjustment, and I REALLY like them. I don’t like people touching my stuff, either. That said, showing someone one wall in my house is not invasive or inviting someone into my space. They can have a lovely view of my plantation shutters, a beige or gray wall, and very little else.

              I feel like OP#3 is making a mountain out of a molehill when simply asking if the call will be video or only audio would easily answer the question and allow her to prepare properly. If you’re *that* put out by a video interview, perhaps the job is not the right fit.

            2. KMB213*

              Yep. For me, video interviews are no big deal – I have a laptop so I just put in on the kitchen table – all you can see behind me is two windows. I usually keep the curtains closed, but, even with them open, you can only see the fence.

              My SO is into gaming and, as a result, his only computer is a gaming computer/desktop – he also lives in a small apartment, so the setup is in his bedroom and the bed is in direct view. It *does* feel very personal to talk to him on his webcam. (Obviously now, if he were to need to do a video interview, I’d just let him borrow my laptop – this was more to show how the way one’s home in set up can make a huge difference in how invasive a video interview feels.)

              1. Perse's Mom*

                Yeah, this would be my issue. I don’t work from home, so I don’t have an office space; it’s just my PC in my bedroom. I don’t have a laptop (or access to one). I don’t even own a webcam.

                I would 100% rather go to an office for an in-person interview.

          2. SarahTheEntwife*

            But it is more invasive. Depending on your home setup (crowded apartment, pets, kids, etc.) it may be difficult to arrange a professional-looking background, and I know I’d be worried that the cracked paint or my smooshed blinds or whatever is going to put off the interviewer. Which is probably irrational, but it’s an additional anxiety in addition to wondering if I’m going to be judged for my fashion choices or my hair doing something weird that day.

            1. K*

              I work remotely so Skype calls are common. I live in a small apartment so all of my spaces are dule purpose and not very office looking. My boss always makes some comment about what’s in my background which come across as judegemental and at the very least, point out that my home is a distraction to the meeting. And this is for a job I already have. I would hate to be worrying about that in an interview in addition to everything else.

            2. Indigo a la mode*

              A lot of gamers who stream prevent the privacy-invasion issue by creating a background behind them. Some people go all out with their setup, but pulling up a chair behind you and balancing one of those trifold science fair boards on it would be easy and have the same effect.

            3. Starbuck*

              I wouldn’t worry to much- we just Skyped someone for an interview who was working in another country and could only get internet access at some outdoor cafe, where there were strangers and dogs wandering in and out of the background. But she used headphones and a mic so the sound was good. It didn’t really faze me or any of the other interviews, though they did nit-pick on some more minor things, so go figure.

  6. it sounds like the prologue of a murder mystery*

    OP3 I’d be worried about going to the interview and then waking up in a bathtub of ice water with my kidneys missing O_O;;;;;

    1. Biscuits*

      Well, at least the organ harvesters are nice enough to leave you in a soothing ice bath in your scenario.

  7. Daisy*

    4. Is this really such a huge imposition? I’m not the world’s tidiest person, but surely the few square foot the webcam points at can’t take more than a few minutes to clear? It should be mostly wall anyway.

    1. Officer Crabtree*

      Exactly. I’m not even sure why question was asked at all. Assume it’s a video call. Clean your room. The end.

      1. misspiggy*

        I think hair, makeup and smart clothing is what OP is concerned about – the effort involved in looking ‘effortlessly put together’ is usually substantial.

        1. Les G*

          Yeah, and that’s a basic part of going to work and interviewing. Welcome to the rest of our lives.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Sure, but you don’t have to do this for a phone call! I don’t understand why people are baffled by the idea that you might want to know ahead of time whether you can have wet hair and yoga clothes on or whether you need to look more professional, and that you wouldn’t put on work clothes and do your hair and makeup if you know it’s going to be just a phone call, so knowing ahead of time will save you time and effort.

            People are being awfully snotty to the OP on this one, and it’s not an unreasonable question.

            1. neverjaunty*

              There seems to be a lot of “find reasons to be snotty to the OP” going around lately. Dunno why.

              1. Sally*

                Usually, in the AAM comments, people comment with the knowledge that their life experience is not the same as everyone else’s. I really wonder why people seem to be having a “what’s the big deal?” response to this question. I don’t assume that just because something is easy for me to handle means that anyone who can’t handle it without asking an expert for help is being – what? a baby, not thinking, stupid, or ??? Some of the people who already have this figured out have offered advice to the OP (see below in the comments). I think that’s a better way to go than chastising the OP.

              2. HS Teacher*

                Agreed. It’s out of control and making me not enjoy AAM as much as I used to. There are some really snippy commenters and, unfortunately, they often dominate the conversations.

        2. JamieS*

          Agreed but you’d have to do that for an in-office interview too so the only difference would be having to clear the area. Taking into account the time it’d take to clean a small area compared to commuting to an interview most Skype interviewees still likely come out ahead. It also just seems odd to me to consider having to take time to prepare for an interview as it being invasive. Not sure what the norms are in OP’s industry but the things they listed sounded like normal things to do for an interview.

          1. Rat in the Sugar*

            I think OP is comparing it to a phone interview, not an in-person interview. Also, I don’t think she means that it’s the time to prepare that’s invasive, but the fact that whoever’s on the other end of the call may see into her home.

            I’m a little puzzled by the strong reactions here; I would be a bit miffed if I got gussied up for a video interview and then it turned out to be audio only and I’m just sitting there alone in my nice clothes.

            1. Sally*

              And having spent the time to shower and get dressed (and put on makeup if you wear it). She specifically said that she would prefer to use the time for preparing for the interview. If it were me, I’d use it for sleeping and not getting up extra early to get ready.

            2. Iris Eyes*

              There might be a psychological benefit to being gussied up. Like when you are feeling sick and lousy a shower and fresh “real” clothes can have a wonderful effect. Just being dressed up might help you feel more confident and put together and that is likely to come across in your presentation.

              1. Mad Baggins*

                This is how I look at it. I get that it sucks to clean up your room for strangers and put your war paint on, but if it helps you do your best and be ready for anything, then maybe it’s worth it in that sense (plus now your room is clean and you look great!)

        3. MLB*

          Sorry but if it takes that much more time to look “effortlessly put together”, you’re doing it wrong.

        4. Nanani*

          This. I’m guessing a lot of the “what’s the big deal??” comments aren’t coming from people who need to do all this crap JUST to look professional.

      2. FritzieTudor*

        Not everyone falls out of bed with camera-ready hair and a full face of makeup, so your comments could be a lot less judgmental.

        1. Les G*

          “Camera ready?” This is a deliberately misleading phrase and I think you know that.

          1. Baby Fishmouth*

            What’s wrong with that phrase? Looking nice for a webcam involves different prep than looking nice in person. You ARE trying to look nice on camera.

          2. Alli525*

            No, it’s not. If there’s a web camera and you are expected to look professional in front of it, that’s “camera-ready.”

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Since the OP said that she once got “caught out” wearing yoga pants and with wet hair, I’m inclined to just advise her to accept video as the Skype default and put on a nice top. Personally, I think you can get away with a whole lot more on a webcam than you can in person; you can wear yoga pants (just don’t stand up), and most webcams that I’ve used don’t pick up skin flaws the way office lighting does (I have terrible skin and unruly hair, but I think I look flawless on Skype!). You can also have some control over lighting in your home.

          Interviews, whether over the phone, in person, or via Skype, require some prep and effort. Part of that effort means making your Skype space presentable and making yourself look like you bothered. In the time it might take you to travel to their office, you can certainly tidy up a few square feet of space, close the bathroom door (when I sit at my desk, my webcam faces a toilet), pull your hair back, brush on some powder, and get dressed. I just don’t see it as a huge imposition.

          1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

            “…and most webcams that I’ve used don’t pick up skin flaws the way office lighting does (I have terrible skin and unruly hair, but I think I look flawless on Skype!)”

            Jealous! I can think I look put together in person, but point a webcam at me and it’s like a live action mug shot or passport photo :)

            1. AvonLady Barksdale*

              I think it’s partly because the room we use as an office gets a whole lot of sunlight, and every office I’ve been in where we’ve used Skype has been sunny. I can position myself so I look like a damn angel. Doesn’t do anything for my super weird “yes I’m listening” face, though.

            2. foolofgrace*

              Same for me, I just am not photogenic. I have a video interview this afternoon (and really need this job) and my fear is that by using the video mechanism they will be able to tell my age, which is older than the norm. All I can do is put on a good face and hope to dazzle with my interview acumen. But I’m not looking forward to this, I’d much rather interview in person.

            3. TootsNYC*

              But I think people/interviewers are much more forgiving of people looking sort of bad on a webcam. If they have that little thumbnail of their own face (so they can see that they’re in frame), they’re surely thinking THEY look awful.

          2. Smithy*

            I have rosacea that I have always believed my Skype to highlight in a bizarre and unflattering way. That being said, my industry isn’t super looks focused and when I was interviewing, that didn’t overly impact my call-back rate.

            What I will say is that if you are scheduling the interview with a person different from who’s conducting the interview – I’d place the odds of guaranteeing video or no video at 50-50. In my current office, Skype or other video optional tech is often assigned should the interviewer prefer – but very often they won’t and in some cases will have the interviewer on video while they’re not on.

            I think it’s reasonable to ask, but to always be prepared to be video ready.

        3. MLB*

          I think the LW is overthinking it. Yes I dress nicely for an interview and make efforts to tame my mane, but I don’t spend a whole lot of extra time doing it. She’s not trying to land a movie role.

          1. Red 5*

            It depends on her field and her location I’d think. I personally have rarely gone out for jobs where I’ve needed to do the whole nine on the makeup and hair, and that’s partially intentional because I know that’s not a thing I’m going to do regularly and don’t want that expectation. But even at my company, heck even in my department, there are positions where there is an expectation of women’s appearances being at a certain level on a regular basis. And if you want to look your best for a job interview, you certainly want to look as good as you would be expected to look on a regular day. And that’s not even getting into the very real discrimination women can face in that arena.

            That said if she’s doing a lot of a Skype interviews for remote work, it’s likely not a field with that expectation. But then you get into regional differences and also personal differences. I don’t fault anyone for feeling that if they’re going to be seen by someone who might hire them, they want to do X, Y, or Z beforehand. There’s a whole ton of really individual reasons for making those choices. I don’t judge the women in my office for their choice to wear or not wear makeup, so I’m not really going to do that for somebody doing a job interview either.

          2. Perse's Mom*

            She did specifically call out that her industry is pretty focused on personal appearance, though. That’s more than just a clean shirt and combed hair.

          3. Alli525*

            No, not a movie role, but people hiring for sales jobs and other public-facing positions do care what their employees look like. Whether that’s unfair or sexist is outside the scope of OP’s question.

      3. Wuthering Kate not the OP*

        The only office desk set up in my house near power points means the background behind me at other end of the room is a large window looking onto a carport and backyard. Which is not landscaped. As a norm I don’t do video calls nor own any kind of self standing screen. Accepting a video call would require substantial setup.

          1. Perse's Mom*

            Mine does, but it’s all bent to hell from cats climbing through it over the years. Also it’s directly over my bed, which would be in-frame.

        1. Baby Fishmouth*

          It’s not THAT hard to find a good place. Even in my terrible ex-apartment, I once did a Skype interview sitting on the floor with my back against the kitchen island, so it looked like a wood-like surface behind me. It was fine. I just put my laptop on my coffee table with a book under it to be face-height.

          It’s the clothes/hair/makeup that takes substantially more time – more so than in a face-to-face interview. I do pretty minimal makeup usually, but webcams seem to pick up ALL my flaws, which requires more makeup to look put-together.

          1. SoSo*

            I’ve done multiple video chats and interviews sitting on the floor, against my bedroom wall, with my computer propped up on something in front of me. The rest of my room is a WRECK but no one can tell when you’re sitting three feet from the wall and nothing else is visible. The only prep you need to do is to clear a spot to sit and find something to set your computer on.

            But yeah, it’s the physical “look” that requires more time.

          2. KMB213*

            Not everyone has a laptop – my SO, for example, only has a desktop computer. It’s in his bedroom, as well (small apartment) and the bed is in frame when he’s on his webcam – obviously, now that we’re together, I’d just let him use my laptop, I’m just using him as an example of why, though, it’s easy *for you*, it’s not necessarily equally easy for everyone.

            1. Indigo a la mode*

              People whose computers can’t be moved could solve the issue by setting up a white trifold posterboard behind their chair. It’d just look like they were sitting in front of a wall.

        2. Opting for the Sidelines*

          Can you “borrow” a friend’s space for an interview? My step daughter used our house (because it is significantly tidier than her college apartment) for all of her recent Skype interviews.

          I’ve also known people to use front porches, back porches, study rooms at the local library.

          1. Lindsay J*

            I’d worry about excessive background noise on a porch. Dog barking, neighbor decides to start mowing the lawn, motorcycle goes by.

            Or getting annoyed by gnats or mosquito or something.

        3. BuffaLove*

          Unless videoconference technology has come a long way since I last used it in 2013, I think you’re overestimating how much detail you get in the background. I doubt the interviewer would be able to tell that your backyard needed landscaping.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            This may be a whole new opportunity for trompe l’oeil.

            I once did business with a rental car company that placed all their employees in front of a green screen on which was projected the middle of a road. Like ‘We love the open road so much we just place all the customer service people on rolling desks in the middle of a road and hope a semi doesn’t come by when they’re taking your credit card info.

        4. KMB213*

          MY SO only has a desktop and also lives in a small apartment – you can see his bed when he’s on his webcam. Of course, he can make it, but it just feels weirdly personal to invite an interviewer in to your bedroom. (Obviously, now that we are together, I would just let him borrow my laptop, but just to show an example of another reason a person might prefer not to do video interviews.)

      4. Reba*

        Lots of people write in with questions that are not major dramas but just getting Alison’s take on things, is this normal, etc..

    2. snowglobe*

      Our office uses video skype for conference calls a lot, and a number of coworkers have purchased a tri-fold backdrop (like you’d use at a conference booth) to put behind them, so they don’t have to bother with cleaning their home office.

      1. Red 5*

        Yup, in my field where these kinds of interviews are common, people use all kinds of backdrops to just put up a neutral background. It’s way less stressful if you’re doing a lot of interviews to just sort of think about this sort of thing once and not worry about it every single time. Also a lot of people will set up their computers specifically thinking about their surroundings and background. So sometimes if you actually walk into the room it’s not the most logical thing but when you see their recorded video, it looks great because they only had to stage a bit of one wall.

  8. LGC*

    #5: I’m not sure what’s policy at your company, but at mine, unless we have clearance from upper management we treat social work affairs (even departmental holiday potlucks) like regular lunches. (So, unpaid.) Usually, if attending a function is paid, we (as in supervisors like me) will communicate this in advance, and staff is told well in advance.

    1. Ali G*

      For the OPs benefit – what is the policy regarding the hourly staff making the time up? The OP wants to join these events to be a part of the team, but is also potentially getting penalized for having to clock out for 1-2 hours versus the normal half hour. Can your employees stay late to make up the time or do they just have to choose between participating in social activities or get paid for a full day?

      1. Dragoning*

        My managers have always allowed me to simply clock my normal lunch time for work social activities, even if they extended well past that.

      1. I am who I am*

        Per the FLSA worksheet I have, if it’s mandatory it needs to be paid. Problem is it’s not always clear. It may not be strictly mandatory, but also career limiting if you don’t attend.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Right, a good way to cut minor corners on paying employees is to make events fake-voluntary.

        2. JM60*

          This is part of the reason why I dislike semi-mandatory social work events. If your employer sets up such an event, and deciding to not attend would be held against you, then it’s not really optional. Since it’s not really option, it would be unethical for your employer to not pay for the time you spend attending.

          My approach has been to report my typical legally-mandated 30 minute lunch.

      2. Specialk9*

        My company’s policy was that if it was mandatory it was work (because a manager was ordering it, ie work) so billable. Optional social things were not billable.

      3. foolofgrace*

        What’s even worse is one of my jobs where they wanted a team-building exercise (Habitat for Humanity, bowling, whatever) that, as a contractor, I would have to be unpaid to participate since it wasn’t strictly “work”. I thought this was really unfair and I’m afraid I kicked up a bit of a fuss, to no avail.

        1. Dragoning*

          Oooh, my contracting agency wanted to not pay for one of those, but fortunately the company I’m contracted to wanted to pay me so they fought them down.

      4. SavannahMiranda*

        During the first week I started a new job an annual after-work departmental dinner took place at a nice restaurant. I confirmed with HR that I should enter my hours for that event as work hours. They were shocked and a little snotty about it, saying no.

        This wasn’t a social lunch for a employee peer or someone’s birthday. It was a departmental dinner with all my bosses and the head of our department. I didn’t enter it on my time card because I’d asked directly and been answered directly.

        But I never asked again. I put HR in the position of having to come to me and tell me no after the fact and adjust my time card, or make my manager tell me. And they never did. I guess they couldn’t be bothered, or decided not to fight me. Or they went to my manager and he told them no. I don’t know which. I got paid after that for these, as neverjaunty calls them, fake-voluntary events.

        Don’t tell me I’m not going to get paid for events all my bosses and department head expect me to attend. I’ll make you have to promulgate an explicit new policy in response to my refusal to comply and add it to the already voluminous employee manual. Cheat me of pay, and add to your own work.

        1. Life is good*

          I love your story and your comments about fake-voluntary stuff! I was required to join a service organization as part of my hourly paid job once in order to market the members for my company. Their luncheons were once a week and they sponsored a fair booth for two weeks, during work hours, every summer. I asked my boss how I should show the first luncheon on my time card and she shot back that because it was a part of my job requirement, I’d have to do that on my own time. I was pissed and decided to just show all the time spent with this org as on-the-clock time after I left the first one off. My boss surely saw the entries, but never brought it up to me, and I got paid for them after all. That exchange with her and others like it really made me hate that job.

      5. LGC*

        Okay, I mis-stated that. Badly, it seems.

        I meant that if – let’s say – we have a birthday party for someone, it’s optional and usually during our lunch break. If it’s a work meeting, it’s paid. (My employees rarely if ever have to attend meetings over lunch. Neither do I, for the most part.) Our company holiday party (during business hours) is usually paid as well if employees attend, although that depends on upper management.

        I’ve noticed I have a habit of putting my foot in my mouth.

  9. Safetykats*

    For OP1 – I would say your chance of success depends in large part on the size of the company you work for, and the extent to which their policies concerning working hours and benefits are defined in writing. A small company may be able to make exceptions for this kind of idea; a larger company working to corporate policies may have no way to offer a 6 week yearly sabbatical, or even any way not to offer paid time off to all full-time employees. Even a smaller company may have no clear way to keep you on payroll if you’re not on any clearly defined type of leave – and therefore no way to maintain your insurance. In addition, companies of any size tend to worry that once they offer something that looks like an additional benefit to one employee (Look, Sarah gets 6 weeks vacation every year!) they will have to offer it to anyone else who wants the same deal.

    You may have better luck asking for three weeks unpaid leave next year, in addition to your paid leave, and see how that goes over. Make sure they understand you intend to take it all in one block. If they can’t stomach that as a one- time deal, you’re probably better off looking into a career that is already organized this way – like perhaps teaching.

    1. Mockingjay*

      I work for a small government contractor and we bill hours to the government for each contract, typically Cost plus Fixed Fee (cost is what it takes to staff and equip the job; the fee is the profit). When we bid, we account for paid leave in our cost – meaning we subtract leave from the total number of hours expected to work (and bill). Those leave days have to be paid out of the expected profit. For example:

      52 weeks/year x 40 hours = 2080 work hours

      15 days leave = 120 leave hours

      2080 work hours – 120 leave hours = 1,960 billable hours, which is what we bid per employee.

      Swapping set paid leave for a large amount of unpaid means the company is losing billable hours for that employee, which eats into profit. Because of that, we only allow LWOP in limited, defined circumstances, mostly FMLA. A request like OP #1’s would not be granted.

  10. Officer Crabtree*

    #1 Be careful. In terms of your salary, it may cost less to give you 45 unpaid days off, but remember, you are there to work, and help generate money for the company. They may decide to rather replace you.

  11. OrganizedHRChaos*

    OP 5, my company requires hourly employees to dock their 30 min lunch for events like this but the rest of the lunch is paid off the event is paid for by the company. If it’s a social thing then it’s all unpaid.

    1. Thlayli*

      This is what I was going to suggest. If you normally take 30 mins, just put 30 mins on your time sheet. I think it’s basically true too – you would be taking 30 mins usually, and the only reason you are away longer is a business reason. The salaried people’s wages are probably based on a calculation assuming a 30 min lunch, so you are just doing the same as them.

    2. Hush42*

      Yep. This is how I handle it with my employees. They get docked their standard 1 hour lunch even though they usually go for closer to 2 hours.

    3. KimberlyR*

      This is how things have always been for me as well. It would be unfair to penalize your pay for you to join these team social lunches, just because you’re not on a salary. I have always just put my usual 30 minute lunch and this has always been approved by my supervisor.

    4. sunshyne84*

      This is how we do it as well. Put your standard lunch time and you can consider the rest as a meeting.

  12. JerseyAnna*

    #2. It’s really hard trying to work when you’re feeling upset. When I was going through a divorce, I found it helpful to compartmentalise things and schedule upset time. So I’d give myself half an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening to cry but block it out and do my job in between. It seemed to work for me and thankfully hasn’t been necessary for more than year now.

    1. Ama*

      I have had a lot of stuff going on in my personal life in the last year and even though my workplace has been extremely supportive and understanding, there have still been lots of days where it has been a struggle to focus. What I have found helpful is to try and pick out 2-3 goals for my work day — and they can be small ones, like “I’m going to draft/send those email invitations for that event” or “I’m going to set up the spreadsheet I need for that project.” Quite often once I do the small goals I feel more focused on work and can keep going on whatever I’ve started — and if I don’t I at least have moved things forward a little bit.

  13. Tau*

    #1 – I’ve been toying with the idea of going part-time eventually for some time now (luckily, I’m in a country where my health insurance and retirement savings shouldn’t be impacted), so I wish you luck on this one!

    That said, something I couldn’t help but notice was: I am away from home 11 hours a day for my job. That sounds like either you have a >40 hours/week job, or you have a long commute. I don’t know your field, but in case the unpaid holiday suggestion doesn’t pan out, is it possible to see if there are any jobs out there which have fewer hours and/or are closer to home in order to save time? Or, if it’s the commute, move closer to your job? I can say from experience that something as simple as 37.5 hours/week vs 40, or a 15 minute commute vs a 35 minute one, can make a huge difference in quality of life for me.

    1. Thlayli*

      When they do happiness surveys the length of your commute is actually one of the top three factors that impact your happiness. I agree that a short 15-20 min commute has made a massive difference to my quality of life.

      1. The Original K.*

        I agree. I was completely miserable when I had a 90-minute commute even though I liked the job itself.

        1. Ama*

          I have discovered that I can tolerate my current 40-50 minute commute, but only because I take public transit (and because there’s only a few times a year when I need to be at work more than 8 hours)– and I also realized the other day that smartphones and podcasts have made a huge difference because the last time I had a commute over 25 minutes it was 2006 and I could only afford an mp3 player that held about 100 songs and had to be manually reloaded via my home computer.

          1. Leela*

            Where I live was completely shunned by new transit. I have to take a 30 minute bus going the wrong way, get on the wrong skytrain and take THAT going the wrong way for a good 20/30 minutes, then connect with the correct skytrain, double back over areas I was already in on the bus but that don’t connect to what I need to get to work which takes 30 minutes. The whole thing takes about 1.5 hours to work, and can take up to 3 hours coming back because there can be very long wait times for a bus. It’s miserable. There’s so much changeup I can’t really relax, even reading is so difficult it’s not worth it because I have to constantly be aware of where I am. I think even the same amount of time would be far more bearable if I could just board one bus/one train and take it the whole way.

            What’s worse is that my job relocated, used to be physically much further from me but we have an express train that would take me from my city all the way in to where it was in 40 minutes (and was a very pleasant ride). When they moved to this much closer but much harder to get to location they told me how awesome it was going to be for me because it’s closer (I could drive there in about 20 minutes plus parking) but I’m stuck with this awful transit. The express doesn’t go anywhere near the new location or connect anywhere useful to shave some time for me:/

      2. Ali G*

        Yup – I am currently job searching and I just plain refuse to cross the river everyday. I did it for 10+ years and not doing it anymore. Does it minimize my prospects? Sure – but I will be happier in the long run.

    2. JamieS*

      11 hours could mean 40 hour work week with an hour lunch (45 total) plus an hour commute each way. Depending on where OP lives that could be pretty standard.

      1. Natalieful*

        Although if they’re looking at one non standard solution they might as well look at another.

      2. Ladysplainer*

        I’ve never had a job with an unpaid “lunch break” that we weren’t expected to work through.

    3. Glowcat*

      I was actually wondering if I were the only one to have noticed; everyone was focusing on the time off as if 11 hours work days were normal…
      If OP is really working 11 hours a day I would urge them to start looking. If it is because of the commute, as others suggested… well, I would still start looking, because long commutes can be really consuming.
      Maybe other companies could offer part-time jobs with some benefits, so I think it’s worth to look around in any case.

      1. SavannahMiranda*

        Well, really, 11 hour days are normal. People talk about the 8 hour day as if they are truly 8 hours when they’re not.

        An hour lunch, while nominally free, is not truly free because of transition time between desk or job site, and whatever it is you need to accomplish during that hour, whether it’s errands or eating. And many office workers don’t actually take lunch at all, not a true away-from-the-desk-sit-down-meal event.

        Lunch is not authentic downtime.

        Add an hour commute, including getting out of the house with all belongings, into the car, navigating to the major roadways to get underway, and then navigating parking upon arrival, exiting ones car, riding the elevator or taking the stairs, putting away belongings, and the other tasks required before physically sitting down at one’s desk, and most people with 15-20 minute commutes easily have 30-40 minute true commutes – door to desk. And those with 30-40 minute commutes actually have 1 hour true commutes.

        Place that same hour on the back end, and you have an 11 hour day.

        This is the real cost of most office workers’ days. The 8 hour day is a mythical beast.

        When calculating whether one’s salary or hourly wage is worth it, always calculate by an 11 hour day, not an 8 hour day. Because that’s more than likely going to be the true experience.

        1. Lindsay J*

          Uh, that’s not my experience at all.

          It may be true in some cases, but I would not consider it to be universal at all.

          Plenty of jobs only have 30 minute lunches, or an hour lunch that is part of the 9-5 day, not on top of it.

          And leaving the house and walking into the office do not generally take 10-20 minutes.

          My commute is 18 minutes door-to-door. 15 minutes of it is driving. Two minutes walking to my car. One minute walking inside to my office. If you want to add another minute inside the house to gather stuff together, and another minute to put down my stuff and log into my computer in my office, sure, that’s 20 minutes total. Not 30, not 40, and definitely not an hour.

          And if I had a 3o minute commute driving commute, the stuff on either side wouldn’t change. It would be 35 minutes, total. Stretching a 30 minute commute into being actually an hour really seems like a stretch to me.

          I can’t think of anyone who would not consider “navigating to the major roadways to get underway” to be part of their commute time. If they say they have a 15 minute commute, that is generally at the least parking-lot to parking-lot, not 5 minutes of local roads and 15 minutes of highway. If they had that they would say they have a 20 minute commute.

          Not all offices have congested parking lots or long trips inside using stairs and elevators.

          The only things I can see extending this are say, stopping for Starbucks every morning, Then, yeah, your 20 minute commute is probably actually closer to a 40 minute one once you pull in, navigate the line, order, pay for your drink, wait for your drink to be prepared, sip it, and get back on the road.

          Or if you take public transit and count the travel time but not waiting at the stops.

          Or live in an area with bad traffic and remember the one time you got to work in 20 minutes because there was nobody on the road, but don’t consider that it more regularly takes you 45.

          And I know living in cities or metro areas the long commute is more common. Living in NJ a commute of 1:30 each way wasn’t abnormal.

          Where I am right now, commuting more than 30 minutes would be way outside the norm.

          Depends on the nature of your job, too. True 9-5s are still possible, but definitely a lot rarer.

    4. Persimmons*

      The 11-hour days caught my eye as well.

      LW, if the length of the work days and/or the commute is part of the issue, and your part-time request won’t fly, could you ask to change to four 10-hour days? It obviously won’t give you the same head space as a 6-week block of free time, but it could make a difference nonetheless.

      Pros include:

      *You’d stay full-time and maintain benefits.
      *You’d have to commute 20% less often
      *If your long work days are due to getting “stuck” when issues arise, you may already be working more than 8 hours per day anyway, and a four-day week would give you one fewer day to get hung up on your way out the door. It’s feasible that you’d end up putting in fewer hours overall.

    5. Nita*

      Doesn’t surprise me in the least. My commute used to be 2-2.5 hours total (so, 10-10.5 hours away). If I have to work even a slightly longer day, that creeps over 11 hours very easily. And, the commute itself has been getting longer and is now closer to 3-3.5 hours (so, minimum 11-11.5 hours out of the house).

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yes, in the DC area anything under an hour commute is considered reasonable and normal. If you want a shorter commute you either (a) have to find a job that doesn’t require going into the city; (b) have a job that allows generous telecommuting; or (c) make a lot of money to be able to afford to live closer in. (And, as a point of reference, I live about 15 miles from DC, my commute is about an hour door-to-desk, and a quarter-acre plot of land with a 1000-square foot, 1950s house that may or may not be serviceable goes for a half-million plus. I’d love to live closer to my office, but we simply cannot afford a $1M+ home.)

    6. neverjaunty*


      LW, the problem here isn’t a chunk of time away from work, it’s that you have a job with really long hours. One chunk of annual time off isn’t the same as a sustainable lifestyle where you have energy to put into your art on a regular basis.

      1. Plague of frogs*

        I somewhat disagree. Having another hour or two a night to work on an art project is not anything like having a long period of sustained time to focus on it.

      2. Jennifer Thneed*

        we don’t know the LW’s actual working hours. We only know that they are “away from home 11 hours a day for my job”. I totally read that as a 40-hour job and plus commute and lunch.

  14. Princess Cimorene*

    #5, if I remember correctly, as mentioned above, when I was hourly, things like this were paid, minus maybe my normal unpaid break. I wouldn’t think it fair to be out of the office for hours with your company, even if it seemed leisurely and miss out on pay because of it.

    1. Colette*

      I would assume that if it was a team lunch (i.e. email invite to the other team to celebrate a holiday/big work accomplishment/a person who was leaving), it would be paid. If someone just suggested that everyone go out for lunch, it would not be paid. But this is the kind of thing where you need to know your company.

  15. Les G*

    It feels like #4’s directing a lot of righteous indignation towards folks who don’t deserve it. Of course you should assume a Skype interview is over video. No, you shouldn’t treat someone who wants one (and assumes you understood “skype” to mean “video,” a reasonable assumption) as though they’re trespassing in your house. Getting dressed is always time you could spend doing something else, whether you have a job interview or not, so that’s a weak excuse.

    1. anonagain*

      I didn’t really get this impression. I think job searching is a stressful process where so much feels uncertain and out of your control. You want to do well (so you can eat and have a place to live and all that), but it’s not always clear how. It’s hard and in that context, something like someone not telling you ahead of time that the Skype call is going to be audio-only is going to be more stressful than if the same thing happened with a work meeting.

      I think OP 4 was just venting a bit in addition to asking how she can best manage her time. She certainly didn’t treat anyone like a trespasser.

    2. Triplestep*

      OP#4 works from home, but for candidates like me who currently work in an office, not clarifying “Skype Video” vs “Skype, Voice Only” is a HUGE problem. Finding a place and time to sneak away for video conference is next to impossible in my job. I had a hiring manager send me a Skype invitation then change the time of our meeting twice. When writing back and forth to find a new time, I specifically said “If it’s going to be a voice call only, I can meet at X, X or X times. If it’s going to be video, I can only do X time.” That would have been the time for her to say “Oh, this will only be voice” – I could have taken the call in my car like I typically do.

      Instead she kept sending invites with not just one but TWO links to a video call. So you can imagine my dismay after I went to *A LOT* of trouble to find a way to have this video interview, only to hear her say “Oh … did you want to do video? I’m working from home and in my baseball cap. You don’t want to see me.” Really? I almost took a day off for this!

      Honestly, I can’t even tell you what we discussed on that call – I realized later I had spent so much time and experienced so much anxiety about how I would pull off a video call during my work day without getting caught, I wasn’t prepared for the interview itself. Big surprise – I didn’t move on as a candidate. Who knows if I would have moved on if I’d been better prepared, but the whole episode left a really bad taste in my mouth.

      1. MLB*

        As Alison mentioned, I would always assume they’re using Skype for a video call because if not why wouldn’t you just pick up the phone? If it’s difficult to find a space for a video call, ask what is expected and save yourself the stress.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Because some people use VoIP or use Skype as an alternate phone line rather than for video calls. Because even people who use Skype for video don’t use it with video all the time.

          1. Triplestep*

            Yup. I guess people use it when they don’t want you to have their phone number. Those people should delete any links to a video call in their invitation, however.

          2. pleaset*

            This is true about Skype being used as a phone line, but the phrase “Skype call” without clarification means assume video is likely. Especially if within a single country.

        2. Triplestep*

          I DID assume “Skype” = “Video” (as did OP#4) and I was wrong and inconvenienced for no good reason. That was pretty much my point.

          A lot of the comments here and up-thread seem to be answering Alison’s headline “Should you assume a Skype interview will be on video?” when the point of the OP post is that interviewers should be more clear since preparations for a phone call or different for preparations for a video call. It’s just considerate thing to do.

          Yes, lesson learned – I will ask next time. I thought differentiating between voice and video in my note to the Hiring Manager would have been enough, but apparently not.

      2. Specialk9*

        Yeah, interviewing can be really difficult, hard to schedule, and the power differential is often more on one side.

        That’s true for in person and video interviews. I don’t think a phone interview is good for anything but a pre screen. Interviewing is so imprecise for creating a long future relationship, that expecting interviewers to cut out visual clues is not reasonable.

        But that doesn’t make interviewing suck less.

    3. Rat in the Sugar*

      Personally I didn’t read much righteous indignation in OP’s letter–to me she just seems annoyed at most. And I don’t see where you’re getting that OP is treating someone who wants a video conference as trespassing in their home–she only says that it’s more invasive in some ways than an in-office interview, and that she would like prior notice before someone is (virtually) coming into her home. Which I totally get; I understand a lot of people here wouldn’t mind doing a video call at all, but for people who are very private the thought of someone seeing into your home, even if they only see a wall, is a bit off-putting and some warning is appreciated.

  16. Barbara*

    OP1 : would relocating be an option ? Many countries offer more than 2 weeks holiday. It’s 5.6 weeks in the UK for instance.
    OP3 : I wouldn’t go. I would be too scared

      1. Plague of frogs*

        I dunno…I am seriously starting to consider it for my “I would like to retire early and still have decent health insurance” problem.

        1. Courageous cat*

          Best of luck to a lot of y’all in the comments saying this, because I would genuinely love to do the same thing, but I just don’t think that’s how it works. My understanding is you have to have some very in-demand skills to be able to emigrate permanently to a place like the UK/Europe, or marry someone there. My brother *does* have very in-demand skills and still couldn’t stay more than 3-4 years due to his visa – they just won’t let you.

          1. SignalLost*

            Also, the current state of Brexit means moving to the U.K. is a really bad idea, unless of course you want to experience food riots firsthand, which is basically the end result of a no-deal Brexit. It’s not sunshine and roses and unlimited vacation there.

      2. Courageous cat*

        Agreed. God, if it were, people would be leaving in droves. But it’s not easy to live in another country permanently.

  17. SafetyFirst*

    #1: I’m assuming the primary benefit you are interested in keeping is health insurance. The other snag you may run into here is that the insurance company itself may set the minimum number of working hours. This was the case when the small company (Pennsylvania, US) I work for was starting out – we were all part time hourly, and didn’t meet the minimum number of hours required for the company to be able to offer us health insurance. It may be that bigger companies have more leverage to negotiate exceptions.

    While avoiding a discussion about issues with health insurance in the US, my understanding about the reason for these rules is that otherwise, people would form a “company” just to obtain insurance while doing nominal or no real work for the “company”.

    Finally, even if your VP is willing to ignore the policy rules to give you a perk like this, you should find out what the actual rules of the policy are. It might feel like no big deal to be “getting away” with getting benefits while not working enough hours, but if something major were to happen that would require a large payout from the insurance, there is a risk that they will audit your eligibility and refuse to cover you.

    1. Natalieful*

      I don’t think your company was being honest with you, at least based on my experience. It’s up to the employer to set eligibility requirements, the insurance company doesn’t do that. And it’s usually down to how much the company wants to pay for premiums, since they pay the full cost.

      Forming a company to access employer provided coverage doesn’t really make sense – it’s not free or discounted in any way, you would still have to pay the full premium as a company just as you would have as an individual.

    2. Basis, also a Fed*

      Someone I worked with once took off two months unpaid. To keep their health insurance, the company required them to pay for their health insurance premium. This was a requirement of our employer, not the insurance company. So, while she wasn’t working, she had to pay them several hundred dollars. She decided it was worth it. It wouldn’t surprise me if the LW’s company required this as well (assuming they approve the time off), since they don’t provide health insurance to part time workers, and others might perceive the LW as getting special treatment.

    3. Dragoning*

      This is very strange, and I’ve never heard anything like this at all living in America my entire life.

      Companies do pay insurance companies–if people decided to form a company, they would indeed have to pay for the insurance they obtained that way. Heck, people generally have to pay something for their health insurance offered by their companies as is.

    4. anon golf course owner family member*

      I have heard of Blue Cross in my state doing this too. My family owned a golf course and wanted to give all the FT employees year round health insurance even though the weather in this state only allows for golfing about half the year. My family still wanted to do it and BCBS said no, they had to be open 9 months a year. This was a while ago, before ACA. No idea if that would still be the case. Not much competition for BCBS here.

      1. Bea*

        Pre-ACA the insurance companies did pull things like this, it was a nightmare navigating their system trying to insure a company with 10-15 employees, sigh.

  18. The Original K.*

    100% would not go to an interview at 11 PM. The OP’s HR friend laughed at the suggestion; that’s a pretty clear sign that this is Not Done.

      1. Specialk9*

        If they had been on the phone, they at least would have had a contact. They only had email, and a sketch one at that.

    1. Triple Anon*

      Yeah. It sounds like some kind of scam – either the job posting was fake or someone gained access to the company’s system and is sending fake responses to applicants. If it’s a well known, established company, I would want them to know about this.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yes – fake job scammers do claim to be from real companies. Sometimes they impersonate real people from real companies. I’ve had it happen to me.

    2. Garrett*

      I went to an interview at around 8 pm one night. I knew the guy who contacted me, so it wasn’t scary or anything. But it turned out to me a MLM deal, so I passed. But at least I had some knowledge going in. This one sounds bad.

  19. PieInTheBlueSky*

    #3 — Hypothetically speaking, if OP3 was being considered for an overnight shift job, would it be reasonable for an interview to be scheduled at 11pm? Perhaps the overnight manager on duty would do the interview at that time?

    1. WS*

      Yes, I have had a 10pm interview because that’s when the relevant staff were there. But it wasn’t the first interview and it was specifically for a job on that shift, so it wasn’t a surprise and had all the normal contact information.

      1. Copier Admin Girl*

        +1. My boyfriend had an interview for his now-job at 11:30pm because that was a) the shift he was going to be permanently working, and b) the shift that the hiring manager worked. I would say the timing could be unusual depending on the industry. My boyfriend works for a huge international medical company that operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so it didn’t seem alarming to have such a late interview time. Trusting your intuition on this would be the way to go. If you do go to it, perhaps someone you trust could accompany you so you aren’t alone. Best of luck! :)

    2. John Rohan*

      Other jobs come to mind too. Bartender, bouncer, night watchman, even stripper! – it could be a position that normally works nights.

    3. Snickerdoodle*

      I interviewed for an overnight stock position and had my interview in the morning when they were finishing the shift. I certainly didn’t go in for an interview at 4 a.m., nor would I ever for a job that didn’t involve much higher pay than that one did.

    4. Triple Anon*

      I think it wouldn’t be unheard of in a store that closes at 10pm, or even 9pm. They might have solid business reasons to interview applicants before opening or after closing. But it would be so unusual, and such a big request to make, the way to do it would be with a phone call and an interview time during normal hours as a backup option. “Look, we’re really busy right now because it’s peak season. I know this is a lot to ask, but would you be able to come in late tonight? I can be there at 11. If that doesn’t work, which I can completely understand, I can fit you in later this week at 1pm.” The fact that it’s a form email and they’re not responding makes it sketchy, not just the time by itself.

    5. The Rat-Catcher*

      Yes. I had an interview at Big Box Store at 9:30 pm when I was going to work overnights. It made some kind of sense because you would meet the correct managers. Also, if they’re sleepy at a 9:30 interview, they’re probably not a great person to consider for a gig that involves staying up all night. The same reason I got invited to ragers that were held at 8:00 am…but that’s another topic.

    6. Admin of Sys*

      I was wondering the same thing! I worked 2nd shift for years, but we started out on a split shift because we were the first folks hired for those hours, and it made since to train us with the 1st shift people. When we started the 3rd shift, we interviewed people at what counted as the middle of our shift, but that was 4ish. But I could see interviewing someone late if the scheduled shift was 3 days of 12a-12n or something.

  20. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

    OP3, I would seriously consider filing a report with the FCC, if I were you. This sounds like an email trafficking scam, and the FCC’s website will let you report it so they can investigate. If nothing else, I would definitely NOT GO to an 11pm interview with no confirmation.

    1. PersephoneUnderground*

      You know, I was going to say that sounds like an overreaction, but after thinking about it I agree with you. If it’s nothing it’s unlikely filing a report will do any harm. If it’s something it may match previous complaints on file or start a paper trail that makes whatever kind of scammer this is (robbery, fraud of some kind, trafficking) easier to catch in the future. There’s a place to report these things, might as well use it.

  21. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    Well, OP1, I work in the UK, and I get 6 weeks paid holiday per year, plus 8 days for public holidays. If UK employers can work around all of their employees being out of the workplace for 38 days a year, I’m sure your employer can come up with a plan for you. Good luck!

    OP3 – are you sure it’s not a typo and they mean 11am?

    OP4 – of course you should assume Skype is video. Otherwise why not just have phone call? You only have to look smart from the waist up…….. :)

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Your employer probably plans for the more generous vacation leave that is more typically available in Europe. If OP’s employer has planned and staffed for their folks to take three weeks off, that is probably what they have coverage for. I am baffled at the suggestion that, just because other companies that are in other countries, where time-off norms are clearly different, can do it, surely OP1’s can, too. Why should her company plan for *twice* the absences their benefits package offers?? What happens when the next employee asks? You can’t treat people differently.

      1. Adaline B.*

        Yup and they probably don’t plan on employees being out for 38 days *in a row*. That’s totally different than that vacation time spaced out over a year.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Also true – when I came back from maternity leave, one of my borderline Spock-esque coworkers nearly hugged me the day I came back because of how challenging my being out for 16 weeks was, even with planning and a temp to cover for me. He’d been working crazy hours for a month, and the first thing we did was sent him on vacation. And then nominated him for a special bonus award because of how well he’d done holding down the fort.

  22. Red 5*

    For Skype calls, I’ve never done a job interview with one but other kinds of interviews/calls I always just ask if people will be wanting video as we’re coordinating the schedule and who will call who, etc. I have the pretty easy excuse that I don’t keep my webcam hooked up and ready at all times (because I don’t) but if that wouldn’t be true I think if you want to offer a reason it’s pretty normal to say you want to make sure you’ve tested your settings beforehand or something.

    But really, I’ve stopped even offering a reason, I just say “would you want to do this audio only or would you like to do a video call?” I’ve never had anybody react weirdly to it, and Skype calls already involve setting up logistics like exchanging usernames and stuff, so there’s a natural place to just ask.

    And in the rare cases where I’ve set up the call myself, I try to remember to add something like “we can just do audio only on this one.” So maybe good reminder to everybody who sets these things up, try to remember to specify what your expectations are.

  23. Just Jess*

    Speaking of public holidays, perhaps OP#1 could also offer to work the skeleton crew on paid public holidays. It isn’t clear if public holidays were already calculated in the 15 PTO days.

  24. I'm A Little Teapot*

    OP #1 – may I direct you to http:// www. mrmoneymustache .com/ ? You may find it illuminating and inspirational.

    1. Specialk9*

      Love MMM! But the forum can be a bit abrasive and ableist. I still think it’s worth using to challenge one’s assumptions about money and working.

      1. I'm A Little Teapot*

        It’s not for everyone. The forum’s overall attitude is a reflection of the style of the blog. If you don’t like it, then I’d recommend taking whatever is useful from the blog and skipping the forums, or just going elsewhere.

      2. JokersandRogues*

        Yeah, that’s kinda how I feel about it. I go every now and then and get tips etc. and it’s kinda interesting, but the abrasive and assumptions about what can people can do are a bit much sometimes….

      3. Plague of frogs*

        Yes, I feel the same the way–lots of great advice, but would never comment there. Although, it can get pretty ableist over here too :(

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Same. I have read the blog and taken some thing away from it; however, there are times it crosses into condescension towards people who choose to remain in the “rat race” (regardless of reason) and some of the people in the forums are flat-out unkind.

  25. SemiRetired*

    I realize that LW4 was using a bit of hyperbole, but, what field requires looking “effortlessly put together and youthful?” Fashion, maybe? My field requires being fully dressed and reasonably well groomed. I put on a bra and shoes and comb my hair (which I might not if I were working remotely) and these things don’t require much effort but I don’t know if I’d describe my “look” as “effortless.” As for youthful…don’t we often have commenters writing in asking about how to appear less youthful? So… not a big deal but it struck me odd, especially from someone who appears to usually work remotely and not be at all “put together” to the point that it’s an inconvenience to get “put together” for an interview. But sympathies on not knowing whether it was going to be audio only or not. I didn’t even know you could skype just audio…why wouldn’t you just use a phone?

    1. Specialk9*

      I’m inclined to believe that they understand their industry.

      To give sideeye to their feeling put-upon by video interviews, but believe their grasp of their industry.

    2. SoSo*

      To address your last question: Skype calls allow for conference audio, which might be necessary if multiple interviewers are calling in to the interview. My company uses Skype for Business and that is our conference line provider, with or without the audio.

      1. Specialk9*

        Yeah us too. For conference calls individuals choose video or stock photo. For an interview though I’d assume video, because it’s an interview.

  26. Miss Fisher*

    Letter # 1, have you taken into account how this will also effect the other people you work closely with? If I had to cover for someone who would be out 9 weeks a year, I would be pretty angry and bitter with that individual. Especially given that you would only be covering for them their minimum, time off. I k now here, everyone ranges from 2 to 5 weeks vacation depending on how long you have been with the company and even then people can get a little bitter with the more seasoned employees taking more time off.

    1. BuffaLove*

      Yeah, this is something else that they need to think about. If my coworker finagled their way into 9 weeks off per year with no hit to their benefits, I’d be seeing green, especially since that seems to go against their existing policy. If it led to more work for me, I would be seriously unhappy.

      1. Specialk9*

        Life really isn’t zero sum though. A company that was flexible in that way would likely be good for you when you needed it too.

        Don’t be the monkeys pulling each other down.

        1. Reba*

          Yeah, I would be happy to learn my company would be decent to generous about a situation like this!

          Obviously much depends on how they handle with the rest of the staff — but agree with Specialk9, that rests on management, not the coworker.

        2. Traveling Teacher*


          I’ve been on both sides of this in the past (covering extended leave for “fun” stuff, like vacations, and covering for “needed” stuff, like surgery and maternity leave). Never occurred to me to resent that person for either of those things. Life happens, and I knew that, should I need it, I could take that time, too.

      2. McWhadden*

        Pay is a pretty huge benefit. And they wouldn’t be getting that. Which is a hit to their benefits.

        You honestly would want your co-worker to go without health insurance? So, if they get cancer and can’t get treatment that would be a just reward for taking more time off?

        1. Temperance*

          Of course no one wants their coworkers to get cancer, FFS. They’re saying that they wouldn’t want to cover for a colleague who was receiving full benefits and getting over two months of work time off each year to do their “artistic pursuits”, and would be irked at the prospect.

          Which I get, because that would really suck.

          1. Specialk9*

            Why, though? They’re getting paid for the work they do. They negotiated with the company for flexibility.

            It just seems like a weird attitude: oh no, someone else is getting something desirable, that harms me, let’s grab it away or stew in bitterness.

            1. Clare*

              But what they are saying is it would harm them, because the coworkers would have extra work dumped on them for 9 weeks each year for no extra pay.

              1. smoke tree*

                I think that’s the kind of thing the manager would need to take into account when deciding if this could work out–if the only way to make it work would basically be to distribute the LW’s job among her coworkers, it seems like it’s not a good fit for that position.

        2. McWhadden*

          No, she was pretty clear that getting benefits alone would be irksome. And then even more so if they had to cover.

          Again, why would you actively want your co-worker to lose their health insurance?

          1. McWhadden*

            And not getting paid means they AREN’T getting full benefits. That someone continues to be insured doesn’t impact other people.

          2. McWhadden*

            Additionally, she’s also giving up all her paid time off which is another benefit. So losing both pay and all PTO means she is not getting full benefits.

      3. Just Jess*

        It’s management’s job to make a decision that works best for the org. and other employees. OP#1 doesn’t have anything to do with that. Management better say no if it’s too big of a burden. If someone at my job did that then I’d be cheering them on and wondering what kind of perks I could negotiate. Could I proactively suggest taking the extra work for a small raise or running an intern program so that we didn’t have to worry about temp agencies? Something, any kind of new opportunity…

        BTW, I am so impressed that OP#1 calculated that one PTO day costs as much as three non-paid days off. The math doesn’t even have to match up with my situation. It’s just so cool to present it that way.

    2. Indie*

      It’s only going to work if
      a) OPs time off can be prepped for before/ caught up later
      b) There’s a genuine low season
      c) Job share where the deal also works for the other person
      d) The pot can be kept boiling by a temp and the company is ok with that.

      I was actually quite surprised there was no mention of workflow demand because it’s key.

  27. Peaches*

    #5 – I totally get this! I’m an hourly employee, and we have monthly sales meeting in which we all eat lunch together halfway through. It’s technically supposed to be a “break”, so I clock out, but naturally the topic of conversation all during lunch is work-related, which is frustrating. I wish these lunches weren’t required. I strongly prefer to eat lunch alone and out of the office – I need that break to recharge for the rest of the afternoon!

    1. Specialk9*

      That’s work. You yourself call it a meeting. If it’s mandatory, if they demand you be in a certain location doing a certain thing, then it’s work. If it’s unpaid, you get to go outside and go for a run or do your own thing.

  28. Public Health Nerd*

    LW 1 – I did 0.8 FTE for about 7 years at my last job for exactly this reason. Find out if your company would cover health insurance at that rate, and if yes, tell them that you’re interested. Alternatively, ask them if you can work 4 ten hour shifts. It’s super common in healthcare, so we had a lot of artists and musicians working there on schedules that made their art possible. I would encourage you to consider if you can actually “turn on” your artistic focus for a 6-9 week period. For me, the first two weeks would have been lost to dealing with burnout, watching netflix, and eating Girl Scout cookies. It was a lot better to maintain a regular art schedule. But you’ll know your situation best – just a thought to consider.

    1. iheartcoffee*

      I thought I would love 4-10’s (and I’m sure there’s many that do). I imagined all of the free time I’d have, all the mini vacation’s I’d take, etc. But instead I found myself being wiped out on the first of the three days off. It take a whole day for me to recover. Never again. Again, I do know people who love it – it’s just not for me.

  29. Leafy Greens*

    Regarding #4, I’ve been the interviewer in this situation, and for the interviewee to initiate video even though the interviewing team was on voice-only was viewed as a really big positive, especially when hiring for remote positions. It shows you’re adept at technology and bridging some of those communcation gaps that are caused by having employees in different offices or working from home. We weren’t using it as some kind of test of course; it was just something that ended up impressing the team.

    1. pleaset*

      Adding to this that I hate video calls, but if you’re applying for job you want to present yourself as strongly and as memorably as possible. If you can make video work, do it! Don’t try to avoid it to save a little time. Go for it.

  30. AnonInfinity*

    OP #3 – they may think you want to work third shift, and the third shift manager is interviewing you. When I managed retail, I helped hire for third shift, and we would only schedule interviews from 9p-11p, because that’s when the third shift managers were there to meet you. And…that’s when you’d be at work, so why interview you at noon? The sketchy nature of the email doesn’t entirely surprise me – my coworkers couldn’t write emails to save their lives and wouldn’t think to soften an email with, “We saw your application and have an opening for third shift. If you’re interested, please call me at *phone number.*”

    Definitely rude/careless on their end but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was legit. And I wouldn’t blame you for passing. (I would.)

    1. AnonInfinity*

      I should add: if you call the location directly, using contact info from Google and not the email, ask to speak with a salaried manager or someone in Personnel. They should have SOME info to give you. Absolutely.

      We always called applicants, because our emails didn’t work outside of the company intranet at the store level. FWIW.

  31. iheartcoffee*

    #5 -The rule for hourly employees where I worked was that if you go to lunch with a coworker/boss/team and work was being discussed you could mark it on your time card. If work wasn’t discussed you wouldn’t. But you HAD to have at least 30 minutes of an unpaid lunch break. So it was strongly discouraged for hourly employees to go to any lunches where work might be discussed because then you would be away from work even longer by having to take a 30 min unpaid lunch. Salary employees could take as long as a lunch as they pleased of course and leave at a normal time.

    Where I worked, most employees were salary and very few were hourly. This meant there were “optional” team lunches where all the salaried people would go to lunch for 1.5 hours together and the hourly could only go if they didn’t want to get paid for their time and the salaried people would have to watch what you say. It was very demoralizing to be the hourly person (of equal title and salary range btw).

    Another example is Hallowweeen – They had an all afternoon event for the whole company and asked each department to have volunteers setting up the area, passing out candy to employee’s kids that were brought in etc. But if you were hourly you would have to do it off the clock..

    And no this isn’t a small company. All I will say is this is one of the largest companies in the world, and it’s an office location.

  32. Amber Rose*

    #3 is how my special doctor’s appointments work. I get a letter in the mail telling me I have a test scheduled at the furthest hospital from my house in the middle of the night in six months. It sucks, but it’s gotta happen. For you, this isn’t necessary. They haven’t talked to you and are acting like they own your time. Don’t subject yourself to the stress.

    And it is stressful. There’s something about doing a thing in the middle of the night that you aren’t used to doing at night that just makes it so much worse, at least in my experience. Kinda gives it a surreal, uncomfortable feeling.

  33. samiratou*

    OP #3, I work at Target, and sometimes our HR will schedule interviews for after orientation on Wednesday, when they’re in, but that’s 9-10 pm. Even 11pm would be a pretty big stretch. And that would be after a phone call to make sure that time works for you, not an email saying “show up in 10 hours” which is just weird. It could be for a 3rd shift position, but I think you would know if you had applied for a 3rd shift job?

    I’m sure the day has long passed, but I hope you pop in and post an update!

  34. Quill*

    Am I the only one who’s concerned that OP #1 is spending 11 hours a day on the combination of being at work and commuting? Assuming they’re currently on a 40 hour work week, 8 hours a day, (unless there’s a full extra hour required for lunch, which might bring it to 9) they’re spending more than 2 hours per day commuting… which, while I know it’s common, still strikes me as an excessive amount of time if you’re trying to do anything in your life besides work.

    OP, if you can find any way to reduce that commute time, or repurpose it for creative endeavors (i.e. taking public transportation and working on personal projects then – though it’s harder with art than with stuff like writing or reading) it might help even if your vacation request does not go through.

    1. AnonInfinity*

      I missed where OP discussed commute time?

      I regularly worked 10-12 hour (often more) days for six years at two different jobs in two different industries – before my 40-60 minute commute each way. OP could easily be working 10-hour days with a 30-minute commute each way – and that’s not out of the norm. I wish a 40 hour week was standard, but it rarely is.

  35. Lily Moon*

    I don’t know, OP#1. I don’t think they’re going to go for it, honestly. Even though it could help them out financially, there are other things to consider. First, you said your vice president doesn’t like special treatment, and this falls under that scope to me. Even though the time you’re off is unpaid, you’d still be getting a heck of a lot more time off than anyone else. Also, there may be legal implications for them to consider. Most businesses are very careful that employees use their PTO correctly. Let’s say they agreed to this, and then you turned around after it was over and said they are refusing to pay you even though you supposedly have 15 days of PTO? Not saying you’d do that, but that’s issues you’d have to think about. There w0uld be a contract in place, I imagine, but honestly, they may decide all of that is not worth the hassle or the extra bucks they’d save. And I don’t even know that they’d care about the financial benefits, frankly. That kind of thing is automatically factored in, so it’s not like they’re not used to it.

    1. CM*

      Yes, the VP who wants uniformity stuck out to me too — in light of that, this seems like an unreasonable and possibly job-threatening perk to ask for.

      Also, seconding that it’s not a purely financial calculation for the company, and if you present it as “the company isn’t losing money so it’s just as good!” that will come across as naive. The company has specific business practices with people who are trained to do them, software or other tools required to maintain them, and reporting that depends on them. At most places, it would be difficult to make an exception for one person who wants a different arrangement, even if the arrangement would save the company money.

      I’d look at the other suggestions about having more time — asking for a 4-day work schedule, switching to a job with unlimited PTO where you are actually allowed to use it, changing jobs to something more flexible, even consider moving to Europe. Unless you’re at the point where you are ready to leave your job, I would not ask for this. Maybe if you’re eligible for a raise, you could ask for an extra week of vacation instead (which would also be a big ask even if unpaid).

      1. SoSo*

        Agreed. I’d even add in a point about asking if partial remote work is an option? Maybe they’d be willing to let you WFH one to two days a week, which would save you some extra hours.

        But just because the conversion to unpaid days *looks* like it’s equal or saving money, there’s still going to be a cost to the business. Would your absence that often be disruptive to your job, department, or team? Would they have to implement a new system for the “special circumstance” of allowing you that much unpaid time off? Surely they’d have to spend time strategizing, drafting up some sort of agreement, and consulting with someone to make sure there’s no legal ramifications.

        Honestly to me, this seems like a HUGE ask and I know if anyone even tried it at my company, they’d laugh. I think OP might be better off finding a new job with a better work/life balance.

  36. 11pm Job Interview*

    LW, this sounds like a scam at best and a dangerous situation at worst. The ONLY time I’d ever had a job interview at night was when I was “invited” to one in college. They got the names of student union workers somehow and we were being “given a great opportunity.”

    It was MLM BS…and it was at night because that was the only time the sleazeballs could afford to rent the hotel meeting room.

    If you do go to this interview, bring someone or two someones with you to at least walk you into the building and scope out the scene. If anything looks sketchy, bolt.

  37. Bob Loblaw*

    #4 – It’s probably best to be video conference ready for a Skype interview if there’s no mention of it being video. But I disagree with Alison that the company should just default to phone if it’s not video. I’m based in the US, and the company I work for is not. When I interviewed with leadership outside the US, it was over a Skype call instead of phone. Not video. It’s a startup, so working on a lean budget and we typically use Skype or Whatsapp for global calls.

    1. pleaset*

      I’d say the phrase “Skype call” in the US usually means video – otherwise why use Skype.

      With international calls it often means just voice, saving money over traditional calls.

      But it is always worth asking if it is important to you.

  38. Not A Morning Person*

    OP#1, you may want to investigate how your health insurance is calculated. At my employer, if you work fewer hours during a pay period than full time, your status changes from Full time to Part time and the cost/amount of your benefits changes accordingly. Part timers share of the cost for their insurance is higher than that for full-time employees. When I started here, I had an unexpected issue that may have required that I take a couple of weeks off for treatment and recuperation. I did not have enough PTO accrued to take the time as paid and would have required unpaid time. On this health plan, the cost of my benefits would have been higher as a part timer and perhaps I would have had to pay the whole cost if I had taken the whole pay period without pay. Also, I would have likely had to write them a check to pay for my benefits because I would’t have been earning anything during that time. Fortunately, the issue did not turn out to require any time off. But it would have been a lot of work on my part and on my organization’s part to do the change from full time to part time and back based on whether I worked enough or had accumulated enough PTO.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      So your benefits cost can fluctuate if you have to take unpaid leave in an one-off situation? That seems oddly punitive. We had someone on 80% time for a while, and they did have to pay 20% of their benefits cost (my spouse had to do the same when he was part-time for a few years), but for someone who was a full-time employee and just needed to take some LWOP for an unexpected issue, I cannot envision our benefits director asking them to stroke us a check for benefits those weeks. That’s a flower-or-fruit basket and let us know if you need anything situation.

  39. HR Ninja*

    LW#2 –

    I hope I’m not being too presumptuous about your personal life when asking this, but does your company also have an EAP you could utilize if this is an ongoing issue? Just a thought.

  40. Bob Loblaw*

    #1 – OP, You may need to take a careful look at your priorities and make some longterm decisions that best suit your lifestyle. And that may mean your current job is not the right fit for you, even if you enjoy it. I’m an artist too, and have had to make some difficult decisions during my career. Basically, steady income and health insurance have forced me to put my art-focused time in the backseat for now. I’m not suggesting that for you, that is simply my choice and circumstance. However, it sounds as if you either have a pretty demanding job or a really long commute. There are other options, especially if you’re able to take a pay cut. Are there other jobs where you can work 40 hour weeks with a short commute? Or would contract work be an option where you can work as needed and take some lengthy breaks when the contract is up? Of course, the latter requires more careful financial planning.

  41. AnotherKate*

    #4, I think Allison’s right. The solution here is just to ask! I definitely know how fraught that can feel when you’re in a position to be interviewing (will they think I’m pushy? Will they think I’m suggesting I don’t want to be on video and have something to hide? Will they laugh maniacally while twirling their mustaches and declare that my ridiculous question means I’ll Never Work In This Town Again?) but the truth is it’s absolutely allowed to ask these kinds of clarifying questions. I don’t disagree that the very best bosses/interviewers/human beings tend to think about these power dynamics ahead of time and go out of their way to specify what they need from you, but I wouldn’t get too twisted up worrying about it/being disappointed resentful when it turns out to be “just” a conference call. So many things like this can be avoided by assertively and confidently asking what the plan is.

    Having been the person doing the hiring, I can tell you that I am usually impressed by someone who matter-of-factly asks questions like that during the process. It usually means they won’t be afraid to ask for help/clarification within their role, either, and that’s so, so valuable to me as a manager. I definitely don’t want anyone sitting at their desk for 45 minutes trying to figure something out that I could’ve resolved for them in 4 seconds if they’d just asked; asking a very simple logistical clarification question during the interview phase would absolutely give me a good sense of their future judgment on stuff like that.

  42. Colin*

    #1 – If you can live on 60% of your take home pay, I bet you could get that down to 50% or less. Then you could just stop working altogether :) Check out the book “Your Money Or Your Life”.

  43. Nope*

    #1-really, I’d be surprised if LW’s employer agreed to this, even just based on the precedent it would set alone. Maybe they could manage without her for 9 weeks total a year, but probably not multiple employees. This has the potential to be a bigger can of worms than the employer probably wants to risk.

  44. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    Letter #3 reminded me of a first date I once had scheduled with someone online. He’d picked a coffee shop close to where I lived, which was wonderful, but also got me wondering since I’d lived in the area for about fifteen years and had never heard of the place. So on the morning of the date, while on my way home from walking my dog in the park, I decided I’d swing by the coffee shop. It was indeed at the address provided, but looked like it hadn’t been open in years. The place itself was in a strip mall where nothing else was open, on a street that was all office buildings and office parks. It was a Sunday, so nothing on that street was going to be open that day and there were going to be no people anywhere on that street that day. I messaged the guy right there telling him that the date was canceled, and never heard from him again. Not going to lie, my hands were shaking when I typed my message. I would absolutely not go to that 11PM interview. I do like the suggestion someone made abovethread to walk into any of the retail company’s locations and show the email to someone; just in case it did come from them and there’s an AM/PM mixup or something.

    1. CoffeeCoffeeCoffee*

      I had the same thought- in college I was called about an internship and the address given was really far into a rural area I’d never heard of and Google Maps showed it as what looked like an abandoned property. When I tried to find a phone number for the company, it didn’t match the one in their email. It was also a “please be here today” situation and the whole thing gave me the creeps so I didn’t show up. OP #3, if they don’t have reliable ways to get in touch with them at this stage, it’s at best not a reliable company and at worst something far more sinister. I’m sure the interview date has passed for this, but I hope you didn’t go!

  45. Dose of Reality*

    If word got around that you have 45 days off and everyone else has 14, expect to be hated in the office. If I had to pick up your slack because you conned the boss into giving you “unpaid time off” for you to be an artist, I’m not going to be happy. You’re going to screw everyone else who works with you….because once others pick up your slack and tell management how you’re not needed, well, then hopefully you won’t have a job.

    1. Mm-hm*

      That’s the first thing I thought too. Unless it was for something life altering like health issues/death in family, I’m going to be more than a little irritated at having to pick up the slack so someone can pursue an artistic venture. There’s nothing wrong with focusing on what you’re passionate about but you can’t expect it to happen at the expense of others.

    2. pleaset*

      “If word got around that you have 45 days off and everyone else has 14, expect to be hated in the office”

      It true, or you work in such a place, that’s pretty sad.

      At my job people are on all sorts of limited schedules, based on their needs, and are paid less accordingly. That’s a good thing.

      Now if someone got a perk like that that I wanted and tried for (and I performed similarly) I’d be annoyed. But hating people for taking care of themselves? Dang.

      “at the expense of others.”

      This zero sum view of work is sad. If someone working less is causing you problems at work, bring it up. Try to get paid more. Or get more help. Or look for another job. And remember, it’s not their fault if you get stress for this – it’s management’s.

      1. pleaset*

        Oh, and I’m not denying that you might feel some envy which could translate to dislike. That is natural. But try to put that aside. That’s a bad emotion directed at the wrong source. Don’t encourage it. Get past it.

        1. Working Drone*

          Not everyone gets to work in shiny happy places. Not everyone gets to work in an office. Many of us struggle at retail/warehouse/customer service type work.

          Someone is out for any reason, everyone has to pick up the awful slack. Now, if that absence is for health, I am sympathetic. If that absence is so someone can “find themselves” or work on their “passion,” I’m less so. I want to go home after an 8 hour shift. I want to have a life, too. If I have to stay late to cover for Susie whose dad is dying of cancer, I’ll do it. If I’m asked to stay because we’re short staffed because David wants to go to home and paint, hell no.

          1. pleaset*

            Even if your place sucks, hating the people making it better for themselvs is misdirecting your energy and contributing to it being sucky.

            At least try to get beyond that. Even if their doing less hurts you, that’s not their fault – it’s management. And if you don’t understand that on an intellectual level (not telling you to change your natural emotions), you’re complicit in the suckiness.

          2. tusky*

            But if the company agrees to do it for one person, it seems likely they’d be willing to be flexible with other employees. If not, then it’s not on the employee requesting time off–it’s on the company.

    3. bonkerballs*

      What is all this extra work getting dumped on you? Seriously, this has been mentioned a few times and I just don’t get it. I’ve never had work dumped on like that when someone else is on vacation. I mean, okay when our Exec Assistant is on vacation I have to turn the bima lights on in the morning, but I would hardly call that dumping. Most people prepare for a vacation. Why would OP be different?

    4. Traveling Teacher*

      Wow, seriously? OP stated that they were losing 2K to take this unpaid time off, if it’s granted. So, that’s not just making zero dollars, that’s actively losing 2K.

      And that this time off would be during a slow season. The reason shouldn’t be important. If OP was smart enough and a good enough employee to be able to negotiate this, then good for them. If people are envious? Instead of sitting there “turning green”, why not try for something similar? This isn’t a winner-take-all situation.

  46. Observer*

    #4 – I mostly agree with you. But the idea that an interview is “time better spent doing other things” seems very odd to me. Even if it’s just a phone screen, it strikes me that you should be focusing on it, rather than other tasks.

  47. Dankar*

    OP#1–Our office does something similar during the summer months. Because there isn’t enough work to sustain our admin full-time in the summer, his/her schedule drops to 10hrs/week for 10 weeks. The position remains classified as full-time, with all benefits continuing.

    The admin also has the flexibility to work those 10 hours however they would like. Some admins work one day per week for 5 hours and check/answer emails throughout the week. Others come in for 2 hours each day (and probably still check their email at home once or twice. If your employer is flexible, this might be an option to try, rather than just 6 weeks of no contact with you.

  48. Jam Today*

    OP #2:

    1) That email was almost certainly a mistake, either someone fatfingered a schedule application or they have some automated thing that went awry.

    2) In any case, don’t go unless you want to wake up in a bathtub full of ice, missing a kidney.

  49. Get Back To Work!!!*

    OP#3: I think it depends on the business. Where I use to work the company was open 24hrs Monday thru Friday with those in charge of interviews mainly Managers had start times that varied throughout the night.

  50. Original LW*

    This is the original letter writer who wants to ask for more time off. I’ll include some additional details that I couldn’t fit in the letter. I’m male, for the sake of pronouns. I work in musical instrument repair in an 8-person shop for a company with six other locations. So the type of work I do can be taken on by others when I am gone. I think my job is fairly secure. My quality of work is respected by the management and experienced technicians can be hard to find. About one third of my co-workers are active musicians, so the company should be aware that that work-life balance is an important question for a lot of us. I’ve heard rumors about people being fired for taking too much time off, but there were other factors in those situations—people who had just started the job or were only working a few hours a week.

    The work is somewhat seasonal. July through October is very heavy and everyone is needed to keep up. February through May is lighter and we often nearly run out of work. So I would propose taking time off mostly during the lighter times, with advance permission, and not all at once. And to clarify, I’d ask for 45 unpaid days total, so the equivalent of nine weeks. I commute nearly an hour on transit and work at least eight hours a day plus an unpaid 30-minute lunch. So that’s about 10.5 hours that I’m away. I exaggerated a little bit.

    I’m also strongly considering asking to be a part-time employee for a few years. The VP has mentioned to us that this is an option, so I think it would be allowed without much pushback, though in their experience someone working part-time often means that employee already has one foot out the door. I don’t want to do anything that would jeopardize my job, since there aren’t many employers in the area, and definitely none as good as my current one. If I worked part-time I would be capped at 28 hours per week and I would mostly be able to set my own schedule. I would try to work the maximum as much as possible, which would mean I can’t take many full weeks off but I would have a lot of four-day weekends. I’d try to pick up extra income with various performance jobs. I’m still fairly young. It seems like a good time to take some risks.

    My partner is also an artist who teaches two to three days a week. It took a full decade of working four jobs until she was able to leave some of them, and after that her art career took off. She’s pushing me to take my own creative work more seriously, but it’s been a while since she has worked full-time and I think she has forgotten how difficult it is to try to have two careers. I’m partially motivated by envy at her situation, definitely.

    1. Let's Bagel*

      Have you ever heard of FIRE? (Financial Independence/Retire Early) You sound like the absolute perfect candidate for it. The idea behind people who pursue FIRE is that they live on less than their full income, and invest the rest. The goal is to earn enough money to be financially independent and thus, retire early. And I don’t mean 55 years old early–depending on a myriad of factors and how important this is to you (and thus how willing you might be to give up other parts of your life that may be costing you money that could be saved), you might find that it’s possible to retire way, way early, like in your 30s or 40s. (I don’t know how old you are now, but you mentioned having 30-40 more years ahead of you, so I’m assuming you’re in your 20s/30s.) A lot of these people cite getting their time back to pursue other passions as a huge motivator. If this sounds like something that interests you, I’d encourage you to check out the truly zillions of blogs out there that explain how this all works and what you need to do. Good luck!

    2. LGC*


      So I’ll probably write more when I get home (I don’t like browsing AAM on my work PC and phone is a little dicey for long typing), but with all this context…I think you might actually have a chance!

      I will say that it’s probably not what I’d do in your position – I’d try to angle for more flexible hours during the week. But it seems a bit similar to a situation I had last year where one of my interests conflicted with my regular work shift, and I pretty easily got a schedule change and a more flexible schedule.

    3. Anon for this*

      Hi LW – I’m a visual artist and graphic designer, and currently I work part-time (20-30hours a week) at a fantastic design studio, where I make just enough money to pay the bills and get to work on great projects with great people. During the rest of my time I work on my own stuff. It’s a fantastic situation and really works for me. But – I don’t have health insurance. I left a high-pressure full-time at a prestigious company to do exactly this, and losing the amazing insurance I had at that job was one of the compromises I made. It’s ok for me not to have it for the time being, but I will have to take on that expense sooner rather than later. Anyway, I say this to you because I fear that your plan won’t work because most companies see their subsidized insurance as a benefit to full-time employees only. You’d essentially be changing your status to part-time while still asking them to subsidize your full-time insurance load – and while you’re willing to take the time off unpaid, by subsidizing you as a part-time employee, they’d essentially be giving you a hefty pay raise. Maybe you are valuable enough for them to consider it, but I’d think carefully about the details before you make your proposal. Good luck and please send in an update!

  51. MindOverMoneyChick*

    #1 Your manager might go for it but then have problems with HR. When I worked for a small company this kind of thing was very doable for valuable employees. When were were bought by a larger company they had rules about unpaid time off, because they were still paying for benefits during the time you were working. It wasn’t that that specifically rane the numbers to see if the company would come out ahead or behind in each case. It was just that we had a blanket policy.

    I remember being very annoyed during a slow period where our choice was either to lay people off permanently, or let some people who were willing and could afford it take many weeks of unpaid leave, but keep health benefits. It would have totally worked to do the latter for our group’s budget, but HR wouldn’t let us. :( I realize that’s because they were looking at what was best for the company overall, not just our group, but still frustrating.

    1. Original LW*

      Your initial comment applies. It’s a small shop in a large company (about 150 employees) with seven locations. The person I would have to negotiate with is in charge of about 60% of those workers. So I am definitely worried about asking to be a special case when there is a blanket policy in place.

  52. Hannah*

    I actually used to work in Human Resources for a retail company, and would often set applicants up for interviews at 11pm! These would be for our overnight positions, since that’s when our managers would be at work and available for interviews. Of course, I would 1: only do this when the applicant had expressed interest in working overnight, 2: schedule a first interview over the phone before bringing them in for an second interview in-person, and 3: make all of these plans over the phone, so that I could explain why I was bringing them in at that time.

  53. thinkagain*

    people like to comment about how much time off is available to employees in other countries. I’ve lived in several foreign countries, worked in a few, and helped business owners open business in a few. There are some things people don’t necessarily know. It takes a cultural shift in more than just the workplace to accommodate these wonderful leave policies. People might get more time off, but they aren’t necessarily in complete control of when that time is. Many businesses dictate when employees can take time off.

    1. There are times of the year when certain products simply aren’t available because companies find it easier to just close down and give everyone leave at the same time than it is to try and keep the business running with short staff.

    2. There are times of the year when you WILL NOT GET SOMETHING built, repaired or delivered, again, because the entire business takes what is called a “builder’s holiday” and everyone is off.

    3. You think we have peak vacation times here? You haven’t seen anything like what happens in some of these countries–everyone is off at the same time and so vacation type accommodations and travel are marked up even beyond “peak.” There is even a category for time shares that is above “red weeks” it is akin to “super duper red weeks” and costs even more in timeshare points or fees.

    My point is not that we should not have more leave time here in the US, but I honestly don’t think the average American is ready to accept that it might mean reduced availability of products and services. Will you be OK with having your contractor just STOP WORK on your new home or your big repair for a month to take a holiday? what if your AC breaks down during the builder’s holiday? Will you be OK not having fresh meat because the meat processing plant shuts down to allow people to take time off? What about your child care facilities being closed?

  54. Amber Barnett*

    #3: I had something similar to that happen a couple of weeks ago. I received an e-mail on a Thursday asking me to come in for an interview… on Tuesday of the same week, so two days before I even received the request. Asked my flatmate about it, and turns out that company is failing anyway, so I filed it away in my “haha, this was funny” file and took them off my job search list.

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