how does unlimited PTO actually play out in companies that have it?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I’m currently in the running for a job that offers unlimited PTO. I am trying to find out if this company has a culture that actually allows people to use this “perk” (without abuse), or if people are afraid to take PTO for fear of the impression of abusing it and/or peer pressure to not use it.

For any readers out there who work someplace that offers unlimited PTO, how does that actually play out in your company? How much PTO are people actually taking? Are there more downsides than up or vice versa?

Yeah, “unlimited PTO” doesn’t normally mean it’s truly unlimited. In fact, there’s some research showing that employees with “unlimited PTO” actually take fewer vacation days than people at companies with a specific allotment.

Readers, what’s your experience been with unlimited PTO?

{ 498 comments… read them below }

  1. goofBall*

    I’ve worked for two companies now with unlimited PTO, both in the tech industry.

    I’ve never had a request denied. I take off 25-30 days a year.

    1. goofBall*

      Adding: The most time I’ve taken off in a row is two weeks (10 days).

      I had a coworker who took off 6 weeks in a row. They were traveling to their home country across the globe with their new baby.

      That person was at the managerial level at the company, and I’m not privy to their conversation for taking that much sequential time off. Maybe some of it was unpaid? Really not sure. But thought that anecdote would be relevant.

          1. Miette*

            I haven’t heard the word “doy” since approximately 1990–thank you for bringing it back…

        1. Sally Ride*

          Hopefully not, if it was only 6 weeks!! Proper parental leave should be a minimum of 16-20 weeks. We (the US) need to be better about that.

            1. Sunny side*

              I live in Sweden, and here the parental leave is 480 days. Yes, that’s true. And vacation, I have 38 days. The law says 30 days when you are 40 or older. Otherwise it’s 25 days…
              Sick days are unlimited.

              1. Yorick*

                Ok but in the US 6 weeks is kinda standard, it wouldn’t be the case that it’s so low that goofball’s coworker wasn’t taking parental leave

              2. Baunilha*

                I live in a country where sick days are also unlimited, as long as you have a doctor’s note (don’t worry, we have universal healthcare), and at least 30 vacation days a year.

                That being said, it’s sadly very common for people to come in sick (not at my current job, but definitely at other places I’ve worked) because some employers/ managers think employees are all liars who are not really sick and are just slacking off. As an employee, you can report it and even sue, but understandably, most people don’t.

                So even in places with very strong labor laws, unlimited PTO is often not that unlimited, unfortunately.

            2. Hokey Puck*

              That is a bit outdated. Companies in my industry give 16 fully paid parental leave in the US.

              1. WhyOhWhy*

                Unfortunately, this is not outdated. Our industry offers 6 weeks… up from TWO WEEKS prior to 2023 when there was a complete uprising at our company.

                1. Boof*

                  I got 3 months, and I’m in the USA, and now there’s some NYS laws that call for up 12 weeks of Paid Family Leave at 67 percent of your pay, up to a cap. That being said my employer was generous and I didn’t do it under the disability route because it would have actually been about 25% of my pay or something because I’m a relatively high earner (but also basically the only earner for our family of five)

              2. Wondercootie*

                Not necessarily, unfortunately. I work for state govt. and we get zero paid unless we have built up our vacation bank. A lot of people here of child-bearing age take a week of vacation or less per year so they can build up their leave time just in case.

              3. Working Parent*

                Nope, not outdated. It’s unfortunately quite common in the U.S. to get zero paid parental leave, and only 6-12 weeks of unpaid time off, or even less. I was very lucky to get 12 weeks off, but half that time was unpaid, and the other half was only partially paid.

                16 weeks fully paid parental leave is unusual for the U.S. FMLA only requires 12 unpaid weeks off, and that’s only if your company has 50+ employees and only if you’ve been working there for over a year.

              4. Ella bee bee*

                That’s your industry. In my industry we get zero. I am at an age where many of my friends are having babies right now, and most of them are having to take time off unpaid.

    2. Keeley Jones, The Independent Wonan*

      Same for me. And if it’s been a while since I took a “real day” off, my boss is very good at encouraging me to take a few more days. I and a while day off for medical appointments and my boss said “that doesn’t count as a day off, take another day”

      I take two 5-7 working days off per year and usually try and take 1-2 other days off a l

      1. goofBall*

        oh yes, if I could edit my original comment I would specify that those 25-30 days off that I allot myself do NOT include sick days or time off for appointments!

        1. A Girl Named Fred*

          Can I come work with you one of you two? I’ll learn whatever skill I need to to be a competitive applicant! ;)

          That’s a great point though because I was just going through my recent PTO use (not unlimited) and realized that all of the time I’ve taken in the past six months or so was either for an appointment, because I was sick, or because I was attending a wedding. Sounds like it’s time for me to schedule some Actual Vacation time!

          1. Not Enough PTO in the US*

            I’ve been in the hospital for 6 days now. I only had sick leave for one of those days. Taking a vacation is a total dream. I have to hang on to my time off for when I get hospitalized. and we get so little PTO that it’s impossible to accrue in any significant fashion which is why I’ll probably lose my house this month.

            Shall I mention that I work for a third party company providing tech support for one of the biggest technology companies on the planet?

    3. Turketron*

      yep, this tracks with my experience pretty closely as well. My spouse worked at the same company as me until late last year, and their new company doesn’t do unlimited PTO, so we’re now having to carefully track our upcoming vacation plans to ensure they have enough PTO days to cover it.

      1. PinaColada*

        Same with me. I was at a start-up that had unlimited PTO and it was glorious. I think a big aspect that made it work well is we didn’t have to track it. If we wanted time off for anything we just requested/informed the powers that be, and if it made sense, we took it.

        I think when it doesn’t work as well that’s because the company is keeping track of exactly how much time you’ve taken off, and that’s what has people feel uncomfortable and questioning themselves.

    4. Keeley Jones, The Independent Wonan*

      Same for me. We don’t even formally have to ask, we just block our calendar for those days and cc the boss. And if it’s been a while since I took a “real day” off, my boss is very good at encouraging me to take some time off. I and a while day off for medical appointments and my boss said “that doesn’t count as a day off, take another day” I take two 5-7 working days off per year and usually try and take 1-2 other days off a month.

      Basically my company expects you to just be a grownup about it. Get your work done on time and take time off when you need/want to.

      1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        The “get your work done on time” can be a kicker, though. Does that mean you still need to get as much done in a month regardless of whether you take 2 weeks of that as vacation?

        1. PinaColada*

          No, because that’s not really PTO then, is it. True PTO will count for the fact that if you are gone two weeks out of a month, then you naturally can’t do a months work of work.

      2. Margaret*

        Sounds like a great company! Not going to micro manage you, hired you to do a job and as long as it’s getting done who cares if you take off, come in 5 minutes late, etc. what field are you in?

    5. hudson*

      Same here. I asked about this during the interview process, and the recruiter told me the expectation was 2-3 week-long vacations per year, plus assorted days off as needed. Ends up being 20-30 for me and works out better than most formal PTO policies.

        1. Dread Pirate Roberts*

          I read that as 2 or 3 vacations that are a week long each year. 2 vacations that are 3 weeks long each would be 30 days without the assorted days off so I don’t think that’s what they meant? But yes I had a 3-week vacation last year for the first time in forever and it was heaven!

        2. Chocoholic*

          I read this as 2 to 3 vacations of 1 week per year, not 3-week long vacations. Though that does sound pretty dreamy!

    6. Silicon Valley view*

      I have generally had unlimited PTO (eithe formally or in practice) at every company where I have been an employee. It worked out excellently and I went on vacation regularly.

      I put policy into place for my startups now too.

      The only caveat is that the “PTO” should be within reason in terms of amount taken (obviously you would not want a full-time job to be reduced to a part time job) and when it is taken (no one should be leaving one week before an acquisition closes), but that caveat is mostly a matter of common sense.

    7. oxymoronic*

      My experience is very similar to goofBall. I’m also a manager so I model taking off a lot of time to encourage others. to do so, and we very rarely deny a request. There is an extra layer of approval needed if people want to take off more than 2 weeks consecutively. People are not permitted to do things like never work Fridays. I have had the ability to take dramatically more PTO here than anywhere else I’ve worked.

      The biggest challenge we face with unlimited is the fact that we have very little redundancy in our company, and the company has not been good with providing the kind of backfill support we need to properly cover for people taking off a lot of time without it impacting other workers or company goals.

      1. SpaceySteph*

        As someone with a set PTO bucket that is capped, this is not a problem unique to unlimited PTO companies. We have people with use-or-lose leave expiring at the end of the year that are unable to take it because of lack of redundancy/coverage.

        1. Rage*

          We have a use-it-or-lose-it policy as well, but during the pandemic it was rescinded and staff (especially supervisory/leadership staff) were allowed to roll over until our staffing levels (we’re a 24/7 operation) stabilized.

      2. Caramellow*

        Yeah, it’s the coverage that’ll kill ya. I had a yoked buddy (mandated to cover each other) and they took every Friday off. So I could never have a Friday off. With high leave needs to come some float ability to cover.

    8. Rach*

      I also work in tech with unlimited PTO, tho they have a target amount of 3 weeks vacation. I always take at least 3 weeks and have never had a vacation denied. I’ve never had issues taking sick days, either. The biggest problem is it is very manager specific, I have a great manager but I’ve known people who’s managers were not great and it was more difficult to take vacation and sick days.

    9. Earlk*

      Just out of curiosity; how does that tally up with your colleagues? Does it feel like you take more or less than them?

      1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        For my company, we recently switched from having 25 days of sick/PTO in one bucket, and now have unlimited PTO. People asked for guidance on what we should consider normal and we never got any, so my bosses said that we should use five weeks as our benchmark — definitely don’t take less than we had before, but also don’t take too much more than that, because no one really has a sense of what will get you pulled aside for taking too much PTO.

        Personally: my wife has 20 vacation days (25 if she carried some over from the previous year) and I figure I can target taking off the days she does, plus a few, not counting medical appointments unless it’s most of a day, and I don’t save any of them for sick time, since I’m not getting sick terribly often and if/when I do I can go over 25 by a bit. It would be harder to be sure I was taking enough if I didn’t have wife’s PTO to measure by, though.

        I have a new boss this year, and whenever I’ve said something like, “I’m thinking about taking next Monday off,” she’ll say something like, “Well, it’s ‘unlimited’ so go for it.”

        I think my coworkers are taking about the same. Some of them have kids, some of them have more medical appointments, so our vacation patterns aren’t really apples to apples, but I know that they’re being encouraged to do the same thing I am. It doesn’t feel wildly off, at least.

        To me the biggest downsides are not having better guidance from the company about what’s appropriate, not having the “oh I need to use up ten more days or I’ll lose them” as a reminder to schedule vacations (though end of year is also our busy time and we need to be deliberate about scheduling vacation earlier in the year, and that does help), and the fact that it’s kind of left up to the manager to decide what’s reasonable. (My managers are great, to be clear.) Also you don’t get any vacation paid out when you leave, so you need to be on top of making sure that you’re taking it regularly, especially in this economy.

    10. Richard Hershberger*

      I work for a solo practitioner lawyer, working for the same guy going on fifteen years. We have never discussed how much PTO I have. I have consistently taken off two weeks, one in the summer and one around New Years. I have a couple of times taken a third week off. Add to this a day here and a day there and it probably comes out to anywhere between 15 and 25 days a year. I am paid salary, and we are both just as happy not to have to keep track. He has never pushed back on a request. We understand one another, and neither of us is inclined to abuse this.

    11. devtoo*

      Yep, my experience has been similar too! The better companies I’ve worked at are very cognizant that unlimited PTO can be viewed as (and can actually be) a trap where people actually take less time, so they take steps to encourage people to actually take time. Like informal per-quarter PTO minimums that your manager nudges you to meet, and team leaders modeling full weeks of fully disconnected PTO

    12. Need a clever name*

      I currently have unlimited PTO and though we’re a busy department it’s never an issue to take off. I love being able to take a random day here or there or buffer day after a vacation. Additionally, my co-worker travelled to India for a month and there was no problem with that request. We just pitched in to cover for them.

    13. SG*

      It’s an absolute blessing. I take 6 weeks off every year — often in 2-week increments. I’ve never had a request denied. Though I do think the success of unlimited PTO largely depends on your manager.

    14. It Takes T to Tango*

      I’m in IT. I’m not good about taking vacation, but I worked up to taking 4 weeks per year. What I love is that I can just call in sick as needed (even a mental health day) and not feel bad about it. If I need to take off early one day for an appointment, no worries. I have colleagues that take off 4 – 6 weeks per year, with 2+ weeks at a time, and no one bats an eye. (We do have an on-call rotation so we have to plan around that, though.) Managers have yelled at people for not taking time off. If someone was constantly on vacation and never available when needed, they would get in trouble, but I haven’t heard of anyone doing that.

      I know that’s a bit of a unicorn company and some companies with unlimited time off is actually “unlimited for all days ending in a j” but there are at least a few that do it right.

    15. Lefty*

      I’m a big fan of unlimited PTO. My last 3 jobs have had this policy, and each time we’ve been encouraged to use it. My boss at the first company made a point to take at least 4 weeks every year in order to model for the team that it was ok to take real vacations. My current company even includes a module on burnout in our new manager training. In it, managers are encouraged to monitor PTO in order to ensure we’re all taking regular time off (we’re an industry notorious for burnout). In fact, in my experience companies with more miserly time off policies have been the ones that discouraged taking any.

    16. Pantalooneytunes*

      I worked a management role at a tech company that had “unlimited” PTO but what they didn’t tell employees is that if you hit 20 days (4 weeks) off at any point in the year, their manager would get a notice from HR and we would have to have a talk with them about how that time off impacts other people and to consider denying future PTO requests. Every other company I’ve ever worked for had a bank of days and even entry-level employees got a minimum of 5 weeks off no questions asked.

  2. Just Here for the Cake*

    My wife has unlimited PTO, and even though she is encouraged to take if from her company/boss, she ends up not taking as much as before. When you don’t have the incentive of “use it or lose it,” you sometimes get stuck convincing yourself that its “too busy” or “not the best time right now.”

    1. Rose*

      When I had unlimited PTO I combatted this by thinking about how many weeks I was happy with when I was offered a job with a limit on PTO. For me it was 3 weeks. I made a rule with myself that I needed to “use it or loose it” with those three weeks. In this case I guess the “it” in question was my mind.

      Having a minimum goal for myself was really helpful! I reached it every year even though I had some pretty boring staycations.

      1. Vacation days*

        This is great. I’m already bad at taking leave and this way of thinking would really help me

      2. Lisa*

        This is a very good policy. Assign yourself a certain number of weeks a year of PTO, whatever you would expect at a non-unlimited-PTO job, and track it as if it wasn’t unlimited.

      3. Cj*

        I briefly worked remotely for a company in california, and had unlimited PTO. I asked what most people took, and was told that they either took a week or two vacation and then a day off here and there. so no more than 15 days. which is what I had at previous positions, and 5 days fewer than I currently have.

        I’m a cpa, and there’s no reason to not take more time than that off in the off-season. tech seems to be different.

        this company sucks in a lot of ways, that’s why I work there only briefly.

      4. Lauren19*

        I have a similar approach. Our policy is that you get a set amount at junior and mid-career levels, earning more with tenure. Senior roles have unlimited, so basically everyone has to learn how to manage a fixed number of days before they get unlimited. On my team, no one bean counts unless you’re consistently unavailable. It’s a bit of an unwritten rule that you should really only take 6 or more consecutive days once per year (not counting weelends).

    2. ThatGirl*

      I think it really depends on the person and on their manager/corporate culture.

      This is not precisely the same, but at my husband’s previous job, he had 5 weeks of vacation a years – which he could roll over a good chunk of. He also was nearly always busy and his managers never really encouraged him to take it; as an end result he usually took 2 weeks or so a year despite my best efforts.

      Now, he has 3 weeks of vacation a year. It does not roll over. His manager is constantly encouraging him/telling him to take time off, and he has good support for doing so. NOW he takes his full vacation time every year.

      Similarly, someone who values PTO, who is encouraged to take it and feels like they can, will likely thrive with unlimited PTO. But someone who is overworked, or does not feel like they are able to take time off, will probably not thrive.

      1. Abundant Shrimp*

        I hear you. My parents had 4-5 weeks vacation (in our home country) that could roll over indefinitely. When my dad was preparing to leave to emigrate to the US, at age 58, it turned out that he’d accumulated SIX MONTHS of unused vacation over his career. My childhood memories of dad are of him always coming home late at night, working through the weekends, and cutting vacations short because he was needed at work. I implore everyone to not be like my dad in that capacity. That’s six months he could’ve spent with the family when I was still a kid. At least he took them all in the end and spent them packing, seeing family and friends before leaving for the US, etc.

        1. AF Vet*

          I’m grateful to some of my husband’s old bosses, who have told him (in ways that he would hear and not from me) that he is dispensable at work – he’ll eventually go to a different job, his work would get covered if he were ill or injured, etc. He is IRREPLACEABLE at home – no one else can do his job here.

          The story that struck him the most was a former Army officer who told him this story: “I got orders to deploy for yet another tour in the desert and told my family. My teenage daughter pointed out that I’d be missing her birthday. I shrugged – it’s the Army, what could I do? She asked me, ‘Do you know how many birthdays in my life you’ve been home for?’ At my blank stare, she answered softly, ‘Five.’ I had missed 10 of her birthdays.”

          It hit home with both of us – and my husband has made sure to keep us a priority in his focus, even as he kicks butt in his career. Ever since, his mantra for himself and his subordinates is, “Take care of yourself and take care of your family so that you can take care of the mission.”

          Your job can live without you. You and you alone can fill your role in your family, among your friends, and in your community.

      2. ferrina*

        Yeah, it definitely depends on the manager/company.

        Under one manager I had, I could technically take time off, but only if I had arranged coverage. Our department was chronically understaffed and no one could do my job, so I never really had any time off. I could “take a day” and then end up working for at least half of it.
        Same company, my management technique was to strongly encourage my employees to take time off during the slow time, because I knew everyone would be working overtime in the busy season (same busy season each year). When my direct reports took time off, I ensured that they were not called on vacation. One exception- one person was taking two weeks off and we had a project coming in. I told her that she may need to work 1-2 days during the vacation depending on timelines. (she ended up not needing to work. looking back, I wish I hadn’t said that and just mentally agreed to take on the work myself. but my boss kept my team chronically understaffed and I was drowning, so didn’t always make the best decision).

        At my current job, PTO is mostly not a big deal. My manager signs off on any request I make. I also have flexible hours and work remote, so end up being able to take care of life stuff like doctor’s appointments without taking PTO.
        I take the same amount of PTO as before (17-25 days per year), but also feel a lot less stress because I don’t have to carefully count my PTO and wonder if my kids school will be closed.

    3. Beth*

      This is my experience. I have unlimited PTO right now, and my manager has never refused a request I made. I fully believe that I’d be allowed to take any reasonable amount of time off (meaning like….if I was out so often that I couldn’t do my job, that would be a problem; if I requested 2 weeks off starting tomorrow, the short notice would be a problem; but in general, anything that would’ve been approved at companies I’ve worked at that had set PTO, I expect it would be approved here.)

      But not having a count of earned days staring at me does make me think less about taking days off. That’s compounded by my company being pretty chill about work hours; it’s normal to flex our schedules for appointments, errands, and other small events without using PTO. Working remotely doesn’t help either. I used to save all of my PTO for a couple annual trips to visit family and friends, but now those trips cost me maybe a day or two of PTO for the actual flights and then I work remotely while there. (Usually whoever I’m visiting has work too, and me being busy during they day so they don’t need to to use their PTO to host is a perk.) Between those, more often than not, my manager is the one reminding me to schedule a longer break.

      I still feel like this setup is working in my favor, though. Being able to travel as much as I want, take time off when I need it, and still take a week or two off when I (or my manager) remember to schedule it? That adds up to an easier and more varied life than I had when I was in office and working with a few weeks’ fixed PTO.

    4. Anonymous Pygmy Possum*

      This has been my experience with it as well! Though for me, my boss periodically reminds all of us to take some time off.

    5. Turquoisecow*

      This is my husband. He’s also a manager and is fine with his reports taking time off for various things but when it comes to himself he doesn’t take off nearly as much, and often even when he’s off he’ll spend an hour or so checking email or Slack messages or even calling into a meeting that is urgent and needs his input. I guess it’s better than the reverse!

    6. Silicon Valley Girl*

      I have never once in my career of almost 30 years had to worry about “losing” accrued PTO time. And I’ve never cashed out any PTO when I’ve left a job (I live in a state that requires that). I use all my PTO the moment I can! Before I got legit unlimited PTO, of course. I work to live, I don’t live to work ;)

  3. Salsa Your Face*

    I was working for a very large company a few years ago when they implemented this policy. People definitely expressed concern over the change, specifically stating that they didn’t want it to become a race to the bottom for who could take the least amount of leave. My direct manager explicitly told us that he wanted us to take, at minimum, the number of vacation days that were allocated to us under the old system, but I don’t believe that was a company-wide directive. While appreciated, that wouldn’t be helpful for new hires and wouldn’t take into account the annual increases in vacation time that people earned under the old system.

    Unfortunately this change happened during covid and I was caught up in a round of layoffs soon after, so I don’t know how this worked out long term.

    1. Annie*

      This is how my company manages it. I use as my standard the PTO that I had accrued prior to the policy implementation. Also, I don’t tell very many people about this for fear that they adopt the attitude that “Annie can do it since she has unlimited PTO” and I get overloaded personally.

      1. ferrina*

        Yeah, when I went to an unlimited PTO company, my (then) partner took it as a sign that I could take time off for any single thing that was needed. Kid needed a sick day? I had to take care of it because he had work and my company was “more flexible”. My company wasn’t flexible- my boss kept my team chronically understaffed, and I was constantly working on PTO days. It created a toxic dynamic where I was saddled with any kind childcare that required PTO, but I was also working while taking care of the kid. (I did try to fix that dynamic, but all other parties were set in their expectations so I ended up leaving the job and the partnership).

        My current job also has unlimited PTO, but I haven’t told anyone in my real life. I only tell them that I have a flexible schedule.

    2. I Need Coffee*

      At my old company, we used the same “guideline” when we switched from a PTO bank to unlimited PTO. In practice, we called it Pretend Time Off because while you might not be at the office, the expectation was that you were still connected, keeping an eye on things, and getting things done.

    1. Jes. Cavanaugh*

      Something worth considering is that unlimited PTO means no payout when you leave the company. This may not be an issue for everyone, but since payout of unused time is something that most people are accustomed to, it feels like something that should be spelled out when talking about how unlimited PTO works.

      1. Lisa*

        In most states companies aren’t required to pay out unused PTO anyway, so it doesn’t matter. If I left with PTO on the books I’d get nothing.

        1. Brain the Brian*

          Just because there’s no law requiring it doesn’t mean that a good employer won’t do it. My company (no unlimited leave) pays out our PTO balance (up to a point) when we depart. If we had unlimited PTO, there would be no balance to pay — law or no law.

        2. LinuxSystemsGuy*

          Most larger companies pay it out anyway as a matter of company policy. It’s easier and more cost effective to maintain one system, even if it costs a few bucks on the relatively rare occasion an employee with a lot of banked leave quits. Plus it prevents the appearance of favoritism toward people in states where it’s legally required to pay banked leave.

          Between people that work in states where paying leave is required and people that work for companies that do so as internal policy, more people than not might expect it. It’s worth noting that unlimited leave changes it.

        3. Ally McBeal*

          This. I’ve worked in 3 states (South, New England, Midwest) and every single one of my jobs, except one non-profit that was a golden handcuffs job because of its stellar benefits, has stressed that they don’t pay out vacation time – it’s always use it or lose it. Maybe they’ll allow a couple months of rollover, like I have until March 2024 to use any leftover leave from 2023, but that’s also infrequent.

          1. Turquoisecow*

            That’s been my experience as well, we could maybe have a few weeks of grace period to use last year’s PTO in the beginning of this year but otherwise you lose it and if you left in the middle of the year you didn’t get it paid out as far as I know.

      2. Lola*

        I understand this argument, but I’d rather take vacation when I can vs waiting for some day in the future when I might get paid out.

        I live in a state where it’s required and it was really only 1 paycheck’s worth of money. (2 weeks)

        1. J!*

          It depends on the type of job you had. I had a job where I couldn’t take more than a couple of sick days here and there because we were so busy and there- for two years even though we accrued them like crazy! When I got laid off, I got paid out more than $3000 which was really useful to have.

        2. ThatGirl*

          It’s required here too (possibly you’re also in Illinois) and hey, an extra paycheck or two’s worth of money when you’ve been laid off is nice. Everyone has their own calculations, of course.

        3. JR 17*

          This. I’m the executive director of a small nonprofit and I have unlimited vacation time. (I typically take around 4 weeks.) When working on the employee handbook recently, our attorney stressed to me that I was potentially leaving money on the table, since we live in a state that requires vacation time to be paid out. But I make it a point to use up vacation time, and I really value the flexibility of not worrying that I’m using vacation days up too fast, as well as the autonomy to manage my own schedule and responsibilities.

      3. Sloanicota*

        Yes, I believe this is the real reason companies do it (usually). Vacation payout can be a big liability on the books because they have to hold enough money to pay out all employees if they left today. In my career I only had one job pay out unused vacation leave, and it was pretty nice. It allowed me to take a longer gap before my new start date to relax. No other job ever did pay out, nor have I ever lived in a state that required it. I do understand there’s probably an equity issue since some populations (parents, people whose family live internationally, people with mental or physical health challenges who use up all their sick time) may not have any opportunity to bank leave.

      4. Mango Freak*

        People always say that but it’s not necessarily true. Some companies specify how many weeks they pay out.

  4. LTR FTP*

    My last job had unlimited PTO. When I was negotiating I told my hiring manager that I had almost 5 weeks of PTO at my previous gig, so that was what I was going to target for PTO at this one. He said that sounded good.

    Even though they didn’t track time off, I kept a spreadsheet of my own so that I knew how much I was taking. That kept me on track and ensured I maintained my status quo/target vacation time.

    1. Unlimited Means Unlimited*

      This is exactly what I did (except it’s 21 days). Every time I get a new manager, I share my spreadsheet with them.

    2. PTO, schmeeteeoh*

      I do something similar. I got a promotion last year to a more senior position that involved a switch to unlimited PTO. It happened to be the same year that I was eligible for another week of vacation under the “normal” lower-level structure.
      I know am much more likely to short-change myself without a running tally, so I made a spreadsheet to make sure I am taking at least the amount of days off that my years of seniority would have earned me.
      I am trying to remind myself that I shouldn’t get in trouble for taking more than that, but I continue to be skeptical of the unlimited PTO philosophy. Most of the times it seems like one of those “it’s fine until it’s not” situations.
      I’m in my second year of it now, and so far so good…just make sure you take the time you need/want, because most places won’t remind you to use unlimited PTO!

    3. Abundant Shrimp*

      Ooh that’s good advice and something I wish I’d done last year when mine was unlimited. My current workplace used to start us with zero PTO hours, two sick days and I think a personal day and a floating holiday? so I developed a habit of tracking and planning my time off in a spreadsheet. Then last year, went “yay I don’t need this anymore” and stopped doing the spreadsheet. That may have been a mistake. I now have no idea how much time off I used last year. (Though we were asked to put it in Outlook for the team to know who’d be out when, so I can still recover the numbers that way.)

      1. I Have RBF*

        Yeah, we have unlimited sick and vacation. The vacation we have to reserve in WorkDay, but the sick we just need to put it in the team calendar. This works well for me being able to take my spouse to all of their appointments for cancer treatment – about 12 hours in each two week period.

    4. S*

      Same. I told my boss that I was keeping track of my days on an assumption of 4 weeks and he said that was fine. Now I’m going into my fifth year here so I’m bumping that up to 5 weeks. I also have a spreadsheet ha ha.

  5. dogmom*

    My hubby’s previous workplace offered unlimited PTO, which they straight-up lied about. They were fully remote so all their meetings were on Zoom, and they would record the meetings; when he would come back from a week off they would actually make him watch all the meetings he missed. He would be like, “Can’t someone just send me a summary?” So after a week off, he would end up working 60-80 hours the following week doing all his regular work plus watching all those stupid meetings. No extra pay for that, obvs. Then he didn’t get paid out any PTO when he got laid off. That place was dysfunctional in many, many ways, so this is probably not how other places with “unlimited PTO” handle it, and he hasn’t soured on that as a concept based on that one experience. But yeah, it was a total lie.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      It sounds like a shitty arrangement, buti don’t see where the lying happened. Could you clarify?

      1. Salsa Your Face*

        My interpretation is that the time you took off one week would end up being padded onto the next week’s schedule, because they forced you to sit through everything you had missed while still needing to do your other work. If you normally worked 40 hours in week 1 and 40 hours in week 2, taking PTO should mean 0 hours in week 1 and 40 hours in week 2, but here it meant 0 hours in week 1 and 80 hours in week 2. So no time “off,” really, just hours shuffled around.

          1. Miette*

            Yeah, but they could’ve done that whether he had unlimited PTO or not–I don’t see how unlimited PTO resulted in that meeting catch-up policy, they seem independent.

    2. Beth*

      The catch with unlimited PTO policies is definitely the degree to which implementation is up to the manager. With a manager who’s committed to ensuring their team takes time off and has work/life balance, unlimited PTO can work really well. With a manager who begrudges time out of office and feels like work should be the center of their team’s life, it’s an awful policy.

      It doesn’t sound like your husband’s workplace lied, though. It sounds like they were dysfunctional in other ways (watching recorded meetings, even on double speed, is so much less efficient than someone just taking notes for anyone who missed to read!). But in concept, needing to spend some extra time getting ahead of work before a vacation and/or catching up after is a pretty normal part of salaried jobs. And yeah, not getting PTO paid out is part and parcel of unlimited PTO policies. It sounds like your husband did get to take days/weeks off when he requested them, which is what I’d count as the policy working as designed.

    3. chewingle*

      Do they also have Zoom create a transcript? If so, I put it in AI and ask it to summarize the convo for me. Helps A LOT.

        1. The glass is half empty*

          For everyone else thinking about putting meeting transcripts into ChatGPT, check if your company has any policies against doing that. My employer does.

  6. Lady CFO*

    Take 2-3 weeks annually. It’s “understood” that all works, metrics, projects, etc. meet targets.
    Kinda sucks if you take “too much PTO” (however much they determine that to be) because if one metric is missed by a small margin at year end, it’s viewed as the result of missing too much time.

    I think unlimited PTO benefits the company more. They don’t have to carry the accrued balance on their books.

    1. Alfalfa Alfredo*

      This exactly. They don’t have to carry the balance. I currently have nearly 46 days of PTO in the bank, and we don’t max out until you hit three years of PTO in the bank. If I left my job, it’s a $20K+ cushion of extra money just in case.

      1. Prefers to Lurk*

        +100 I worked at a company that went to unlimited PTO after our merger where we inherited the policy from our new parent company. Almost certainly with no training for managers on how to handle. We still had to request and track PTO in the payroll system exactly as before and my manager strongly implied we should take the same amount as before. The only thing that changed was no payout of unused leave upon leaving since there was no longer any accrual. Win for the company!

  7. Four Lights*

    Husband has “discretionary PTO”. First three weeks are regular manager approval. Next two weeks are a manager up approval. next week’s would be higher. Most people feel comfortable taking 3 weeks. We’ve done 5 weeks no problem.

    1. JustKnope*

      That feels that a set-up designed to make people uncomfortable asking for more PTO. Having to go skip or two skip levels for permission?

  8. Keyboard Cowboy*

    My partner has unlimited PTO at a company which already has pretty poor work/life balance. His coworker apologized once because his wife made him leave his work laptop at home for a multi-week international vacation…. :/ so that’s the vibe. On the flip side, my partner regularly takes off all of December (although he still fields a question here and there or takes an important meeting, which isn’t as good as he thinks it is, having the entire month of low or no expectations seems pretty nice.)

    1. Tally miss*

      My boss believes that you should take vacation onky when there are nno business needs which is never. So every time I take time off, he points out days in the past that would have been better to take off instead. My boss is awful, but unlimited vacation is a scam.

      1. Abundant Shrimp*

        It’s not as much scam as it has very few safeguards and regulations around it still, due to it being so new, to prevent managers like yours from abusing it by not letting staff take PTO ever. Maybe it is time for (who?) to develop some of those.

        Your boss really is awful. He will only approve PTO if you get a time machine and take it in the past? How generous of him. Sigh.

      2. AngryOctopus*

        It’s not a scam–the actual thing preventing you from taking days off is that your boss has highly unreasonable expectations about “what times are good for PTO”. That’s a boss issue, not a vacation issue.

      3. ferrina*

        I had a boss like this. Same result- I would take a PTO day and end up working for at least half of that “vacation day”. My boss also kept my team chronically understaffed, so it wouldn’t get any better. That boss was also awful in a lot of other ways.

        My current company has safety nets in place to prevent this. HR pulls the number of PTO each person takes on a quarterly basis, and reaches out to managers to ensure that each person takes PTO on a regular basis. They are clear that the concern is that people aren’t taking PTO rather than people taking too much PTO (and the folks that take too much PTO often have other work issues that should be focused on over the PTO). It’s a much, much healthier place to work.

        1. sofar*

          I LOVE this approach. I manage 5 people, and two of them take about six weeks off/year and others take like 5 days! I ALWAYS encourage those people to take more, but I think having the layer of HR encouraging managers who might not think to do that is a wonderful approach.

  9. DisneyChannelThis*

    Current job definitely has an attitude that you should “earn” your vacations, complete something big before you go, finish all ongoing things rather than just leave some for your return, work extra hours leading up to taking time off. Even if that’s just a couple days off, it’s very off putting to me. I’m not sure how to check for that mentality in the interview stage. But I’d be very cautious about unlimited PTO places doing something similar.

    1. The Disembodied Voice*

      If anything though I feel like the accrual system promotes the “earn your vacation” mentality so much more – when I worked at a place where I accrued vacation, it was like I had to claw every hour off with hours worked. At the place I work now with unlimited PTO, we take time off when we need to/want to throughout the year. Usually ends up at 4-5ish weeks.

      1. Stipes*

        But in an accrual system, you explicitly “earn” your vacation simply by working normally. Those hours accrue in your bank without any extra hustle. With PTO, there’s more of a risk of time off feeling like something that requires extra work beforehand/afterward to justify. (Of course, it depends on company culture, like everyone’s saying.)

      2. Mango Freak*

        My last org made us accrue PTO and then on International Workers’ Day tweeted “you don’t have to earn your rest.”

  10. So very tired*

    I worked for one company that had unlimited PTO and I took 2 weeks off at the end of the year + 2 weeks off to move across the country one year. I used the paid sick days more often there to manage my chronic health issues. Those days were also unlimited. That said I didn’t get any PTO hours paid out when I left because we didn’t accrue them. Nobody blocked or objected to our PTO there. It’s probably a rare thing.

  11. CatLadyEsq*

    I had unlimited PTO for about two years while I worked as an associate as a law firm.

    Our billable hour requirement was extremely high, so if I took PTO of any kind it just meant I would have to make up those billables on weekends or evenings.

    I took zero vacation days while I was there. I only missed work a handful of times when I was so sick I could not safely leave the house.

    For the small firm I worked for, unlimited PTO was just a cost-savings measure to avoid them having to pay out any accumulated leave upon separation. They knew we couldn’t take any meaningful vacation because of the high billables.

    1. The Disembodied Voice*

      Yikes, from what I know about law firms, that seems like the worst atmosphere for “unlimited” vacation days.

    2. Lost academic*

      At the billable hour firms I’ve worked at, PTO counts to your utilization (i.e. it’s considered billable time) though we tend towards an annual utilization rate instead of a flat hours goal.

    3. BetsCounts*

      I recently worked at an accounting firm that also had ‘Unlimited PTO’ but also had minimum chargeable hours, which meant in practice that it’s NOT unlimited.
      As Just Here for the Cake says above, without the ‘use it or lose it’ deadline it was always ‘too busy’ for the partner to approve extended (1 week+) time off.
      When I changed jobs a traditional PTO plan was one of my requirements.

  12. Accidental Software Tester*

    My company switched to unlimited PTO a couple of years ago – it was right after a bunch of people quit, and it seems like they were trying to avoid paying out accrued vacation time. I handle “how much time to take off” by acting as if I’m on the old accrual method – with my current seniority, that’s 2 days/month, but it ranged from 1 day/month for your first year, and then added 0.33 days/month for the next two years, and another 0.33 for the following two, until you maxed out at 2/month. I haven’t had any trouble but I use this to both make sure I’m taking enough time off and as a defense if I have trouble with being told I’m taking too much – it’s hard to argue with “24 days/year was the allowed amount before PTO was unlimited.”

    1. JustKnope*

      It’s frustrating that those calculations now become the employees’ individual (and invisible) burdens to figure out and manage, instead of the company just setting realistic expectations.

      1. Accidental Software Tester*

        I totally agree. I use a spreadsheet to do the calculations and offer to share a copy with anyone who comes on board to my team, but it’s really goofy to make this an employee problem.

      2. Your Mate in Oz*

        I dunno, I use a spreadsheet to track my hours worked and have done for ~30 years. So for me the cell at the top “target hours worked this financial year” is no big deal. I track sick leave separately because I don’t have a target for that.

        You could do it on a weekly basis if you were so inclined: just note how many days/hours you worked and how many to took as holiday or sick pay.

        It’s IMO a small effort given the benefit.

        FWIW my long service leave vested during the covid lockdowns when I also wasn’t taking annual leave, so now I’m on a six month mandatory break to burn off the accumulated leave. I’d rather have that than “unlimited” PTO where I expect I’d be fired during my first six month cycle touring adventure…

  13. Elle*

    What are the guidelines given for this? Like, how do managers assess when too much is being taken? What if someone is always calling out for daycare/illness/car troubles etc?

    1. The Disembodied Voice*

      If it’s done properly, it’s got to be a results-oriented workplace. My workplace has OKRs (objective and key results) that each employee sets for themselves each quarter. Their manager approves them, and each person’s OKRs are supposed to support their team’s OKRs, which in turn support the company OKRs (rolling up meaning that the individual ones are supposed to be objectives that support). This gives us pretty easy metrics every quarter for performance – are you meeting your own objectives? Are you doing the work you said you’d do? And of course you plan your OKRs to be achievable in the amount of time you have, taking into account time off (we always have to remind ourselves to be conservative with our Q4 OKRs because December ends up being half a month of work in the end).

      If people aren’t getting their work done and objectives met, the why of it (are they taking too much time off, are they just effing around when they should be working) is immaterial.

    2. Beth*

      In my company the guidelines are basically whatever your manager will agree to. I see people in my company using our unlimited PTO in a wide variety of ways. One person takes every Friday off in summer. Another takes 3 consecutive weeks off to visit family overseas each year. Another takes off for school breaks (not including summer) and any day his kid has a fever. Personally I do a fair bit of travel (often working remotely while there, but the actual flight days are PTO), and take longer periods off for the holidays and for a couple family events in the summer.

      But I work at a tiny company. Flexibility is really built into our culture, both in terms of how we work (we jump in where we’re needed) and in terms of how we take breaks (my manager doesn’t want me to bother with requesting official PTO unless I’ll be OOO for more than half the day). I think this policy fits in well with that. In a bigger or more rigid company, I’d be a lot more worried about hidden expectations and unwritten guidelines.

    3. Ashley*

      My boss wanted to switch to it, but in reality they only wanted people to have 10 days off, but call it unlimited. I interviewed at a company that had it, but as I asked questions because of this site, it was unlimited but I would be bringing my computer every where I went.
      My role I technically have unlimited but it is the annoyance I get from other co-workers that makes me discreet about how I flex it. For example I will say something to boss about leaving early because of X and they are like just leave now, but I know I need to finish important task, but still take a half day. All the other co-workers who don’t know my schedule or why I was leaving early make snarky comments … a fair amount of that is attributed to a bad culture and their unhappiness with what they negotiated.

  14. Lauren*

    Unlimited PTO is another bullshit perk that only makes expectations unclear for employees and puts managers in the uncomfortable spot of making judgement calls and assessing fairness based on little guidance. But we all know that. Pragmatically, since many managers at one point probably worked somewhere where they had a set number of PTO days, they probably have that number in their head as the “right” one. If you stay around that number and make it clear how you’re getting the work done before your days off, that will probably sit well with most managers.

    1. ferrina*

      Depends where you work.

      I’ve seen it done right. In that scenario, managers had a special meeting where HR explained expectations. HR set a “high” number of PTO and a “minimum” number of PTO. The minimum PTO was a set-in-stone expectation–HR wanted each staff member to have sufficient time off to unplug and recharge (citing studies showing that productivity is higher and creativity is better with regular time off). The “high” was flexible- HR would keep an eye on PTO and notify managers when an employee was getting near the high number. That way the manager could either let the employee know (hey, you only have a couple more days you can take off this year) or make an exception (for example, if a higher performer liked to work 70 hour weeks for 6 weeks then took a week off, and it didn’t impact work).

      The only issue we really have is with early career professionals who are trying to figure out what a reasonable level of productivity is. PTO is part of this- they just aren’t sure when they need to work overtime (they are exempt) vs when it can wait, how to ensure that they have things appropriately handed off before PTO, etc. We are still trying to figure out the best way to address this, but it might just be an inevitable part of the learning process (though if someone has any tips, I’ll take them!)

      1. Mad Harry Crewe*

        “if a higher performer liked to work 70 hour weeks for 6 weeks then took a week off, and it didn’t impact work”

        Well, that’s a terrible deal. That’s 6 x 30 = 180 hours of extra work for 40 hours off.

        1. ferrina*

          Totally agree. Not something I would ever do, but I’ve met people who prefer to work like this (a certain family member does this all the time- they also get comp time in their role, so it’s not an issue for them).

          The thing I’ve run into more is when an exempt employee works a lot of overtime then doesn’t get any comp time or recognition for it. At a couple former jobs I would work a bunch of overtime (way more than expected in my role) and then would try to get a little bit of time to recuperate, but would either need to take it out of my meager PTO bucket or “we don’t do comp time”. So I’d work an extra 40+ hours of overtime per month (above what was expected for my role), then get chided for trying to get a day off.

      2. Lauren*

        That scenario is honestly so funny — they clearly realize they should just give people a set amount of days off! Then we wouldn’t all have to waste time talking about it!

        1. ferrina*

          Not really. It’s a different approach to the age-old problem. They opted for an unlimited time off for several reasons:

          1. Less admin. We used to have 7 different buckets for PTO. Now we have 2.

          2. Less nickel and diming. As an employee, I’m no longer constantly checking my PTO bucket, wondering if I’ll be sick or if my kid’s school will have a snow day. It used to be that extra time was so exempt employees could do more overtime- I had a boss tell me “it doesn’t matter how much you work, your’re exempt”. Now it works in the employees favor as well. And as a result, I’m actually more willing to work after hours, because it’s a fair and even exchange. They treat me as an adult who can manage my PTO; I treat them like a company that can manage human resources.

          3. Parity for employees. It used to be that less senior employees got less vacation days, regardless of how hard you worked or how good you were. It was often measured purely by time spent at the company. Now a good employee can take the time off they deserve, regardless of how long they’ve been at the company (assuming the manager isn’t terrible. but there are some safety nets for that)

          4. Better finances for the business (yep, it’s of course about money). If a business has guaranteed PTO amounts (say, 3 weeks vacation and 1 week sick leave), they need to keep financial reserves to pay out people that may resign. Different states have different laws about how much companies pay out, so that can also add an admin headache for companies with remote employees/sites in multiple states. With unlimited PTO, it can simplify a lot of it and you don’t need the money in reserve.
          Of course, it also means that employees that don’t use PTO don’t get paid out, and it really is a problem if managers don’t let employees take PTO. Of course, that’s a problem anyways, but with unlimited PTO you don’t even get a payout for not taking PTO.

    2. sofar*

      I agree for the most part, based on my experience. I think the BEST of all worlds is a generous, specific number of days off a year that can be taken any time (ie, not accrued over time). At one company, it was 20 days off a year (in addition to company holidays), and that was perfect. Use it or lose it — so everyone was incentivized and empowered to take it and considered it part of their compensation.

      Now, my workplace has “unlimited” time off, but it’s a weird dynamic because there’s a strong “As long as you get your work done” vibe — which is a trap because work is NEVER “done.” Also, I’ve noticed people take vacation days less seriously. When everyone has to burn a day out of a set number, and they took off, people understood the value of that day and generally didn’t bother you. Now, with “unlimited” PTO, I find I get hounded more (asked to join a meeting on my phone, asked to “jump on,” asked to “pull data” or clarify something on Slack) because you can just “take a comp day” given “unlimited time off. Ie, PTO becomes nebulous and meaningless.

    3. Monkey's Paw Manicure*

      With unlimited PTO you don’t accrue vacation time they have to pay when you leave.

      My current job gives me more vacation than I feel like using, unless I have something going on, but it lets me bank up to two years worth. I’m usually over capacity and take random days off before the end of each year to take it down to the max.

      When I leave for retirement or whatever reason, I’ll have ten weeks of salary as a nice going away present. Regardless of how much I was making when I filled my vacation bank, I’ll get paid at the last (highest) rate when I leave.

    4. Orangejuice*

      My brother in law has unlimited PTO and took about 5 weeks last year. His manager told him it was too much and he needs to stick to about 3 weeks this year.

      1. Bast*

        This is my main issue with unlimited PTO. Nice idea, but there seems to be unspoken rules about how much time some companies believe that you SHOULD be taking vs. what people actually do. If they’re going to bust balls and tell people they should take 3 weeks tops, why not just provide only 3 weeks to begin with? There are so many letters written in about people “failing” when it comes to unspoken rules and expectations; it leaves me baffled as to why companies leave it wide and open like this and then complain.

  15. Sivvy*

    The company I worked for that had unlimited PTO, used it as a “look at this wonderful perk!!” talking point during the interview process, but if you actually used more than about 3 weeks it was used against you during annual reviews.

    1. Abundant Shrimp*

      Oh lord, how awful. And 3 weeks is nothing? 3 weeks is what most companies I know now have to give their new hires at the start.

    2. Stoppin' by to chat*

      This is an example of “weaponizing unlimited PTO” that I referenced in my comment below (which I haven’t personally experienced but is definitely an issue.) Wonder if anyone has a good script to ask about PTO expectations and culture during interviews with unlimited PTO companies.

      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Wonan*

        My job has open PTO. When I interviewed for the position I asked my now boss what that looked like, as I had heard sometimes people end up taking less time off because they don’t want to be seen as taking too much. She responded that it was working well and as a manager she wants people to feel free to take the time they need off, we all have lives outside of work. As long as goals and deadlines are being met, do what you need to do. And that has been my experience. We don’t even have to have our time approved, we just block our calendar and cc the boss. If I haven’t blocked any time off, my boss will ask if I have any planned I just haven’t put on the calendar yet.

        It’s been great and for me it is a huge perk. I’m building a house and moving this year, so I have and will need a lot of random days off. Not having to worry about how much PTO I have left definitely helps.

  16. Kay*

    My company has unlimited PTO, but they also enforce a 10 day MINIMUM to ensure that everyone takes time off.

    1. KHB*

      That’s nice in theory, but it seems like the wrong approach, assuming that the problem they want to solve is people feeling like they can’t take time off because their workload/workflow doesn’t allow it. (If they’re mainly guarding against people who don’t want to take time off because having someone else cover their work would reveal their scheme to embezzle money from the company, that’s different.) By just forcing people to take time off, without changing anything else about the situation, they’re just pushing those people into uncomfortable situations where they’re probably running in circles trying to get the same amount of work done in fewer days.

      1. ferrina*

        My company has this policy, and we do also look at some of the things you mention. For example, we look at if there is a trend among a particular manager/department of people not taking days off or only taking the minimum. We look at hours worked (all our staff are exempt) to see if there are resourcing issues.

        You’re right- a minimum in a vacuum isn’t a catch-all solution, but it is an important part of the equation.

  17. LTR FTP*

    We had an issue at my unlimited PTO company (US headquarters) with some of our Europe-based team members taking 4 weeks at a time in the summer. It was fine in that they weren’t taking advantage of the privilege, they didn’t take a lot of time the rest of the year. But it was just hard to plan projects/go without them for that long. However, culturally it was kind of normal for them to do that so we rolled with it as best as we could.

    1. The Disembodied Voice*

      Your Europe-based team members almost certainly had legal requirements for minimum days off. I work at a US-based company and our US-based team members have unlimited PTO, but those of us who live in Europe have to abide by our national minimum (21 days where I live, and it’s way more in most countries). Also, as you say, culturally in several of those countries it’s considered normal to take most of August off.

    2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      You’re going to have that issue with European team-members regardless of the US PTO policy. They have higher PTO minimum requirements (usually at least 20 days, plus the public holidays in their country which are often more than in the US.)

    3. Jamjari*

      I worked for a French-owned company once (without an unlimited PTO policy). We just knew not to expect much to come from the teams in France over August. We were all jealous.

    4. Bast*

      At all companies I’ve worked at in the past, there was a max of using 5 days at a time unless you had pre-approval. We only had 15 days tops to begin with, but they didn’t want someone taking a 3 week cruise to Alaska and burning through it all at once.

  18. Overworked*

    In my last company I was the victim of doing too much good work and rewarded with even more work. I was working more than 3-4 people at my level combined. We had unlimited PTO. A mix of the pandemic when I didn’t want to travel anywhere plus having way too much to do had me taking off 20 days in total over the entire of 4 years. I screwed myself. I’m no longer there. My current company also has unlimited PTO and I’m trying really hard to make myself take off at least 3 weeks a year. Make yourself take the time you have earned!

  19. Brooklyn*

    I’ve worked at a couple places with officially unlimited PTO. It depends heavily on culture.

    When it’s bad, it’s really bad. Managers sometimes take it to mean that employees are therefore not entitled to taking time off, and power trip on rejecting PTO requests. Or cancel PTO approval willy nilly because “something came up.” And the people who end up in the boss’s favor get to take time off when they want it, others can’t. Or your boss starts deciding if your reason to take time is “good enough.”

    When it’s good, though, it can be really good. My current org has a PTO minimum – if I take less than 20 days, my manager gets a call from HR in December and encourages me to take more time off. I work hard, I hit my goals, I’m given the benefit of the doubt. It’s also really nice to have unlimited sick time. If I’m feeling crummy, I don’t hesitate to take off. And because it’s unlimited, if I’m just sitting in bed sniffling, I’ll gladly answer a Slack message and help someone find the right doc or point of contact. But I also know that taking a sick day won’t stop me from going on vacation in a couple months, or take care of a family member if needed.

    I have easily taken twice as much PTO in 2023 as I did at my last “unlimited” job. I also think I’m easily twice as productive, though that has to do with the better culture writ large. In short, try to figure out how it works in practice. Ask questions. Is anyone is ever denied PTO? Is there a yearly minimum? How much does the average person take? How much does your future manager take?

    1. CR*

      My org has unlimited sick days (but limited vacation time) AND a flexible, hybrid work policy and it STILL results in people coming to work while sick. It’s infuriating.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Do you work with me? LOL We strongly encourage people to work from home or take a day off when sick (because: unlimited sick days) and I still have had coworkers come in coughing their heads off.

        1. Abundant Shrimp*

          We had a big learning experience right before Covid hit. In January of that year, people came down with a bad cold/flu/bug/maybe-already Covid? that had everyone out with high fever and a terrible cough for at least a week. I didn’t catch it because I sat on the side of the building that had cubicles and two-person offices. But the other half had been recently converted into a big open space to “promote collaboration”, and when this bug hit, it emptied the open space for at least a month. Then Covid came and we all went to WFH. Later that year, in an all-hands, a manager asked “shouldn’t we be thinking about return to office already” and all the rest of the managers were “omg no!!! Remember the January bug?”

        2. Bast*

          Does your company encourage, or “encourage?” I only ask because in some companies they will “encourage” you to leave if you feel sick/take a day off, and then use it against you late. In the here and now, sure, you called out sick, no big deal, but when it comes time for review, it’s, “You call out sick all the time” or you come back and it’s “Oh, well since Jane was out sick AGAIN we had to postpone XYZ project” and there’s a definite undercurrent of guilt for taking a day off, despite it being technically okay to use a day. Heck, I’ve had designated “sick day” banks where people were made to feel like crap for actually using all their sick days.

      2. amoeba*

        Oh yeah, that’s still absolutely a thing in my country, where (basically) unlimited sick time is the law. No idea what those people are thinking.

    2. Stoppin' by to chat*

      +1 to the comment on being willing to do a little work if needed even if I’m OOF (what we call out of the office at my company.) Since unlimited PTO is promoted as part of a broader culture of flexibility, I’m okay being flexible on my end as my employer is flexible with me (i.e. 100% WFH)

  20. Dev Life*

    Old job had it. You could take up to 160 hours (4 weeks) with approvals from your immediate manager only. Anything over that and you started having to get higher approvals depending on how far over you went. I loved it. I was never denied and used all 160 hours every year. However, I could see it not being so nice if you don’t have managers that encouraged you to take the max allotment they could approve like mine did.

    I had coworkers that were able to get more than 160 hours approved without much issue as well.

    My partner is at that company still and has the same experience I had with it.

    1. The Disembodied Voice*

      …that doesn’t sound like unlimited PTO to me? It sounds nice, but I think the idea with unlimited PTO is that it doesn’t get formally tracked.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        No, it still gets tracked! You don’t want someone trying to turn a FT job into PT (although I’d guess their actual work output would suffer, but they maybe could do it for a while), you want to make sure that people use it, and the manager has to approve usually so someone isn’t taking 3 weeks right before a crucial deadline (like a board meeting where they need to provide data). Old Job had unlimited PTO with a “cap” at 30 days, but that’s just when you needed manager approval. You also had to get it for more than 2 weeks off in a row, but that seems pretty standard.

        1. ferrina*

          Seconding this!

          Most places that do unlimited PTO do track it. We track it 1) to make sure people aren’t turning FT job into PT, as AngryOctopus said; 2) to make sure people are taking the minimum of PTO so everyone can recharge; 3) to inform our staffing needs and hiring decisions.

          1. Stoppin' by to chat*

            This is so interesting! When my employer (very well-known software company you’ve definitely heard of) changed to unlimited PTO, employees no longer has to track in the time tracking tool. We still have buckets for time off like sick time, etc. So the tool still exists. But no longer able to track PTO days.

            1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

              This is how my company (which you’ve heard of but is not a tech company, even though I’m in a tech function) does it too. There is literally no way to request or report a vacation day in the time tracker – we need to ask our manager, and put it on the team Outlook calendar, but there’s nothing that is official or gets rolled up. We do have sick leave reporting and tracking.

        2. Keeley Jones, The Independent Wonan*

          My company doesn’t formally track time in our payroll system. My boss does track the time off calendar, but only to make sure people are actually taking days off every quarter. If you haven’t blocked much time off, that’s the only time it gets brought up. I can’t say what other managers in the company do, however working with people in other teams, everyone seems to take regular time off no problem.

          Now if someone was taking so much time off it was dropping them to part time stats or otherwise delaying work, then I’m sure it would get mentioned. I have yet to see anyone abuse the open PTO. Everyone behaves like an adult about it. (Granted, I tend to mainly work with people mid-career or higher, and the types that would abuse the policy wouldn’t make it on the team)

  21. some days you're the bug some days you're the windshield*

    I used to work for a big tech that had some staff on contracts with unlimited PTO and others with a specific amount depending on when they joined. I handled scheduling for staff on both and the only real difference was that those with unlimited PTO might get lucky and get a few more days if their manager liked them. Otherwise requests past the amount of days given to staff not on unlimited PTO were usually denied due to business needs. If you are interviewing I would suggest asking what their process for approval looks like, and maybe what the average amount of time off is that people in your dept take. Unless it is an extremely new company they most likely have a record of this somewhere and that could give you an idea.

  22. Cat Sandwich*

    My friend had unlimited PTO at her tech start up and she used it a ton, however she was expected to be available at all times for light job responsibilities like responding to emails or following up on requests. She didn’t seem to mind it.

    1. sofar*

      My company is kind of like this, and I hate it, and it also depends on manager. But, yes, people feel more entitled to “bug” you on your day off because you can just take another day off b/c “Unlimited vacation time.”

      I, however, never bug my directs when they’re off and I decided I deserved that too (plus, jumping on while I was on vacation was telegraphing to them they had to do the same). Now, I really try to “play dead” when I’m on vacation in hopes that I set a more healthy precedent. I still get frantic Slacks and people begging me to solve problems that they could ask someone else about or just wait til I’m back, but I refuse to answer — and let them spiral.

    2. tech sellout*

      imo this is the real problem with unlimited PTO at tech startups – when PTO is unlimited, the line between “i’m heading out early this afternoon but will still be on Slack” and actual PTO is very blurry. truly unplugging is difficult or impossible. When you work at a company with a more formal PTO policy, it’s easier to fully disconnect on your time off, at least in my experience.

  23. CourtneyS*

    I have unlimited PTO and it’s great. We are very much encouraged to use it. I take at least one full week every quarter with some other days mixed in. I take all the days my kid is off from school and have no issues with appointments or illnesses. I’m at the senior management level but this is also how I treat my direct reports. We are also fully remote if that makes a difference. I work in healthcare tech.

    1. ferrina*

      I found unlimited PTO decreased my parent-schedule stress so much!! I don’t have to desperately count remaining PTO days and hope my kids don’t get sick or have a snow day. I can just put in the school closure days and not worry about it. I’m not nickel and diming my vacation dime just in case there’s a bad flu season- I can take a proper family vacation and not worry about it.

      1. Stoppin' by to chat*

        Exactly! This has been my experience as well. I also have an amazing manager though. I have heard about employers weaponizing unlimited PTO though, especially in the tech industry where this is a popular time off model.

      2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        Yes this! No more “if my kid is sick more than one day this fall, I’ll need to work between Christmas and New Year’s” stress.

  24. LB*

    I’ve worked for two companies in different industries with unlimited PTO. It comes down to your leadership / manager on implementation and how you’re perceived as a worker. What’s ok for you to take is based on how others perceive your work ethic and production. It was hard to take longer blocks of time and I felt like I had to justify those. Both companies were remote/flexible so I never had to take PTO for appointments, etc. However, both companies also valued “always on” and so it was really hard to fully unplug on vacations. I was good about saying I wasn’t available and making myself scarce but I didn’t feel like that was the norm or appreciated.

  25. Anna*

    My company transitioned to unlimited PTO 2 years ago. I’m manager level and encourage all my reports to take at least what they would have been eligible for before the transition. I dont deny PTO when requested as long as the team has coverage and haven’t had my PTO ever declined either.

  26. girlie_pop*

    My first job out of college had unlimited PTO, and how it played out really depended on who your manager was. On my team, we were encouraged to take PTO and use it whenever we needed it. One of my teammates took three months off when his first kid was born and our boss was totally cool with it.

    On the flipside, another guy on another team tried to take six weeks when his fourth or fifth kid was born, and after a week or two his boss was calling and asking him when he was going to come back, pressuring him to work from home, and basically harassing him out of using his PTO.

    This did cause some tension between teams, especially ones like mine, where we were encouraged to use it and did and other teams where people were essentially punished for using the benefit, and a lot of people I knew wound up just not taking much PTO and only using it for like, medical emergencies or very big, expensive trips.

    1. ferrina*

      At my company Parental Leave is a different bucket from our unlimited PTO. You can kind of use unlimited PTO for parental leave, but not indefinitely. We have a benefits expert who sits down with each expectant parent and talks through their options so they know exactly how much time they are entitled to. The benefits expert then communicates this to the manager so the manager has no say on the parental leave. It both protects the employee who knows exactly what they are entitled to, and the manager who won’t inadvertently break the law (we have a lot of remote employees, and in the U.S., different states sometimes have different parental leave laws).

  27. Missing My PTO*

    I used to work for a U.S. company with unlimited PTO and we were encouraged to take at least three weeks (15 days) each year. I probably took about that much, plus maybe an extra day or two each year. We also had a long weekend once per month so we ended up having a lot of department-wide time off. The biggest factor for me was being on a team that encouraged taking PTO! I know other teams didn’t have that same internal culture, and those folks took off less time as a result.

  28. Momma Bear*

    I’d ask what the average amount of PTO taken is or what is the longest block of time one can take at a stretch. I had a job where I could take unlimited time off but it wasn’t paid, so no work = no money, even if I had a job to return to. Most people took no more than 2 weeks at a time. I would want to know if the culture is “you can, but you won’t” or if people actually took time off. My current company uses banked PTO but are very flexible and it’s routine for people to admit they are going golfing on a nice day or attending a kid school event and taking the rest of the afternoon off. If this unlimited PTO will be truly flexible, it could be a good thing. If not, it could be hiding a culture where people never take time off.

    1. 1,000 Snails in a Lady Skin*

      Re: avg amount of PTO taken, my company has unlimited PTO and no one tracks it at all. It’s on your team calendar but HR, and even the team manager, has no idea how much any individual employee is taking unless they go to the team calendar and count (and hope you’ve actually recorded accurately).

      I remember asking this during an interview and both HR & the hiring manager were like… we have no idea, we don’t track it.

      However, we do recommend a minimum of 4 weeks (20 days), but there’s no one enforcing it and it’s up to each individual employee to make sure they’re taking that. Sick time is separate and not counted towards these 4 weeks.

  29. CanadianTechWorker*

    At my company, we have unlimited PTO. I believe the average yearly vacation PTO that is taken is around 5 weeks. Including the paid holidays we get, it works out to being around 7/8 weeks vacation. But, it varies by department and how long you’ve been at the company. HR ensures that you’re at least at 3 weeks a year. We have three separate unlimited PTO categories: vacation, other and sick. Other is for medical/personal appointments.

    At my company, vacations that are longer than 2 weeks require approval from the Executive in charge of your department and are not very common.

    For me, I’ve never had any issues with getting time off approved and I’m usually more than the average.

  30. Liv*

    I have worked for several companies that have unlimited PTO. Only one of them successfully implemented unlimited PTO – a small agency that seriously prioritized employee happiness. While I worked there, we transitioned from a bank of PTO days to unlimited PTO, and the primary reason it worked is because they had minimum PTO recommendations per year, and each manager was empowered and responsible for ensuring their direct reports took at least as much time off as what was provided pre-transition.

    In all the other instances of unlimited PTO, it’s not truly unlimited and not actually a benefit compared to a set amount of hours or days of PTO per year. There’s too many opportunities for bad managers to prevent their team from using PTO properly, too many opportunities for inexperienced employees to not understand how much time off is ‘normal’ and take too little, too many opportunities for miscommunication.

    My favorite way to identify unlimited PTO that isn’t truly a benefit is to ask some questions later in the interview process – specifically:

    1. Is there a mandatory or recommended minimum of PTO to take a year?
    2. What’s the average amount of PTO taken? Does it differ by team? <- if HR or the hiring manager can't answer this, especially the first part, RUN.
    3. What's the process for approving PTO? <- this can help identify if managers are able to abuse approving PTO.

  31. nonprofit writer*

    As someone whose spouse has unlimited PTO, I hate it. I think this is partly his personality, but he doesn’t feel he can take much time off at all. He would probably be like that to some extent in a job with a defined amount of vacation, but I think this makes it worse. I am a freelancer now but in my last job, I had 4 weeks vacation, 1 week personal days, and 12 days a year of sick time that carried over. I really preferred that and almost always took all 5 weeks of my time off. But that may be a personality thing.

    1. Honey Badger just don't care*

      There IS a burden on the employee to take time off regardless of what sort of vacation policy the company has. It sounds to me like you are right about this being more a spouse personality issue than an actual company issue. It’s a mindset that we all have to work to change. If we start with the premise that time off is just as important as time on, AND we take that time off, then we start to shift the cultural norms as well as make it easier for people to build that into their personality that nothing bad is going to happen if they are gone for a reasonable amount of time each year.

  32. Hiring Mgr*

    I have had unlimited PTO in various jobs since 2004 and personally I would never go back. The best way to do it is to have a minimum required PTO (3-4 weeks) so that everyone takes some time off.

  33. DC Consultant*

    I work at a medium sized consulting firm that most of you have heard of. People tend to work 45-55 hours a week, although some work more. People do indeed take PTO, including longer breaks of weeks at a time if they have something going on outside of work. As long as your projects are covered you’re good. That said, you will have annual targets for client hours or projects completed that your pay is tied to. So if you were to take off eight weeks you might miss out on incentive pay if you didn’t hit a higher tier of client hours as a result.

    Personally, one of the nicest things about it for me is the ability to just leave early sometimes or take a random day off if a friend is in town or I need a mental break and have it not limit my ability to take a full vacation later. I think it actually encourages balance because I don’t have to worry I’m burning time if I skip a few hours of work here and there.

    1. ErinB*

      I’m in a law firm and find that my experience is much the same. The yearly billable hour requirement (plus the fact that our bonuses are based on hours and/or revenue collected) acts as a sort of “limit,” in its own way, of course.

      But similar to DC Consultant, people do seem to take time off (I usually take 4-5 weeks a year, not all in full week stretches) and the flexibility to easily take a day off, particularly after a busy stretch, is great.

      FWIW, I don’t think non-attorney staff at our firm have unlimited PTO, which is probably the subject of its own column.

      1. MCR*

        I am a lawyer and have the same experience as well. There are plusses and minuses. Like you all say, people really do take time off, and it’s amazing to have the flexibility to be able to pick up my kids in the afternoon and log back on later.

        But the downside is, the yearly hours requirement is a requirement. It doesn’t matter if I have jury duty for two weeks, or a death in my family, or am out sick for a week – that time will be respected when it happens but I’m making up for it at some point later. And relatedly, emergencies are emergencies unless I have someone covering for me. If I haven’t pre-arranged for someone to cover while I’m taking a pre-planned trip, I’m expected to be on the phone at night, on weekends, etc. if my client has an urgent issue. Tradeoffs!

    2. Vveat*

      And when you don’t have active projects, you need to double down on client development to get projects, so also difficult to get time off.

  34. Box of Kittens*

    I don’t have experience with unlimited PTO, but I am curious if, in companies where folks end up taking less PTO than they would if they were on a normal accrual system, if BIPOC/minority employees end up taking less than white/non-minority employees. My guess is yes, but has anyone seen any research around that?

    1. Not a researcher but://*

      I don’t have research around this, but personal experience. I’ve worked for several small start-up style (non tech) companies that had unlimited PTO. No HR, no approvals process, just tell the boss when you’ll be out. As a member of a minority group who also has a disability, this was a lifesaver. I took off for all the holidays I needed to, every medical appointment/day where I was feeling too sick to work, and still went on vacations. I took more PTO than the non-minority folks in my office (and also more than some of the minority folks). At two of the three companies where this happened, no one batted and eye and appreciated that I was a top performer. At a third highly-toxic company, they retaliated by instituting a 10-days max policy (including sick and personal days), and proceeded to harass me about my minority status and disability for the rest of my tenure there. I was the only person aside from the bosses who took all 10 days and ended up needing to take unpaid days, too (the human body is what it is). The bosses did not hold themselves to the 10 days and took off whenever they pleased.

      So my thinking is: a culture that is toxic generally and toxic to minorities specifically will be toxic no matter what the PTO policy is. A culture that prioritizes employees as humans is great for minorities and people in other protected categories, and unlimited PTO can actually help those people embrace their distinctiveness by not forcing them to choose between their vacation days, sick days, and cultural/religious/identity-based needs and practices.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        This makes a very important point (in a sea of other important points): If the workplace is toxic/manager is toxic, it’s not going to matter what the PTO policy is, you’re going to have trouble using it. If the workplace is good and values employees, the PTO will be usable, likely with some work-related guidelines (things like, can’t not work every Friday, please get approval for anything over 2 weeks at a time/X days per year).

      2. Mango Freak*

        Great point–I mean, how many times have we seen letters here about toxic management making standard PTO policies hellish to use? If your boss refuses to approve requests, or takes it back at the last minute, it doesn’t matter if you get 2 weeks or 10.

        Sorry you had to deal with all that :(

      3. Box of Kittens*

        That’s a great point. So sorry you had to go through that at that workplace – glad to see that’s in the past tense now and I hope you’re in a better situation.

    2. ferrina*

      This is a great question! I hadn’t thought of this before, but now I’m going to ask my HR to look into it.

  35. We Happy Few*

    My husband’s new company (he just started there this week) has it. He had one contact person within the company before applying there, and she said that she usually takes three weeks off a year and it’s never a problem (they also have 11 paid holidays.) The company has excellent Glass Door ratings and a lot of employee longevity, so I’m really hoping that it’s a genuine thing with them.

    That said, anything is better than his previous two companies (last one gave two weeks/year, but he couldn’t take it consecutively, and they hassled him about it, and his previous company gave him a week/year.)

    1. We Happy Few*

      I should add that his new company is multi-national, with a very European attitude toward benefits and work-life balance in general, so that makes me even more hopeful! If anything, I feel like it can’t be worse than what he has had…

      1. Elle*

        This is kind of the vibe at my company. We have really generous company holidays (full week in summer and winter, plus the ”typical” us holidays). We’re not European but the approach on my team seems to have that vibe. I’m so thankful for it. I can take a two week long hiking trip and no one’s going to freak out (well, someone on another team might, but my boss would tell them to kick rocks).

  36. mlem*

    My company used to have it for people past a certain tenure. The company culture is also one of little fiefdoms and logging at least X hours per workday (despite being salaried). The combination led to some managers saying, “Well, you had four weeks before you qualified for ‘untracked’, so log your time off on a spreadsheet and don’t exceed four weeks”; and some managers saying “Don’t take more time off than I do, so track yourself *and me*”; and some managers saying to take *less* than they used to qualify for, and possibly some allowing more or even truly untracked. It was a mess and a disaster. They eventually abandoned the system and while a few folks might miss it, I’m pretty sure the vast majority of us were glad to see it go.

    I’d say find out exactly how it’s managed and what the typical usage actually is.

  37. Gritter*

    I’m extremely suspicious of unlimited PTO. It strikes me as a ‘perk’ that is sold as a benefit to the employee, but in reality only benefits the employer.

    1. Mango Freak*

      All employee benefits benefit the employer, or they wouldn’t be offered.

      We’re hearing from people who’ve worked under these policies that they can be great.

    2. Grith*

      Of course it benefits employers. The question is if that benefit takes the form of happier, more well rested, better work/life balance and eventually longer-tenured employees (all of which also benefit employees), or is the benefit more to do with actually the use of less holiday and/or paying out less unused holiday?

  38. OlympiasEpiriot*

    I am at a place with unlimited PTO and we are constantly swamped to such a level where people lose track of what day of the week it is.

    This means that it is really important to make a point of planning one’s vacations and taking them.

    My department managers, when this change happened, basically said what Salsa Your Face described early in the comments. However, they can only approve vacations up to 2 weeks. Requests for PTO in chunks larger than that have to go up the chain (not sure how high). There is also a culture of people staying connected while on vacation…which definitely reduces the vacation-ness of it for me. This is all the worse lately since we are all swamped: It is really hard to do a handoff for vacation coverage if all likely candidates are already putting in 50-60 hour weeks.

    (We are basically in the infrastructure biz…nice to get projects approved by federal and state govs finally, but, the entire industry is understaffed.)

  39. Ho-ho-holey hose*

    My friend recently took (and later left) a job with unlimited PTO. He was sure it was going to be a positive when he started, as he was confident he wouldn’t give in to pressure not to take time off…but in the end it worked our just as it does most places. He had to work Saturdays (which he knew going in), but the organization wouldn’t let him take any of those Saturdays off, so he could never take a full week off. And of course, when he left, they didn’t have to pay him out any PTO time…

    I’m not saying don’t take it, but I would take the unlimited PTO as a negative rather than a positive when assessing the job.

  40. QuietBibliophile*

    Delurking for this! My company implemented “open PTO” about 18 months ago for all full-time, exempt employees. They specifically did not call it “unlimited” to avoid the implication that you can just never come in to work and still get paid. It carries both our sick time, mental health days, and actual vacation in one bucket.

    -At the company level: we’re told to spend at least 17 days (the annual standard when you started working under the prior system) on personal time, and to aim for at least two days off per quarter. Managers get a report if you’re falling behind on taking time off each quarter.
    -At my team level: we specified the 17 days off does NOT include sick time. We encourage people to pre-plan their 17 days and not count sick time against it. We also don’t make people put in for PTO if they’re going to be gone less than 2 hrs (like running an errand or taking a medical appt).

    Most of the company is remote first, so a lot of the implementation is down to good management anyway. Treat people like adults who can manage their own time, watch out for burnout, and be trustworthy enough for people to come forward when they have extraordinary circumstances.

    1. Ms. Difficult to Supervise*

      I like what your company and your team does (may steal that for my team). My company calls it ‘discretionary PTO’. I make it a point to model what good work/life balance looks like. I generally take about 30 days/year off. There are some managers who do have a hard time with the concept. One of my friends was getting hassled for being ‘hot’ with her PTO when she hadn’t even scheduled 3 weeks. She always got her work done, was available on her time off and he was still giving her crap because there was no structure around it. He felt she should only take what she would have earned under the prior model, but he was an outlier. I’ve never had any issue with having my PTO approved.

      1. Stoppin' by to chat*

        Ms. Difficult to Supervise – My employer also calls it Discretionary PTO, so wonder if we work at the same large software company :) Completely agree it really comes down to the manager and team culture.

  41. Elle*

    I have unlimited PTO! I do hear that some at my company take less time off than they did when they had a given amount of time off, and I’m not surprised by this. I definitely take off plenty. I request off a good amount of PTO at the beginning of each year- mostly for things I know about ahead of time (specific holidays, my partner’s birthday and my own, adding on extra time to existing company holidays) as well as a “just because” long weekend every now and then. I’ll add on additional days as needed for last minute stuff (medical procedures, unplanned day at the children’s museum with the niece, etc) as my work schedule permits, but there’s generally no issue with taking time off. I probably end up taking… maybe 15-20 additional PTO days? We have generous week long company holidays breaks twice a year as well. My job is extremely stressful and the time off makes it possible to actually do it and keep a positive attitude. Honestly, the non-micromanaging attitude my team has around PTO is a huge part of why I remain at my company. I only wish my direct reports used more PTO themselves!

    1. Sarham*

      @Elle Are you tracking their PTO to be able to tell them they are not taking enough and sharing the actual count? Is there sufficient staffing that they can hand off their work and not come back to a situation where they have to work double to make up for their time out of office?

  42. FretfulLlama*

    I currently work at a job with unlimited PTO, and it has some drawbacks specific to the company structure, though there are nice things, too.

    First of all, it’s not 100% no-strings-attached. We have a policy that PTO must be requested at least 4 weeks in advance when possible, which is fair. Generally speaking they prefer to only give a week at a time, but up to 2 weeks at a time is typically granted, and one of the more senior employees is taking a sabbatical soon.

    On the one hand, it is very, very nice to be able to take a sick day or personal day without having to do the mental calculus of “is it reeeeeeally bad enough to use up my valuable PTO?”

    On the other hand, I work for an agency that is beholden to billable hours by clients. Because I work in a position that has some of the largest numbers of rolling hours (think X hours per month for regular teapot cleaning for multiple clients), I almost never feel as though I can truly take PTO, as even a day or two per month can cause me to fall significantly behind. When my grandmother died, I only took a single day of bereavement to travel to her funeral in another state, because my stress at thought of my workload piling up outweighed my grief (which is extremely messed up, in my view).

    At my previous job, we had limited PTO, but we had generous allotments for different types of PTO, and our managers and directors were incredible about encouraging us to use it. Ironically, I ended up taking off more time there than I am now.

    As Alison has discussed before, if you’re going to offer unlimited PTO, you have also build in a culture that allows people to feel they can actually relax and use it.

  43. Biggest Car in the County*

    I’ve been at a company for two years that has unlimited PTO. I’ve never had a time off request denied. It was a bit of a mental shift for me to go from “how can I best maximize my time off” to “I don’t have to try and fit time off around weekends or holidays” but I’m finally there!

    The most I’ve asked for is two weeks at a time and it’s never been a problem. I typically take 2-4 days a month. My coworkers also take plenty of time off. Basically, the culture in my teams seems to be that as long as you make plans to ensure projects will be covered and you’ve communicated to anyone impacted that you’ll be out, it’s no big deal.

    1. Biggest Car in the County*

      I should also add that after you’ve been here four years you get a six week sabbatical. So, that tells me that they don’t want people taking six weeks of PTO all at once until you’re eligible to use the sabbatical benefit.

  44. WhereYaAt*

    I work in tech and over the years have gotten very comfortable with “unlimited PTO”. To everyone’s point, it’s not truly unlimited, more like flexible.

    I have found the biggest challenge is in being comfortable setting boundaries around your time. I’ve never had any time denied, nor denied any of my teams’ requests. But we’ve all worried.

    As a leader, I try to take about six weeks off (30 days, including sick time). I want my team to feel safe doing the same. I try to do at least three fully disconnected, entire weeks off. I also make sure to communicate when I’m taking personal days, taking sick time, taking a half day to accommodate my children, etc.

    I would ask leadership during the hiring process what their time off looks like, and consider my acceptance based on if that seems like a priority for the team or a burden.

  45. starrai*

    At one company, I had unlimited sick days specifically and two weeks vacation. I took a sick day a month, basically, and was eventually told that was too many. So that was a little frustrating in the proposed vs. the practical application of the policy.

    At my last company, I had unlimited PTO, and I ended up taking 3-4 weeks off one year. I think there was a teeny bit of judgment about this, but no one actually said anything, and then the company folded anyway.

    I think if your performance is good and more importantly, recognized as such, taking advantage of the unlimited PTO is not something people will track very closely. It’s when the external perception of you isn’t great that people start looking for reasons to hold things like PTO against you.

    1. Washi*

      Hmm interesting, my husband has 3 weeks vacation and unlimited sick time and we love it, I was coming here to say that I wish more companies had this iteration (although ideally with more like 4+ weeks vacation). But in his case it is truly treated as unlimited. He has taken a lot of time off for our petri dish daycare child and no one has batted an eye.

      1. starrai*

        Admittedly, when I was at the company with unlimited sick days and fixed vacation time, my performance was mid, not great. So I think that’s where the perception part comes in. I’m assuming your husband’s performance is way better! And also I think when it’s for kids, there’s a possibility there’s more wiggle room there (after all, how much effort does it take to be a single person? I kid, but there is that perception at times too). Either way, it’s cool that it’s not an issue for your husband.

      2. doreen*

        I think that this depends on specifics a lot of the time – my husband’s company used to have a policy of unlimited sick time and we might have though it was great when we had little kids getting sick for a couple of days a few times a year. But we were older and I was always afraid that something more serious would happen – my job gave me a certain number of days per year and I could carry it over up to a pretty high cap so if I had a serious medical problem , I could calculate exactly how long my sick pay would last. My husband’s company – let’s just say I didn’t feel confident that everyone would be paid for over a year after having a stroke just because one person did. I used to call it Amex sick leave because I always felt like there was a limit and we just didn’t know in advance what it would be.

        1. Washi*

          In his first 10 months of daycare my son missed over 10 weeks….so we’ve definitely been testing the limits of the policy! At my husband’s company, for a single longer absence you’re supposed to use short term disability, but yeah, hard to say what would happen at the 8+ week mark.

  46. frustratedbyPTOpolicies*

    I think it’s very organizationally specific and even about how you sit in the organization. I work in tech, and we have unlimited PTO. My manager still suggest a max number of hours that is less than most of us had at our previous jobs. But within our organization other teams are more enabled to take what they want.

  47. Lacey*

    We have unlimited PTO.

    My manager was VERY wary when they first rolled it out, bc he thought it would get abused.
    Which made me laugh, because this same manager OFTEN let us take paid time off, but entered as if we’d worked, so we didn’t burn through our PTO.

    And even though he’s still kinda wary in theory, in practice he’s never denied a request.

    Now, I also work from home, so I don’t need as many random days off to be home for repair men and whatever, but I’m taking 3 weeks of vacation time this year and have no worries about being able to take whatever sick time I need in addition to that.

  48. Fashion Show at Lunch!*

    My previous company had unlimited PTO; before starting there, I thought unlimited PTO was an amazing perk for employees, but after I read the company handbook, I realized it’s actually a boon for employers because they don’t have to pay out vacation time when employees quit or are laid off. (I got laid off from that company in January along with scores of other people, so it worked out quite nicely for them!) They also had a rule that you couldn’t take more than two weeks at a time unless you got special permission from your manager (which seemed to only happen for weddings/honeymoons).

    In practice, the amount of time people actually took off varied. Some took 25 or 30 days a year; some took 5 or 10. I found it nice to be able to just put in vacation requests when needed without worrying about whether I had accrued the time yet. My manager was great about taking time off herself and encouraging us to, so I was always able to take around 15 to 20 days a year. I set a personal goal of 20 days a year for myself, and my advice to the LW would be to do the same — set yourself a personal annual PTO target that is slightly more generous than what the average American company would offer (I based mine on the amount that is guaranteed by law in New Zealand, where I lived for a few years) and then pretend like that is your allotted “use it or lose it” vacation time for the year.

  49. Lola*

    I just got it last year and love it. I took a 12-day vacation to Italy in the fall and then took another 10 days at the winter holidays without issue.

    But to me the real perk is grabbing a Monday or Friday off here or there for a 3-day weekend without worrying about if I’ll have enough for my next planned vacation. You *do* have to be deliberate about making sure you’re taking advantage of it or I can see how you’d end up with less vacation time.

    Granted I am a high performer, so it’s never been an issue with my boss. I think that part is largely dependent on one’s workplace.

  50. Abundant Shrimp*

    My workplace no longer has unlimited PTO due to some organizational changes that I’ll leave out of this comment as they would make me very identifiable, but we did have it in 2023 and iirc some of 2022. It was AMAZING! I was very apprehensive about it, but it worked out great. I never had to worry about taking off for family emergencies, took time off to attend out of town events and visit friends, a day off here and there to catch up on house project, mental health days, visiting then-boyfriend’s family out of town, you name it. And I LOVED being able to run off for an errand or a Dr appointment and not have to stay late making up the time after. Obviously we all made sure that work got done and that there was coverage in case of work emergencies. My teammates are incredibly great performers (as I hope am I) and we never had an issue. I will miss unlimited PTO for the rest of my career, it was so good *sheds a tear*

    OTOH I heard it from my colleagues on other teams that it did not work for them at all – that there were always emergencies and they were never able to take off, so ended up using significantly less PTO than they’d used before we went unlimited. In the before-unlimited times, they used to say “I’ve got to use it so I don’t lose it” and be approved for that reason, but with unlimited, it became “eh, we cannot let you take it now, but no worries, you can always take it later, we’re unlimited amirite?” and then the “later” never came. So YMMV.

    1. Bigtech*

      I also found it was great for my mental health. Previously I would always be anxious about taking too much and running out, but now I can take time when I need to without worrying and it’s such a load off my mind!

      1. Abundant Shrimp*

        Right, and there’s always “but what if I get sick, I need to save time in case I get sick” which eventually becomes “well I’m about to lose that time that I had saved, so I have to burn it right now”.

  51. Bigtech*

    My first ‘unlimited PTO’ experience was with a wonderful company with a commitment to work/life balance. We were actually paid a bonus each year if we took a full week and traveled somewhere we’d never been.

    My current company also has unlimited. I did the math and I can still hit my billable hours each quarter if I take two weeks, so technically eight weeks is my upper limit but we also have paid shutdown periods for two weeks a year, so I’ll probably stick closer to six in PTO. I feel very lucky to be in the situation I am.

    1. Scarlet ribbons in her hair*

      “We were actually paid a bonus each year if we took a full week and traveled somewhere we’d never been.”

      So what was there to keep someone from lying and saying, “Oh, I’ve never been to Bermuda before” in order to collect a bonus?

  52. Marketing Queen*

    I have unlimited PTO and I take about 2-3 weeks a year (excluding sick and appointments). They implemented it right when I started, and I already had a big trip planned, so I was able to get my 3-week holiday paid shortly after starting. Still at the company several years later. We’ve had people take month-long sabbaticals (non-manager level). My company is really good about encouraging people to take time off.

  53. Anon for this*

    We just transitioned to unlimited, but over 160 hrs cumulative for the year requires increasing levels of manager approval. It’s likely that this will mean a functional 80 decrease in pto usage for me this year because as a manager I don’t want my new general manager to be approving “extra” pto hours even if it’s just a day or two before Christmas. Not that I think it would be denied, but because I don’t know what kind of capital that extra approval will consume.

  54. Super Duper Anon*

    My company has done this in the worst possible way. We are a global company headquartered in the US, and only the US employees have been switched to unlimited PTO. There are so many teams, including mine, that have a mix of employees from multiple countries. Now it becomes a balancing act for the managers of making sure that the US employees take enough vacation, but also not overshoot the non-US employees so much that the remainder become resentful, or have a lot of extra work piled on them.

  55. Pillow Fort Forever*

    Last two companies have had a version of this -?although we never called it unlimited for obvious reasons (“flex time” and “as you need it” were our terms). It was simple and easy to use and really did add to the overall flexibility of the job. I’m sure some managers were less flexible than others but my experience with it was positive and I dread going back to someplace where it’s closely tracked.

  56. Nicki Name*

    I’ve had unlimited PTO at two companies. Company #1 stated right in the employee handbook that people were expected to take at least four weeks of PTO per year (although if you wanted to take 3 weeks or more in one block, someone above your manager had to approve it).

    Company #2 did not give a clear expectation, but my manager never denied a request and from asking around I found that other people were taking around 4-5 weeks per year, so I calibrated my vacation time to that.

  57. vox*

    i’m not a fan of unlimited pto, both from the perspective as an employee and as a manager. as an employee, i feel i’m entitled to a certain amount of vacation/time off as part of my compensation and i expect to be paid for the time if i leave the job. i also dont want to have to worry about whether i’m using too much or have a nebulous feel for how much i should take. as a manager, i feel like it discourages people from taking sick time (“ooh i dont want to waste my vacation on a little cold…”) even if it’s just a mental thing. having sick people in the office is bad for everyone.

    1. Lola*

      Interesting, becuase I see the opposite – aking sick time feels much easier to justify. I’m not wasting my PTO on it, because there’s no limit. I used to work for a place that just had PTO, no differentiation between sick and vacation, which absolutely meant people were loathe to call in sick (at a health care organziation no less!). Now, with unlimited, I don’t mind taking a day here or there if I’m feeling crappy.

  58. Ann O'Nemity*

    I’m curious about sick vs vacation time at companies that have unlimited PTO. Is it in the same bucket? Do employees take more sick or last minute leave if it’s unlimited?

    1. Begonia*

      The two companies I’ve worked for with unlimited PTO had separate buckets, but in practice I think most people just used PTO. I only used sick time when I was out for a medical procedure.

    2. mlem*

      My company kept sick time and vacation time as separate pools, even for the “‘untracked’ vacation” people when we had that. But I think the answer is very company-specific on this one. (We now have “PTO”, “sick”, and “personal” buckets, which is quite silly.)

    3. Anthem for a Lost Cause*

      My company just switched to unlimited PTO but we only have five sick days. PTO has to be requested in advance, while sick days don’t. I’m definitely hoarding my sick days just in case.

      1. Washi*

        Whaaat as a parent of a small child in daycare that would not on net feel like a perk to me.

        My husband has 3 weeks vacation but unlimited sick and it’s a lifesaver, like literally keeping me in the workforce bc he can do the majority sick care.

    4. Mim*

      My question, exactly. I wish folks giving their numbers would specify if that was for combined sick and vacation days. Taking 4 or 5 weeks a year sounds not too bad, unless that includes 1-2 weeks of sick days. Then it sounds bare minimum.

      I’m also curious about hourly vs. salaried employees. Is unlimited PTO just a salaried thing? Somewhat related, are folks able to use it for partial days or to leave early? (I’ve never been clear on how that works for salaried folks to begin with, as I’m used to having to nickel and dime my every minute like a child. Ugh.)

  59. Delta Delta*

    Had a job with unlimited PTO. Took off 4 days in 3 years. The company then switched to 20 days PTO and could never take more than about 11, and was chastised for doing so.

    It was a bad job.

  60. Reader Rabbit*

    My husband, best friend and BFF’s spouse all have unlimited PTO at their vastly different longtime employers (a hugely recognizable tech company, a niche digital news outlet and a smaller private org) and all have reported zero trouble ever getting their time-off requests approved. Hubs’ mom passed a few months ago and he was able to take a solid two months of bereavement time.

    Another friend worked at a law firm with unlimited PTO and a uniquely toxic environment. Anyone who tried taking time off was essentially treated as a selfish child and a slacker making life impossible for their coworkers. That was the job that made her leave the legal field entirely.

  61. Jim*

    To me unlimited means 4 to 5 weeks of PTO. At my current job they just shifted to this but the unofficial policy is the same graduated rate as before the shift but now you can’t bank it and have it pay out when you leave.

    So overall it was a reduction in benefit.

  62. knitting at the baseball game*

    I work in a smallish biotech with unlimited PTO. My team is encouraged to take time off, the culture in the team is very good and I’ve never had a request even questioned, much less rejected. We also have two separate weeks during the year that the facilities shut down and most people aren’t working anyway, though our team does tend to work during those weeks. But on other teams, it seems like those two weeks are the only two that people end up taking off work. :(

  63. tabloidtainted*

    Someone in my family works at an unlimited PTO company. They switched from an accrual system so that they wouldn’t have to pay out PTO. As you might expect, there is rarely anytime to take vacation (so people would receive pretty hefty payouts) and the unlimited system hasn’t changed that. Sure, you can take two weeks off to travel–but when?

  64. HappilyJF*

    I’m in tech and we have unlimited PTO that is encouraged to use. I recommend asking how much time people usually take off as part of the interview process. I was told that most take between 4-6 weeks per year, and since i’ve been here i’ve found this to be true. Separately we have company shut-down times and separate parental leave policies, but I do find it’s encouraged and honored at all levels.

  65. J!*

    People around here seem to actually take vacations, which is good, I was really worried about the unlimited PTO aspect of the benefits. We do have a clause where people have to take at least weeks during the year.

    I do see a lot of working while sick instead of taking a day off. (We’re remote.) At my last job, we had separate vacation and sick banks that were a pretty reasonable amount, so people actually seemed to take off when they weren’t feeling well or even the occasional mental health day. I don’t know if it’s the remote thing or what, but people seem to really power through in a way I’d prefer to take the day off and watch The Price is Right on the couch with some ginger ale. I can’t unravel if this is an artifact of the remote work or the fact that we don’t have designated “sick days” so people just aren’t associating it with PTO.

  66. HumanWoman*

    My last company offered unlimited PTO after I had been there a number of years. It was obvious this was one of several efforts they made to minimize the financial impact of paying for unused PTO as the proceeded to lay off a third of the company.

    The year before that they “closed” for the winter holidays, employees had to use then-accrued vacation time during the “closure”. Unlimited PTO is a trigger for me.

  67. Begonia*

    My current and previous company have unlimited PTO. I enjoy it, because I feel less stressed about taking days off. When I’ve worked at companies with limited PTO, I hoarded days because I worried about not having enough if I needed them. It works for me, but as others have said, it’s highly company/culture-dependent and used as a cost-cutting measure to avoid vacation payout.

  68. JTM*

    My company has unlimited PTO for the Senior Manager/Lead level and above.

    From what I see, there are no issues with taking time off. My peers and my leader generally average 4-5 weeks total taken a year, spread throughout the year. The first couple of years of the pandemic I didn’t take much, but now I’m on track to take 4 weeks this year, spread over spring break, summer vacation, and late December, with some occasional extra days spread through the year.

  69. Yaya*

    My husband worked for an unlimited PTO company for years. Definitely wasn’t a huge perk. I know culture varies, but his boss was relentless and never really let him “be off.” Even the day my son had a MAJOR surgery he was treated as he expected to log in and take care of work things. Ironically, that was the absolute FINAL straw. He had already started applying to other jobs and left as soon as possible after that. A huge negative is not being paid out a cent of leave time when you leave. So if you, say, get a month off a year but never take it all or leave midway through a year that you haven’t taken any leave you don’t get a dime. My husband is now in a job that gives a certain number of hours of leave a month and a lot can roll over OR you can choose to get paid out at the end of the year. Although we were, as a family, excited about the unlimited PTO it never really materialized to being a positive. Especially since he got a decent amount of leave before the company switched to unlimited.

  70. erp*

    As a family who values our vacation time together and makes the most of travel whenever we can (currently at 5 weeks per year + 2 at Christmas), I tell my spouse (the main breadwinner in a competitive industry) to please, unless our house is about to be taken from us, follow these two rules when interviewing: no companies offering unlimited vacation/PTO time (it’s code for perpetual “sorry, we’re too busy now, you can take it later”), and no American companies. Already on this vacation one of his US colleaguse has called twice wanting his input on something that is neither pressing nor important. Luckily he can say “Sorry, I’m on vacation” without there being any negative consequences.

  71. Silicon Valley Girl*

    I worked for a small company that said they had unlimited PTO — but it was at “manager’s discretion.” So in some departments, ppl could take off a month, while in my dept, I might be able to get a week off if I agreed to answer emails most of the time. Yeah, I left that place after a year!

    Now I’m at a big, well-known tech company with unlimited PTO & they mean it. As long as you give a reasonable amount of notice & make an effort at coverage / tying up loose ends before you go, you can take the time you want. I’ve taken 22-30 days off per year, & my longer PTOs are around 10 days each. Part of the company’s stated mission & values is “wellness” & folks are encouraged to take work/life balance seriously. I’ve been on teams where, if a person hasn’t taken PTO in a year, their manager makes a point of telling them to take the time off.

    1. Silicon Valley Girl*

      Oh at my current company, I never have to be on-call when on PTO. I log off completely! Of course, I’m not management, & I know that’s not always the case for higher-ups.

  72. AVP*

    I’ve had it for the past 5 years. We have unlimited but privately, the CEO will say that she recommends people take off around one week per quarter. The ‘unlimited’ part is because it would be more annoying to track them for our small staff, and because then we’d have to pay out unused days when people leave. It’s just an admin sleight of hand tbh.

    That said – people do take a fair amount of vacation and don’t get much pushback. I’ve taken two weeks in a row, which needed to be planned out in advance but was fine. We’ve had people take more at once for family/health issues and that got some grumbling but worked out okay.

    My real issue is that — because it wasn’t anyone’s job to track days that people were requesting — at one point we just had too many key people out at the same (random, not a holiday week) time and it was a coverage disaster. So now we have a system where we file our holiday requests in advance and the admin can push back on the specific days if they’re already called for by too many people, but we still don’t track how many anyone has taken. I’d say I take like 15, maybe 20 days off per year and that feels fine to me.

    1. AVP*

      Someone pointed this out below so I’ll mention as well – we also close from Dec 23 – Jan 3rd every year paid, as well as a generous version of the usual paid holidays. So I think that leads into the culture of supporting time off, and makes absolutely sure that people are getting vacation even if they don’t think to put in for it. (Although I have also been known to poke employees about making sure they are taking their vacation!)

  73. Cold Snap*

    It really Really REALLY depends on the team. In my previous experience of this, the team was super supportive of people taking whatever time they wanted, while at the same time, killing themselves to meet unreasonable workloads and deadlines.

    I personally don’t feel that supporting unlimited time off while advocating for very poor work/life balance (via culture/demonstrated behavior) really results in a true, unlimited PTO. Make sure to dig into all this at the interview stage!

  74. Shay*

    My husband has unlimited PTO and he definitely uses it well: last year we took two 2-week international vacations, plus several long weekends, plus he took some random single days off for fun things or to travel around the holidays. I had to take unpaid time at my job even though I didn’t accompany him on all the days off. I don’t think anybody at his company gave him a hard time about it. So it’s definitely possible for unlimited PTO to be the perk that it sounds like it is!

  75. Rebecca*

    I have unlimited PTO and we are closed and PAID the week of Christmas – I would say, on average, people use 3 weeks of PTO in addition to the week at the holiday. I use it as freely as I wish with no “raised eyebrows” or issues. Last year I took a total of 26 days off – a mix of vacations and medical in a combination of full days and a few hours here and there. I’m in a lower paid industry and see it as part of my overall compensation package so I use as much as possible while being certain my work is up to date when I leave for PTO.

  76. BigLawHusband*

    My wife’s old job (big law) switched from set days to unlimited PTO, and then her manager began either rejecting PTO requests, or just ignoring them, for her team members if they hadn’t hit their monthly productivity targets, which were either a $ billing amount, point amount, or both. During busy periods (2-3 months every year), all PTO was simply denied or ignored. Before the unlimited PTO switch, they had been encouraged to use their days outside the busy period, but after the switch, they didn’t care anymore, it wasn’t on the balance sheet. She had 15 days before, and afterwards, if she was lucky, she managed maybe 10-12 days a year. I talked to her about gaming the system, by withholding work in excess of her monthly billing / points minimums, so she could save it for the next month, which helped a little with the approval process, but it was still super painful trying to plan vacations, knowing that leave wouldn’t be approved until the same month we were actually leaving. She had to call in sick for our wedding because we couldn’t rely on her manager actually approving PTO for it.

  77. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

    I have unlimited PTO and I’ve never had a day denied or even questioned. That said, I am still very judicious about using my days off to avoid the appearance of abusing the perk, but I’m probably much more cautious than I need to be — I take maybe a day or two off per month, but I feel like most members of my team take a lot more time off than I do.

  78. underhill*

    Work for a marketing company with unlimited PTO and take probably around 4 to 5 weeks a year. One or two long vacations, plus days off and half-days scattered here and there. I am lucky to work at a company that takes the idea of unlimited PTO seriously and never have any trouble getting time off. However, my pay is pretty crappy, and I think they use unlimited PTO as part of their excuse to keep it that way.

  79. Pie Fight*

    Tech industry, large company, they had unlimited PTO before I joined. My manager told me on my first day, “I encourage everyone on the team to take 20-25 days off per year.” I was cool with that because it took me 15 years at my previous job to earn that much vacation time.

    We do enter our time off in Workday and a shared team calendar, but I don’t feel at all like management is watching my PTO. I keep track of my own time because I want to. I think if I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel or a need to be away that wasn’t medical-related, then would be able to dip into that “unlimited” bucket.

    Because I’m remote, it’s harder to gauge how other teams in the company operate. But it seems like everyone takes time off and does not feel pressure not to take it. (We certainly don’t get lectured about taking too much time, like I’m seeing in other comments. That is awful!)

    We don’t have unlimited sick time though. It’s some kind of accrual system in a separate bucket from PTO. I haven’t had to use much sick time (whew!) so I don’t know all the ins and outs, but again it doesn’t feel like anyone is looking over my shoulder if I do call off sick.

  80. someone*

    There’s a funny reel going around IG where someone informs their boss they’re taking 4 months off for a backpacking trip “per the company handbook”. “it’s unlimited right?”

  81. DCBreadBox*

    My last company switched to this – as far as I can tell it’s for tax purposes, not the great perk they would have you think. I had a lot of days as I had been there a long time, so when they switched it really didn’t benefit me at all. It also meant that when I left I didn’t get any leave paid out as they no longer accrued it. I wasn’t there for that long after the switch (for a variety of other reasons) but I can imagine they would still track how much leave people took and informally cap it, especially depending on the worker’s performance.

    I remember when they announced the policy, my staff member (who, putting it politely, was not a great employee) said to me, “you’d better give me more work or I’ll just take days off!” Oy I’m glad I left that place.

  82. avocado lawyer*

    My last company had unlimited PTO. I had a mostly good experience with it and took plenty of time off, but it was probably heavily dependent on your manager/team culture. Luckily I always had managers who prioritized employee well-being and believed time off was a part of that. Before they switched to unlimited, I think I had something like 4-5 weeks of PTO per year based on how long I had been there, and I took a similar amount after the switch.

    I will say, though, that psychologically it sometimes felt like I needed to have more of a justification for using PTO in an unlimited system, whereas before the switch it was more like, well, I have these hours that are mine to spend as I choose. I felt fine requesting time off if I had a trip planned or some specific reason, but slightly less comfortable if I just wanted a day off to relax. That feeling was entirely internal, though, not something that ever came from a supervisor or company leadership.

    Now I’m at a company with a defined PTO accrual system again. It’s fine, and I get a decent amount of PTO (I think around 4.5 weeks), which I use in full because it doesn’t roll over.

  83. anonymousmanagernotunlimitedpto*

    Staying anonymous for this one.

    I was a manager at a company that had unlimited PTO. I managed roughly 10 employees. Every time an employee took over 3 weeks of either vacation or sick leave or a combination of both, I had to explain why they took so much time off to my HR rep and they would either review the justification and approve it or say it was not justified and that was something they would refer to in annual reviews.

    The employees had no idea this was happening. All that was communicated to them was that they had unlimited PTO and could take off as much time as they wanted.

    It put me as a manager in a very tough position because I wanted to approve everyone’s time off but I had this secret motive to not approve it because it would hurt my employees if they took “too much” time off.

    It was awful and I left that company quickly. But I found it very devious and disingenous and I wonder if it happens other places

    1. Bast*

      This is terrible. What is the point of secret expectations? If they truly don’t want people taking more than 3 weeks, then just give them 3 weeks to begin with. This is setting people up to fail, and I feel like what a lot of people fear when they hear “unlimited PTO.”

  84. DinoGirl*

    At our company management felt unlimited should average out around 2-3 weeks/year. Many people, myself in management included, were reluctant to use it. If anything, that was the least flexible organization I’ve worked for as a professional. Very high expectations about time in office but a lot of nice sounding buzz words/perks.

  85. Filosofickle*

    We have “take what you need” (not unlimited) PTO and everyone is good about it, most of the time. I did have a convo with my boss to ask about her informal / internal limit was — at what point would it seem like too much vacation in her mind? She seemed confused by my question but ultimately we got to at least 4 weeks as a baseline + company holidays + extra available for larger events like illnesses and special trips. (Again, she stressed the “what you need part”. But there are usually unstated norms or expectations and that’s what I was digging for. That could be my ASD at work.) At my mom’s end of life I barely showed up for about 2 months and that went by without comment. Mat leaves are 3-6 months. More typically people take vacation time in smaller 1 or 2 week chunks — I’ve yet to see someone do a 3 week trip even for a honeymoon which does imply unstated rules.

    We did have a blip around the holidays this past year. We got some communications (mostly retracted) that were subtly asking us to take less time and ensure all billable hours were still completed so there’d be no revenue loss. It is a challenge that we have client projects that are hard to work around — despite the best planning it’s almost inevitable that PTO plans will collide with crunch times. Regardless of time policies, I always struggle a bit to plan trips because of this.

  86. 10 Days of Unlimited PTO*

    I picked my name based on my sister’s experience with unlimited PTO. Prior to the policy she took a 2 week vacation and assorted sick days. Her boss called her after the first week of vacation and let her know that she had taken 2 sick days since booking the vacation 9 months earlier and she needed to be back in the office Thursday that week as they only expected staff to use 10 days of PTO.

  87. Bookworm*

    YMMV and so from my own personal experience: it was awful. Small business, owner framed it as having less structure/management. And there were some really great perks to it: I could start and end when I wanted to, I wasn’t monitored for my activity (like, no keystroke tracking or anything like that), etc.

    But I did take less time off because the owner felt this meant she could contact us whenever. Calls after hours, emails at absurd hours or on the weekends, etc. So the less structure/management went the other way: she clearly had issues managing workloads when we had clients with emergencies or busier times, etc. but refused to acknowledge this. Ironically I’m on another side of this now: I just picked up some contracting work because the client was unsure if this same Small Business could handle this extra load (niche function of a relatively small field), small world and we’re heading into our busy season for the greater profession).

    I was honestly made to feel I couldn’t take time off because I had co-workers who resented that I did and I’d still work on my days off anyway. I’m not saying it can’t work and I do hope to find an organization that might offer this but I have found that what matters to be more (at this time) is that the organization actually means it about PTO and will respect those boundaries, etc. and maybe be more flexible about PTO if say there’s some sort of emergency that would normally require someone to either exceed it and/or just need that flexibility because the issue has no set end date or some days are better than others, etc.

  88. Susie*

    IME, the benefits of “unlimited” PTO are mostly on the employer’s side, in the form of reduced administration, and no accruals to pay out when an employee leaves. For employees, I see a lot perceived pressure to remain available. Most of our people don’t “take vacation,” they “work remotely from ___.” I’m trying very hard to change this culture by being very up front when I take “vacations”, but I’m a non-founding partner, and I’m swimming against a tide. I don’t have empirical data on number of days OOO.

    One other problem that I discovered the hard way affects anyone who needs to take a short term disability leave (which may include for childbirth). Our STD policy has a waiting period before it kicks in. Support staff who have accruals can opt to use them to be paid during the waiting period. Attorneys with no accruals just go unpaid in that time. Same goes for any weeks on the back end of a 6- or 8-week STD leave for maternity.

  89. beltacular*

    I have unlimited PTO. I’ve only been at the company for maybe 7 months, but in that time I’ve taken two week long vacations, and our office is closed for a week during the summer as a “summer break” and the week between christmas and new years, plus all the usual days off (labor day, memorial day etc). My boss said his goal is that everyone takes 3-4 weeks off , in addition to the two weeks we give. We do have policies though on how long someone can be out at once and the amount of notice we need for a longer trip- we are a small organization, so its a lot to cover for someone 3+ weeks and we do need notice to figure out coverage. I’ve got a vacation scheduled this summer for two weeks, and my boss was totally fine with it, in addition to the random days I’ve taken. My boss encourages me to take at least one day a month as a mental health day.

  90. Bean*

    I’m currently working at my first employer to have unlimited PTO. It’s been an interesting expereience. We’re really small (25-30 total employees) so big contiguous vacations were always going to be tough to swing but are possible with lots of planning beforehand. I think that would be the case even without unlimited PTO.

    The part that I didn’t expect is that it has lowered the value of PTO to me. I don’t sweat taking a day here or there or a sick day if i’m feeling just a little under the weather. Before when the PTO was an entitlement I was very strict about not working, not answering messages, not checking the support queue, etc. Now, I don’t really mind a quick call or chat message if there’s something I can help out with. But that’s also helped by people being very respectful of our time off.

    I think i take about the same total amount of time off as I did previously.

  91. TowelTime*

    Currently work at a level at my company that has “unlimited time off”. I track my pto to make sure I take at least 20 days per year. I’ve never had a request rejected, but this may vary by who your manager is. I have one who prioritizes results over butts-in-seats and knows time off is important to me, but other managers may have different attitudes.

  92. oona*

    My last job had unlimited PTO, and recently re-instituted accrued PTO. It was kind of a mess the whole time we had it.

    My co-workers and I would actually take quite a bit of time off because of the unlimited PTO, usually 4-6 weeks a year. We would ask if that was too much but never got a straight answer from managers or HR. Sometimes your request would get denied because you had taken too much time off, but none of us were ever told in advance we were pushing it and we still couldn’t get straight answers about how much was too much even after this started happening.

    When the company finally did revoke unlimited PTO they essentially said they were surprised people actually used PTO. Most of us were taking 4-6 weeks off a year which I guess was too much, though again they never communicated this to us. I think they were hoping we would take fewer vacation days with the unlimited PTO but ended up taking more.

    The poor communication/implementation of the unlimited PTO policy was just one of many issues with this company’s leadership. I’m now at a job where I was told upfront I got 20 vacation and 10 sick days a year and I much prefer it.

  93. gbca*

    My company has discretionary vacation for directors and above. I’m a director and I take at least as much as I did when I had when I had an allotment of vacation days. I also partially work for some of them depending on the circumstances. For instance, I did not work (save for responding to an email or two) during my recent family vacation. But I often do a “light work” week during the last week of the year when I’m not traveling but also kids are home, etc. So I’ll get the necessary things done, take a couple important calls, but definitely not put in a full day. Also as a director I have to do the occasional weekend work, sometimes late nights, so it all kind of evens out.

  94. AndersonDarling*

    I was at a start-up that had unlimited PTO and we pretty much never had a day off. If you took a day, you were expected to still be available. It’s a Catch-22. Since you have unlimited time off, you should still do a bit of work on your days off, because you have unlimited time off.
    I managed to take 5 real days off over 2 years because I went where there was no internet/phone service. Outside of that, I took maybe 3 days where I was still working a few hours each day.
    I was very happy to leave that job and go back to regular allotments of time off.

  95. Absurda*

    My company has unlimited PTO and I like it, though how it works really depends on your management. My management is very results oriented so as long as the work gets done they’re happy. They don’t really care as much about butts in seats. I try to target at least one day per month and 2-3 weeks vacation (usually as 1 week alone then 2 weeks together). I’ve been taking more vacation than I did when I accrued it. Of course, I’ve been with this company and in this team for almost 20 years so I don’t really feel like I need to prove myself like I did when I was younger.

    Our company does have some ground rules though:
    If you want to take more than 3 consecutive weeks you need SVP approval
    You cannot use it to modify your work schedule (i.e. taking every Friday off to have a 4 day week)

  96. Anonymouse*

    ive worked at companies with unlimited PTO (in my department HR) it was NBD but we also weren’t dealing with “mission critical” things, we were well staffed so it wasn’t a hard ship. I never had my time denied and I took off about 25 days a year. the company also had a week off in the summer for shut down and 80 hours of sick time

  97. Dreaming of Spring*

    My company moved to unlimited about a year ago. I’m really not sure how I feel about it because it does mean they don’t have to pay out unused pto anymore.

    That being said, they did a lot at the beginning to say “We know people often use less pto under this system and our intention is to try to combat that with clear guidelines”

    Those guidelines>

    * Track your pto in the system so we can tell if people are using less and encourage them to use it.
    * Unlimited does not mean unplanned, give your manager a couple weeks notice. (except for sick time and family emergencies of course)
    * Try to use about 3-4 weeks a year. You may use more if you are on top of your work and not putting strain on your team, if you use less we’ll let your manager know so they can check in on work load and see what you need. (however we want the unlimited pto specifically to be more helpful and flexible for family emergencies/sickness so that if you end up needing a lot for the flu we still expect you to use some for vacation. )
    * Generally you’ll need some special extra approval for more than 2 weeks at a time.

    I’m still waiting to see how it plays out but so far it’s been ok. My boss has always been a workaholic so even before unlimited I always felt a little bit of pressure not to take too much, now I’m trying to be more intentional about using around a week a quarter not counting sick time.

    I’m in tech in the USA, beyond pto I believe we have around 11 paid holidays?

  98. The Ginger Ginger*

    We just switched to unlimited PTO. I will say, I trust my company to do it reasonably, and I’m pretty sure they did it to stop having to manage rollover time or paying out accruals when folks left. That said, our time tracking software does tell you how much PTO you’ve taken (even though it’s unlimited) which I find helpful, because I’m making sure to take at least as much as I had under the older system – something like 28 days.

    A couple things – the company added additional company holidays this year, so we get at least one 3-day weekend about 9 months out of the 12 in the year anyway and in the past 4 years, they’ve closed the entire last week of the year without requiring us to take PTO. We also have a rule that limits use to 2 weeks at at a time maximum for vacation purposes (obviously if you’re sick that’s different), and we have a sabbatical perk for longer paid time off every 5 years. Unlimited PTO would have also been REALLY helpful to me at the end of last year (before this switch) when I had to take a bunch of unplanned time off because of a bad bout of illness. I ended up running through ALL my PTO before intended.

    So – done right I think it can work. I think my company is doing it right. I also know it can be implemented REALLY poorly, so it’s very company-dependent. It does mean you need to keep track of your time really well so you don’t end up taking too little time off even if your company is doing it well. In an interview setting, I’d really dig into how current employees use the perk and what the actual culture around it is so you understand how it’s actually playing out wherever you’re applying.

  99. KitKat*

    I work in tech in a company that also has an office in Europe, where employees get statutory leave. I try to take about the number of days that are guaranteed to our European colleagues, and I encourage my team members to use that as a baseline sense of how much leave to take (IIRC it’s 4 weeks per year). In previous tech jobs with unlimited PTO I didn’t have that baseline and certainly took less leave.

    FWIW I’m director level and have never been in a meeting where we look at or discuss how much leave employees have been taking, and have never received feedback from above that my team is taking too much/too little. I’d guess HR looks at it and possibly the C-Level team does as well, but direct managers don’t.

    1. r.*

      EU-wide minimum possible statutory vacation entitlement is 4 weeks, with many EU member countries using 5 weeks instead per year.

      Even if you don’t have to monitor it I can guarantee you that someone, somewhere *is* monitoring how much untaken vacation balance there is for your EU offices, because banked vacation days rolled over from previous years are a balance sheet obligation.

      So Finance will certainly look at it, because a) they need to put it onto the balance sheet, and b) because if you let it get out of hand it can tie up a lot of liquidity.

      1. KitKatBar*

        Yes! I should have been more clear, I mean for US employees there is no discussion on manager level (ie if team members are taking “too much” or “too little” from a corporate perspective we aren’t told about it!) I am sure in EU they are monitoring those teams closely

  100. litigatorgal*

    I work in a law firm where the attorneys have “unlimited” PTO but also have a billable hours requirement and no ability to offload work to other attorneys. So associates who want to take vacation have to 1. ensure there are no hearings or meetings during the time they want to be away, 2. compensate for vacation days by working more the rest of the year to meet billable goals. Partners who want to be away generally have to be available by phone or email in case of an emergency on a case, because the ultimate decision-maker has to be able to address such things. Rarely, with client permission, you can have another attorney sub in if you are gone, but typically that’s only available for things like parental leave or serious illness.

  101. Divergentstitches*

    Unlimited here, I take time whenever I need or want it, and it’s always been approved

  102. overcomposer*

    My most recent job was at a tech startup, ~40 employees. I took around 3 weeks per year. Managers were definitely more apt to take vacation, including multi-week trips. My direct reports, especially one new to the workforce, seemed hesitant, and I repeatedly reminded them that they could take the time they needed. They didn’t need to work a half-day on a travel day, they could just take the day off, things like that. I think there was a spirit of optimism about it, but the managers’ longer vacations never trickled down to the same for others, for whatever combination of reasons.

  103. RebeccaDelite*

    I work in a biotech with unlimited PTO. Most people would average 4-5 weeks taken a year. But like most companies the leadership team will often take less, or be available during scheduled vacation. Our culture definitely values work life balance and taking time away, so I’ve never felt bad for taking time or pressured to not.

  104. MisterForkbeard*

    It really does depend on the company and the manager. I’ve been at a company with unlimited PTO for ~10 years, and I’ve never had my PTO turned down. I tend to take a number of smaller breaks as needed rather than longer absences, but I never feel bad about asking for it. Our internal culture is really good about this.

    Likewise, I’ve never turned down a PTO from my reports, even when it involves being gone for a month or so at a time. I just need them to explain it to me, and give appropriate warning. We had one case where someone asked for 3 weeks off with 10 days of warning because he’d already booked non-refundable tickets. We approved it with a “we’re not doing this again, but you’re junior and we’ll let you get away with it this time” note.

  105. Jessica Ganschen*

    I would definitely love to work at an organization that has unlimited PTO both in theory and in practice, because as an observant Jew, I have a ton of holidays that I can’t work during. Last year, the majority of them fell on weekends, so I had to take very little PTO, but this year almost all of them were on weekdays. Before I got laid off, I was making plans about how I could shift my hours around, working multiple ten-hour days in the preceding or following week, just so that I would have enough time for both my religious obligations and other mundane rest.

  106. Miss Chanandler Bong*

    I’m an accountant, and for what I do, it works very well. Basically, during close, we need to be there, but for the rest of the time, it’s flexible. It’s really nice because during close, we end up working more than 40 hours a week, so a lot of times, people will take a day right after close to decompress, or they’ll go right before close to get a break in. before the chaos. It’s also nice because the department can declare a holiday if they want and not have to clear it with HR. So my department is taking July 5 off even though it’s not an official company holiday.

    We also get unlimited sick time. There are some limits. If you need to take 3 days or more off, you need a doctor’s note, and if you have to use more than five days for the same thing, you have to talk to HR. But if you get the flu and then get COVID, that’s two different things and you just would need a doctor’s note. It was really nice because I got sick right after I started and I got the time off paid.

    I think this works the best in companies where time off and work life balance is already valued. My company offers generous holiday time in addition to our unlimited PTO. My department is all remote, and most of the company is also remote.

    I worked at another company that switched over from accrued PTO to unlimited. We had a generous PTO plan before that, and my boss, for all that he was otherwise a terrible manager, told us his expectation was that we would take the same amount or more time off, and that held true. As long as it didn’t conflict with close, our time off was approved.

    All this to say that unlimited PTO depends on both your role and your company. I think for some roles it won’t work as well (sales for example) and for companies that already value their employees, it works very well verses companies that are just trying to get a giant liability off their balance sheet.

  107. Beans*

    I have (officially) 10 days. I have (unofficially) unlimited – my boss knows our benefits are stingy and just says: take off what you need, don’t run it through HR, just send me a calendar invite.

    I take less than 2 weeks per year “vacation” because I DO feel weird about the perception of taking “too much” – I came into this year with 3 weeks banked and even after a couple planned trips, I’ll probably end the year with 2-3 weeks banked. (I run longer trips through our leave system)

    I do take off a random day a few times a year, though, and leave early fairly often. I just… don’t announce it. I’d much prefer either more generous but officially limited time, or much clearer messaging that IT’S OKAY to take off – but my boss can’t give me the second one because (officially) it isn’t allowed. I don’t like being in the position where I have to trust him against the official rules, even though he’s shown himself to be extremely reasonable and trustworthy and a “just get your work done and take the time you need” boss.

  108. Beth*

    My current firm has “unlimited” PTO, and staff are expected to magically know how much they’re actually allowed to take before they will be Judged. There’s a lot more leeway for sickness, but actual time off, unless you’re a one of the owners, is only “unlimited” in that the expectations are not written down, and since nobody is tracking days off, it’s very easy for those same senior partners to over-estimate how much time anyone actually takes.

    In terms of coverage, it is essential that we don’t have too many people out at the same time, and there are four weeks each year (quarter-end) where everyone is expected to be in.

    I came here from a firm where PTO was very specific, and I had worked my way up to 4 weeks a year. I have made a point of taking about that same amount each year. I get resistance. It’s much more of a PITA than a formal policy would be.

    The very first time an actual conversation occurred on this topic (just last year), I found out that, as senior staff with a C title, 25 years experience in this industry, and over 10 years at this firm, I was expected to take, oh, maybe 2-3 weeks? I kept repeating the amount of PTO I had had at my previous job, and not backing off on my expectation that this was reasonable.

    The senior partners (who are incredibly allergic to confrontation) finally allowed as maybe they should actually write a policy or something and make it specific.

    I doubt that they ever will, though.

  109. dorothy zbornak*

    For me, the best part of unlimited PTO was when I got married. I hadn’t been at the company long enough to accrue the time I took (assuming two weeks a year, I had been there a little over a year and had already taken time). I was able to take two full weeks off without stress and it was amazing. I have also never had a request denied, usually take 3-4 weeks a year plus random one-off days just because I can.

  110. Echo*

    My company only has unlimited PTO for the highest career levels, which I find pretty obnoxious. The rest of us get 5 weeks. But my boss is one of those who qualifies and she really does use it. I would say that she takes about 8 weeks off per year, and is truly inaccessible during that time. Since she lets everyone know well in advance and gives me people to contact if I need something, the effect on my team is good. We see it come from the top that time off is sacrosanct.

  111. Ainsley Hays*

    Former (!) job had unlimited PTO – it was absolutely established as a cost-savings to the company and advertised as a benefit to employees. In practice, no time was ever denied (and the official policy was that there was a minimum number of days people were supposed to take). However, it was a law firm – our non-litigators were able to take liberal use of the policy and the litigators took much less time because of the nature of the work. When we raised it as a compensation issue, we were told the policy was not going to change and we should simply take more time.

    It was only one of the reasons I left that job and moved to a firm with a more traditional compensation package, but it left a very sour taste in my mouth. And, of course, nothing was paid out upon leaving.

    It can work if the nature of your work allows for time off. But be aggressive about using it – it’s easy to ignore when there’s no “use it or lose it” for PTO.

  112. Jenny*

    One of the things I’ve liked most about my job (caps my leave at 240 hours and I earn 3 weeks per year is that after a couple of years plus the potential to earn 3-5 extra leave days) is that after a year or two I built up a large balance. For example, I took 2 full weeks in June and a week and a half in December and probably another 7 days throughout the year and I’ve still got over 6 weeks banked. I really like the idea of having so much time banked and I’d miss it with unlimited PTO.

  113. EMP*

    Personally I like what my company now calls “flexible” PTO because when I was accruing it I always felt like I needed to hoard PTO days for potential vacations, illness, or what have you. I’ve never had a PTO request denied here and I feel much more relaxed about it (I work in tech and my job is not one that requires being on call/coverage).

    Depending on the year I’ve taken between 2 and 5 weeks off at my current job, about the same as what I did when I accrued vacation.

  114. Curly Sue*

    In my company, it depends on the boss. Mine is awesome, is fine with me taking whatever I want as long as the work gets done. Starting this year, we have to track our time off (didn’t have to when flex PTO was first rolled out a few years ago), but my boss doesn’t expect me to track it if I’m just leaving a few hours early. Other directors are significantly more rigid where they will watch how much people are taking, making sure every minute is logged, deny requests if they think someone is taking too much, etc. So glad I don’t have to work for one of them.

  115. The Analyst*

    I worked somewhere that instituted unlimited PTO, and to avoid the “less days than before”, our company kept the same holiday schedule (necessary for teams with coverage requirements) and instituted a minimum number of days off. Otherwise I don’t think it would work very well. YMMV even in companies paying tons of lip service to time off: I was consistently pressured by the department head to keep working, and I never did manage to even hit the minimum.

  116. Harriet Vane*

    My large tech company calls it “open PTO,” because it’s not technically unlimited; there is an expectation to meet work goals, plan for coverage, schedule around major projects or deadlines, and generally use common sense. But leadership also encourages people to take it, reminds us frequently to plan for PTO, and generally celebrates the principle of taking time off. I know people who’ve taken multi-week vacations without anyone batting an eye, and one colleague took a 3-month trip that went over well. That said, I’m on the R&D side; I have heard that people in sales and customer service get a lot more friction about taking time off and that there are rumors of “soft limits” to how much time you can take. My impression is that specific managers within those areas are more restrictive about that and not actually in keeping with company guidelines, but it also isn’t clear to me that company leadership is acting decisively to correct that.

    The variety of responses in this thread show that the unlimited PTO experience depends very much on how a company chooses to manage its culture around it. To get a clearer picture of that in an interview, you might ask how they define “unlimited,” or how their team or division would deal with a request for three weeks off or a partial week during a crunch time. What are the factors that would make them balk at a specific PTO request, and how would they try to work it out with the employee? Depending on who’s in the interview, you might ask how your interviewers have used unlimited PTO or how it compares with their experience of PTO at other organizations and what that’s taught them.

  117. r.*

    The problem with unlimited PTO is that it is most useful in company cultures that least require it:

    In such a culture that is capable of implementing a sensible, equitable ‘unlimited PTO’ scheme, you tend to already have managers with 1)a good understanding on what an equitable amount of output/work is from employees, and 2) the will and ability to act on that understanding. Consequently, companies with such a culture will tend to already have workloads and PTO schemes that are right-sized anyway.

    So outside of individual circumstances, having ‘truly’ unlimited PTO does not give you that much beyond what you already have in such companies.

    OTOH, if you have a company culture that kind of is toxic around those notions anyway, introducing an unlimited PTO scheme will just reinforce that toxicity.

  118. Mytummyhurtsbutimbeingbraveaboutit*

    Works well for us, but our management is also good about wfh/sick time so I’m not so surprised. I would guess we take less PTO than average but we’re also in a more “academic” industry so people are highly intrinsically motivated to work. I think the best perk is not the amount but the flexibility—taking an extra day to make travel easier, requesting a single day off for a specific event.

  119. BecauseHigherEd*

    My job has limited (although very generous) vacation but unlimited sick time (so partial unlimited PTO). This may not be true everywhere, but at my work, the unlimited sick time isn’t documented anywhere (you just tell everyone, hey, I’m sick, I’ll be out). At most workplaces this should be a sound policy, but there is one person at my office who is constantly calling out sick (to the point where some of us question whether he’s actually sick, because at this point, one would expect someone who is sick this often to be seeking accommodations for a chronic illness) but there’s no written record of it, so it’s hard to “prove” someone is abusing the policy.

    With that said, you’re still expected to get all your work done even if you take significant amounts of time off, so I think this person is going to encounter some issues soon because much of their work is, you know, not getting done.

  120. Nick Burns*

    I worked at a company that had standard accrued PTO, switched to unlimited for one year, and then switched back.

    I was personally told (when I asked) that if you took more than three weeks of PTO you would be more closely scrutinized. I ended up taking a bit more than three weeks that year but no one said anything.

    I have to say that the people who talk about unlimited PTO seem to be using a different definition of “unlimited” than I am used to – “unlimited” literally means WITHOUT LIMITS. There are very clearly limits (but they aren’t always well defined). I think a different term should be used, like “non-accrued PTO”, or “as-approved PTO”.

  121. 867-5309*

    If you have not seen it, there is a guy on influencer that shares content of him and “the team” on video calls and he always gets the policy wrong.

    In one example, he says he is talking two months off to travel and was miffed when questioned about. “Well, then I guess I don’t understand unlimited PTO.” In another, and my person favorite, he said he could “Definitely deliver that by end of December” when EOD is end of day.

  122. Alliée*

    For what it’s worth, I work in a place with an in-between setup, and peer pressure is huge. We get 2 weeks vacation, plus holidays, plus we can take our overtime either as PTO or as cash. We can get pretty much unlimited overtime, and people acrue weeks and weeks of it every year(I work in consulting). In practice, this means that staff often do take multiple 1-week vacations a year, and the rest as a lump sum cash payout. But the peer pressure to work through your vacation at a manager level and above is insane, and even though there’s a verbal push from the C level to “take vacation and recharge”, in practice there’s huge pushback for those who do. Outcome: there’s massive turnover at the highest staff level because although managers make crazy money and staff makes slightly under market, they never actually get the vacation and people chose to leave rather than deal with that. Basically, our “unlimited” time never gets used.

  123. anonymouse*

    It’s working fine for me, but not so much for some of my colleagues. The deal is that you can take as much time as you want *as long as all your work gets done and your deadlines are met.* That’s fine if you have wiggle room in your schedule. However, if you’re already overworked, it can mean that to take a week off, you have to get two weeks worth of work done the previous week.

    It’s also a problem that management is not great at scheduling. So even if they know your vacation schedule, they’re not great at the obvious tactic of not having deadlines during that time period. The nature of my work is such that the short-turnaround things that might come due when they make that mistake can get handed off. This isn’t as easy for some other departments, so it’s more of a problem.

  124. zuzu*

    My sister’s company, an enormous engineering company, implemented unlimited PTO. And then a few employees decided that meant they didn’t have to show up at all, so instead of dealing with the problem employees, they now have limited PTO banks that doesn’t accrue or roll over but for all intents and purposes they’re calling unlimited PTO.

    She’s trying to get clarity on what happens if she is sick for more than a week, because right now, the only answer they’re giving her is “apply for PPTO.” Only it takes four days to get a decision on that, and you can’t apply until you’ve used up your five days of PTO. She doesn’t live in a state with guaranteed sick time. Quite frankly, I’m not sure what she’s talking about when she tells me about it, but I don’t think the company knows, either.

    She’s also billable, so unlimited PTO was a mirage anyway. The company had gotten in trouble years ago playing games with people’s PTO, having them take PTO while they were waiting for work so they wouldn’t be on overhead.

  125. raktajino*

    Tech industry here, and we’ve moved from “bank everything” to “roll over only 80 hrs” to “unlimited” in my ten years. The move to unlimited was announced December 2022 and my department head was PISSED because it didn’t give people enough time to use up their 80 hours that they were planning on rolling over. He also had had the experience at other companies where people didn’t use it all. So he explicitly told us to calculate how many hours we would have earned under the old system, add our rollover to that, and take at *least* that amount in 2023. (He also told us to not record the rollover amount in the PTO system, because he didn’t want any higher ups to balk at our hours.)

    This year the goal is still to take the time we would have earned under the old system, even if we historically have taken less. From that dept head on down, we’re making an effort to actually follow that, and I haven’t had any problems. Scheduling PTO with busy roadmaps is always a struggle, no matter the benefit plan.

    There’s less of a rush at the end of the year while everyone is trying to use up their PTO. You can use it throughout the year without worrying about keeping something in reserve. Last fall, we had a family emergency and my husband had to run through his whole PTO bank and then take unpaid leave, while I had zero worries and could take my whole paycheck.

    This of course is all dependent on the attitude of the department. If there’s already a work-life balance issue, this can make it loads worse.

  126. Chelle*

    I’m in a bit of a weird situation — I work in the tech industry in a role where clients of my employer contract my services for a certain period of time (generally a few months, with extensions possible). This means I don’t usually have a backup; when I am out of office, things wait for me.

    In my role, we get 15 days of paid time off and unlimited unpaid time off. I always take all 15 paid days, and then I usually dip into my unpaid days as well. If I have a long term customer contract that runs the full calendar year, I generally take about 5 unpaid days. If I have multiple customer contracts over the course of a year (more common), I will take at least a week or two between contracts, which is usually unpaid. Last year I took five weeks because my previous contract was extraordinarily stressful. While I am on contract, the most time I usually take off at a time is a week. I’ve never gotten pushback on PTO requests.

  127. Mztery 123*

    I think in this thread, it would be helpful for people to say what kind of role they had in their company that had unlimited PTO. In my years is a recruiter I worked with many companies, whose perk was unlimited PTO, but it really only held true for Managers, highly skilled folks, etc., So receptionist, admin assistants and like were encouraged to use vacation, but if they wanted some outside the norm iof two weeks, it was seriously frowned upon. Coffee.

    1. raktajino*

      Good point. Our unlimited PTO only applies to people on salary, which is another layer.

  128. Pancakes*

    My company has unlimited PTO and I think I’d prefer a generous but defined number of PTO days. My workplace isn’t super intense (like a big law or a consulting firm), but it is a startup and we’re pretty busy so I don’t feel free to take PTO whenever or for whatever reason. Many people will work asynchronously while traveling and I am often worried about how my PTO is perceived (even though I’ve never heard anything negative about my PTO or another team member’s). Our employee handbook also recommends 3-4 weeks as a guideline – which mostly makes it feel like a way to get out of paying out PTO when someone leaves because it’s not like that is a very high amount.

  129. Honey Badger just don't care*

    My company transitioned to DTO (discretionary time off) last year. I had saved up a bunch of time off as I had about 8 weeks of vacation scheduled (I accrue 5 weeks annually and rolled over a couple to mange it). They paid out my accrued vacation pay and I took my 8 weeks off. I target to take no less than the 5 weeks I had earned for my years with the company. My org has been very good about getting people to take their time off. My boss regularly checks and reminds people to schedule time off. We don’t require any higher approval unless you are going to take 4 weeks or more off in a block. I’ve not heard of anyone being denied that. I am a bit leery of it still and how things will play out over the long run but so far, they’ve resisted any forced back to office edicts and have instead made it easier for you to determine if your In Office versus WFH profile is accurate and how to change it to fit what you are actually doing. As long as management continues to be committed to supporting DTO requests, I see no reason why this won’t work.

    1. Evan Þ*

      I think we work at the same company. I was apprehensive at first when we moved to DTO, but my team’s also been really good about it. But, I still track my days off personally; I think that if I didn’t it’d be really easy for me to end up taking less time off.

  130. NotARealManager*

    We have unlimited PTO at our company. We do track it, but not to automatically tell people they’re taking too much time off. Sometimes a manager will say “Hey, I noticed you haven’t taken any time off in six months. Please take some time.” Or when an employee is not performing well, it is another metric we can look to see if their absences are a part of why their performance is falling off.

    There are a couple employees that take a lot more than others and perhaps more than they should based on their department needs. But as with any policy, some people will push the limits of it. It is up to their manager to determine if their time off needs to be scaled back.

    For myself, I took two weeks in a row off at the holidays last year plus three days around the 4th of July and then random days here and there. It doesn’t sound like much, but I’ve never been somewhere where two weeks of vacation in a row was possible so that was nice enough on its own.

    This year I only have one week and one day off scheduled so far, but that’s more about stuff happening in our personal life than my work’s PTO policy.

  131. Wry*

    In my current job, we have a specific number of personal days and vacation days, but sick days are unlimited. (There are some procedures having to do with consecutive number of sick days, but in terms of total number of days you can call out sick in a year, it is unlimited.) I think this works out really well. Having a specific number of personal and vacation days encourages me to use an appropriate amount of time (and the time we’re given is generous enough that it does feel appropriate). Left to my own devices on vacation days, I think I would be more likely to either forget to take enough or overthink whether I’m taking too many. But in terms of sick days, I think the unlimited policy is good. I’ve always had my sick days approved and I’ve never heard of anyone having any issues with it – and there’s no ethical dilemma about leaving sick days on the table at the end of the year, the way there was in my first job. We only got five sick days, which is way too few, but as a healthy twentysomething, I didn’t actually need that many the one year I worked there. I ended up following the lead of my coworkers and quietly used a couple of them when I was not sick because I knew I would lose them if I didn’t. Having unlimited sick days makes me not feel worried about not having enough but also not annoyed about leaving PTO on the table if I happen to not be sick the right number of days per year.

  132. Pyanfar*

    The one company I worked for that had unlimited PTO kept records company-wide, notified managers each week where their people were and how that compared to the rest of the company, and instructed managers to tell employees that they had taken too much PTO if it exceeded 2 weeks in a 52 week period for everyone under the VP level, and that was taken into consideration during performance reviews/bonus/raises. So, in effect, no one wanted to take PTO for fear of being told they were “out” of days. They definitely set it up so that they never had to pay PTO when people left and could still bully employees to not use the perk.

    1. 1-800-BrownCow*

      That’s not unlimited PTO. If you can’t take more than 2 weeks in a 52-week period, then you just had 2 week of PTO.

      This reminds me of the guy I used to work with who talked about how great the bonus program was at his previous job. The end of each month, the company gave each employee a bonus check. It was always X% of their pay for the month, based on how many hours they actually worked in the month (you didn’t get any bonus pay for any PTO or holiday hours). It was the same percent each month, it only varied if you took PTO or there was holidays off for the month), and had nothing to do with how well the company did during the month. He talked about how great it felt to get that bonus each month, regardless of company performance and how he wished more companies did that. I pointed out to the guy that they weren’t getting a bonus check, they were likely just being paid less, but the owner made employees feel good about it by paying them a “bonus”, but it actually worked out well for the owner because he paid his employees slightly less and then paid the employees a “bonus” so they’d be happy but he didn’t have to pay them as much since the bonus was based on hours the employee was at work. If the owner took away that “bonus” and instead gave everyone an X% raise, then the owner would essentially pay out more because holiday and PTO would be paid at the higher rate and the employees would complain because they no longer got their ‘feel good bonus’, despite making more money.

      A true bonus is based on company and individual performance. True unlimited PTO is just that, unlimited PTO. That company called it unlimited PTO to make it sound good to their employees, but it wasn’t unlimited PTO.

  133. M2*

    I think it is good in theory, but sometimes people abuse it and sometimes people don’t use enough vacation.

    I know of some friends/ family with unlimited PTO. One was basically told he was taking too much and took more than anyone else at the company (he also was the newest employee). He took a month off to go to Asia, came back to work for three weeks then took another week off to go to Disney World. He went to Disney World again that same year (he and his spouse don’t have kids). All in all, last year I think he took more than 3+ months off for working at the company only 2 years. Someone spoke to him so he ended up only taking two days off at Christmas which annoyed his family, but stuff he had to do was not getting done. I think he was able to do this because his spouse is a well-known writer and can take vacation whenever they want as they work for themselves. This to me is abusing the system.

    I would try and say something to yourself like at my last company I had 4 weeks off (and that was a good amount, or I needed an extra week or two) so I must use at least x weeks of vacation at this unlimited PTO company.

    My spouse who doesn’t have unlimited PTO but can bank up to a certain # then you can’t accumulate anymore is always busy. He will always have at least 30+ days of vacation even if we take 2 weeks off tomorrow. Having unlimited PTO would not work for him (or me) because he wouldn’t take or get paid out what he should and I am certain he would have to work his vacations. If he leaves they will pay out up to 30 days of vacation, which is a perk for someone like him.

  134. 1-800-BrownCow*

    I’ve not had unlimited PTO anywhere. If it worked as well as some people here have indicated, then it would put a lot less stress on me. It’s early March and I’m already stressing about my PTO. I have a parent with failing health and I had to take a full week off from work recently to travel to my parents and help out. Additionally, family summer vacations (spouse and 3 kids) are always important to us and I already know I will need to us 7-9 days for that. Plus holiday’s both to travel to family or prepare for family coming to us. Then the various things for my kids that pop up.

    Usually I can preplan to ensure I have enough PTO days throughout the year for vacation, holiday’s, kids, personal time for me, and leave a 2-3 day buffer that I typically end up having to use in November and December because “use it or lose it” policy. Because of unexpected things during the first 2 months of the year, I’ve already had to use a big chunk of my PTO. And IF I need to travel to my parents again this year (highly likely), then I have to choose between the family vacation with my 3 kids or taking time off around the holidays, as I won’t have enough PTO for both. Also, I won’t get to take any “Me” days off, which I need from time-to-time for my mental health and stress relief. If I had unlimited PTO with a reasonable manager who would not hold it over my head, it would help me out BIG TIME this year and help with my stress of the failing health of my one parent, just one less thing to worry about.

    A normal year, I would probably stick to ~5 weeks of time off. But it would be a HUGE help to be able to have wiggle room to take extra time this year, as needed. As a parent of young children and an adult child of aging parents, I can see where unlimited PTO (when allowed to utilize reasonably without guilt and without strict stipulations) would benefit a lot of people.

  135. not that kind of remote*

    I work in a small health tech company, US based with global staff, about 25 employees with different specialties (healthcare, software, marketing, sales).

    People mostly take 3-6 weeks of scheduled paid leave, which is much more than would usually be offered by a US-based company. The founders don’t take as much leave, but clearly the management culture makes it clear that it’s encouraged for others to take time off.

    Requests are generally granted, except for extensive requests from staff who are performing poorly. Like, if you’re on a PIP or headed in that direction, management will push back on a 2 week vacation request for the coming month.

    The above 3-6 weeks figure is from a spreadsheet where people enter their own scheduled leave for vacations, school exams, etc., not for sick leave. A nice feature of the unlimited PTO approach is that when someone needs to take a sick day (or week!) to care for themselves or their family, they don’t have to cut into a fixed PTO allowance to do so.

  136. NotSoSaltyAdmin*

    I have had it for the last year and I absolutely love it. In my previous salaried jobs I have between 0 to max 15 days PTO. I’ve taken about that many days since I was hired but I will probably take more this year. I mostly love the flexibility it provides. I don’t have to plan my travel for the entire year and worry about saving days in case anything comes up. I can take a long international trip and not have used all of my days on one thing. My boss is always taking the odd Friday off to spend time with family, it’s great.

  137. Noriko*

    My PTO is genuinely unlimited. My requests are never denied.

    I’m the only one in my position so I often have to work ahead or do a bit of work while I am off but generally it’s worth it.

    I am not sure I take more time off than I would otherwise, I have generally worked in nonprofits where 4 weeks off is not uncommon. But I certainly feel less stressed. Before I would have to always make sure I saved days for an emergency. Now that isn’t something I have to contend with.

  138. Taco Tom*

    I take 25 days off because that’s what I got in my last 2 places – seems justifiable. But in 2022 I took 30 days, making up (in part) for taking far fewer days in 2020 and 2021 (pandemic times). That put me at the top of the list and in the crosshairs. I reminded the executive team that they made the policy, not me; that my position was justified; and that I was telling the truth about how many days I said I took. Could they say that about everyone? Never hear another word.

  139. Jamalama*

    We have “unlimited” time off which is referred to as Flexible time off. We are encouraged to take it. Essentially everyone gets 5 weeks per year, but if people need to take more there’s a form to fill out. This is a newish policy for us, but as far as I can tell no one would be told they can’t take the time they need. We’re a good employer in that way. It’s not accrued, it’s front loaded every year. It’s an excelled perk for new staff but with our old policy folks who were at the company for 10+ years are actually getting less than they would get (they’d be accruing 7 weeks a year at the old rate). But again I don’t think anyone would be denied PTO.

  140. MechE31*

    I’m a manager at a company that has unlimited PTO. It’s split with vacation and sick being separate codes. Up to 160 hours a year of vacation is the expectation (and also the limit of what first level managers can approve solo). I actively encourage my team to hit 160 hours and check-in with them every one on one if they’re not on track to use it.

    I personally charged 205 hours to vacation last year and my boss was ok with it as long as I handled my work.

    We did get discouraged from requesting more vacation in November and December last year (new requests only) because of overhead budgets.

    Other managers aren’t as good about it and seemingly discouraged their team.

    Sick is less defined, once you pass 60 hours in a year you get questioned, but as long as you have a reasonable relationship with your manager, it’s fine. Abuse of sick time is normally managed as a performance issue more than an abuse of the time off.

  141. Jen*

    I was doubtful about unlimited PTO, but it seems to actually be working. (We’ve had it for a year.) I am in country where we have a legal minimum of 20 days PTO per year and my company offers 25 after 3 years of employment. If you leave before you use up the 25, the remainder is paid out.

    Last year I took 28, I think, with no comment from my manager (but he is in country with ever more time off). My team of 3 people ended up taking the same amount of time off (less than 25 days), despite my encouragement!

    For me, the best part is being able to take a long weekend here and there without worrying that I won’t have enough days left for proper holidays.

  142. Nay*

    We have “open” PTO at my company, they are transparent in not calling it unlimited because there are some parameters around it, but they’re well defined (things like, not combining PTO to extend parental leave, or not being able to take PTO for 8 weeks after you take PTO of 4 weeks, and having a separate sick day bank because sick days are short notice)

    And, it’s generally awesome. I was able to take about 4 weeks of vacation last year, including a 2 and a half week trip to Africa. I don’t know anyone that is generally taking less vacation. I will say, our company previously had a sabbatical program starting at 5 years with the company that went away…people were upset about it going away which was ridiculous because now someone who does good work and is not new can still take 4 weeks off it they want, we just don’t have to wait 5 years for the sabbatical program to hit anymore.

    I’m overall very happy with it, and don’t stress about taking a day off if I need it. My dog had to have surgery a couple weeks ago and I took the whole day off instead of dropping her off at the vet, and leaving early to pick her up and having to deal with all that. It was much nicer to just say I’m going to be unavailable for the day and not stress it.

    1. Filosofickle*

      It’s great you have defined parameters — we have the same open-but-not-unlimited thing but they haven’t articulated the boundaries well. I’ve heard other teams have very different interpretations and that’s not good.

  143. Bog Witch*

    My first full-time salaried job was at a start-up with unlimited PTO. I would take a week-long staycation about once a quarter, with two weeks off during the summer quarter and the odd three-day weekend or half-day for appointments. I worked in the customer service department of the company and these breaks were sacred to me for avoiding burnout.

    I never had a time-off request denied, but eventually got admonished during a performance review that I had taken seven weeks off in the last year, “more than anyone else at the company”. Of course I understand now that I should’ve had a better pulse on the company culture around taking PTO, but I also still maintain that as long as work got done and I kept getting my requests approved, the amount of time I was taking versus everyone else was very much not my problem.

    I was eventually fired for other performance-related issues that all turned out to be exacerbated (or caused?) by undiagnosed and untreated ADHD, depression and anxiety. They were very nice about it and gave me a generous severance and I learned a lot by working there…but I hope they have some better structure/policies around “unlimited” PTO.

  144. CommanderBanana*

    IMHO unlimited PTO is a scam. Companies don’t have to pay out for untaken PTO if someone leaves, and it leaves way too much discretion up to individual managers who may discourage staff from taking it.

    1. Wendy Darling*

      I find that in my (criminally understaffed) department our managers don’t even have to explicitly discourage us. It’s not possible to get anyone to cover your workload while you’re on PTO because everyone’s already at about 120% of capacity, so while you’re off most of your workload just piles up and waits for you to get back. Everyone KNOWS that if you take more than a day or two off you’re going to come back to a dumpster fire, and it just inherently discourages doing it.

      At least when we had limited PTO, hitting your max PTO accrual was a forcing function. And we could only accrue like a year and a half of PTO so it happened pretty fast. Now we don’t have that anymore.

    2. 1-800-BrownCow*

      I’m curious with all the people who say this. Every place I’ve worked in the past 20+ years has had a policy that once you submit your resignation (or if your laid off), you lose any remaining PTO time, they don’t pay you for it. So, I don’t understand how unlimited PTO is a scam to just get away with not paying unused PTO.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        I think it depends on the labor laws in your state. Some states do mandate that accrued PTO be paid out, especially if the person is laid off. I’ve also negotiated for my accrued PTO to be paid out as part of my resignation (this was vaguely in the form of a threat — I wasn’t able to take much PTO, so it being paid out was necessary to ensure that we parted on good terms as opposed to BURN IT ALL DOWN terms).

        I think in general, though, the benefit is more on the accounting side — if employees accrue PTO that’s a financial liability on the books. If they have “unlimited” PTO, that liability is gone.

      2. Filosofickle*

        I often wonder about this too because it depends on the state — do these commenters know that a lot of people don’t get this? Brief research just now indicates about 20 states have some sort of mandated payout, the others don’t. Companies / unions can have their own policies on top of that but that’s a lot of people who may not get paid for accrued leave!

      3. CommanderBanana*

        It depends on the state and the company’s policy. I happen to work in a state that mandates it and everywhere I’ve worked has a policy that they pay out for accrued PTO (generally capped at a certain number of hours) if you resign or are fired.

        If you are thinking about leaving an organization, it’s always a good idea to 1. know what’s in the organization’s handbook and policies and 2. know what your state’s labor laws are.

  145. recovering big law associate*

    I’ve worked at places with unlimited PTO, as well as others that had a limited number of days per year. I absolutely took more actual time off at the latter (the forcing mechanism of having limits on the number of days that roll over year to year really worked!). During my last experience with “unlimited PTO”, I was an associate at a law firm and took zero days of PTO in the final six months I was there — that was pretty much the norm — and I also found that even when I was off, I would still be expected to answer e-mails and phone calls. That is probably just the nature of big law, but I generally felt that the “unlimited PTO” pretty much translated to “no real PTO” in that context.

  146. Anon101*

    My son works in an industry with the expectation that you jump when a customer has a request. He has “unlimited” PTO. I don’t know how many days off he actually gets. I do know that when he’s been home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, he’s on frequent work calls.

  147. Anons 4 this*

    I’m in one of the industries pushing harde$t for RTW so, while my most recent role had unlimited PTO due to being over a certain pay threshold, because I was in leadership I never took more than 12 days a year. And I worked every day when I was “off.”

    New role, different team, different threshold means I have increased/tenured PTO of a finite amount and I am taking *all* of it this year. To me, “unlimited” just means they don’t pay out when you move on because the culture was such that taking more than the minimum given to new hires was seldom realistic.

  148. nekosan*

    I worked in a company that had unlimited sick days, and I got written up for going over an unstated maximum. A week later HR called me back and said “so sorry, you were actually 4 hours UNDER the hidden maximum, not 4 hours OVER, so it’s all okay.” It thoroughly soured me on the “unlimited” benefit, however. (They didn’t care that I worked over twice as many unpaid overtime hours as sick days I had taken. It was the attitude of “you must have been faking to take this many days”. Nevermind that my manager “went home with a migraine” one day to come in the next day raving about the golf game he had played when he left early – though that did clue me in that the culture I had missed WAS to take fake sick days for fun things. So it goes.)

    1. nekosan*

      That is, I’d rather use up 100% of my limited PTO to stay home sick when I’m too ill to drive, than be written up for going over hidden unstated maximums. That company swore up and down that sick time was truly unlimited, but they wrote me up for taking “too much” time even when I had doctor’s notes.

      1. Bruce*

        Ugh!!! I hope you moved to a more reasonable company, your use of the past tense gives me hope :-)

        1. nekosan*

          Oh yeah. That company turned out to be dysfunctional in a few ways. I’m much happier where i am now.

  149. Wendy Darling*

    My company switched from traditional PTO to “discretionary PTO” last year. Functionally it’s about the same as our previous PTO except it doesn’t accrue and the limits are secret instead of explicit. We used to get 3 weeks of PTO a year plus the company closes between Christmas and New Years every year.

    Generally in my department if you try to take more than 2 weeks of PTO at a time, it doesn’t get approved. Multiple people have quit because they wanted to take multiple weeks off to visit overseas family they hadn’t seen in years and had been “saving” their PTO to do so, but couldn’t get the PTO approved. This may or may not be one of the reasons the head of my department just got sacked, so we’ll see if it’s better going forward.

    Right now it seems like most of the benefit is to the company, in that we don’t accrue PTO so they don’t have to pay it out if someone leaves and it makes it harder for employees to justify taking PTO because they’ve accrued loads.

    The one upside is that you don’t have to wait to “earn” PTO — if it suits me to take loads of PTO at the beginning of the year I don’t have to worry about whether I’ve accrued it or not. But mostly it’s not an improvement.

  150. Bear Expert*

    My current role and my previous role both are in “good” unlimited PTO teams.

    I find even more than company dependent, its team/managing chain dependent. I have a chronic illness that flares up unexpectedly, I am more productive if I can get two long vacations a year. So a lot as an annual total.

    Managers I’ve had that follow “I don’t want to count days, I want you to not cause unpleasant surprises” work great for me. I maintain my workstreams with visibility and defined processes so that time sensitive things can be picked up by someone else in a pinch, and I plan around the longer vacations so the only impact would be from emergencies. When I am ill, I can usually pop in for an email to my close team about what might be affected and doing any handoff of anything that absolutely has to happen that day, and push and reschedule things that need to be.

    For people I manage, I enforce a minimum number of actual vacation days (not sick days, not religious holidays because fasting/studying at temple is not vacation, vacation – holiday – not working.) My work is stressful and requires deep analytical skills, I need sharp brains, and brains do not stay sharp without rest. I check where people are on PTO used quarterly, at mid year if they haven’t used about half the minimum, planning time out of work becomes a tracked priority. Depending on when the Jewish high holidays are, sometime in the fall I start pestering people for end of year vacation planning and how they plan to hit the minimum, if they haven’t/don’t have anything on the books.

    However, in the same companies where my teams and surrounds have had this approach, I have also found teams where the manager is shortsighted/cruel/beastly about PTO, even with it being “unlimited” – and if higher management doesn’t keep an eye out for it, it can definitely result in staff not taking a reasonable amount of time out of work. Some staff will not think about taking time off unless there is a Reason and can go a very long time without. So upper management doesn’t track it, and middle or line managers get abusive without controls.

  151. AwesomeSauce*

    Several of these have mentioned people using unlimited PTO after having a kid… do these places not also have parental leave?

    1. kiki*

      Mine does have parental leave, but after the parents return from leave, the parent may need to take more time off related to their child. I really think parental leave should be longer, but I live in the United States so having the leave we do is considered generous.

      Parents being able to take days off because daycare unexpectedly closed due to a covid case without having to worry about it jeopardizing their ability to take a true vacation later in the year is good.

    2. 1-800-BrownCow*

      I’ve never had PAID parental leave (I have 3 kids). With my last child, the company policy said we had to use up any PTO time we had and then we went unpaid. My child was born shortly before the start of the year when we given all our PTO for the year, so I would have used up all my PTO early in my parental leave and had to go almost an entire year without any PTO at all, which I couldn’t do especially with 3 young kids at home (sickness, doctor appts, etc). So I returned to work when my child was only a month old and felt like a walking zombie since I was caring for 3 young children and getting only a couple hours of sleep a night due to having to get up for feedings multiple times each night. I made so many mistakes during those first few months because of how exhausted I was.

      With my first 2 kids, the company I worked at then also had the same policy that we had to use up our PTO first and then go unpaid. However at that job, we earned PTO time each pay period, plus we could bank some sick time that I didn’t have to use for parental leave. So I came back to work after my parental leave, had 5 sick leave days and started earning PTO time right away, so it didn’t have much negative effect on me.

  152. K Smith*

    My company has an official written policy of ‘unlimited PTO ‘. However, in practice, my department limits us very strictly to 4 weeks max PTO per year, no more than 1 consecutive week off at a time :(
    My department puts none of this in writing of course, and no one has stood up to challenge it (yet).
    So, just because a company has ‘unlimited PTO’ on paper, you may find the unwritten rules very different.

  153. Doing it right*

    My company is brilliant with unlimited PTO. We track utilization for bonuses, but it’s completely up to us if we decide we want to hit that number or not, and that number is reasonable, and assumes we’re already taking a minimum of 4 weeks PTO off per year. None of my requests have ever been denied, I’m just asked to make sure my projects are handed off or completed. For more than 2 weeks off in a row, it does need to be approved at a higher level and as far in advance as possible.

    My own manager is very good at making sure people take time off. If you haven’t taken a day off in a month, she’ll check in with you on it. They’re extremely anti-burnout and do a really good job with it. I only wish my previous employers had been this great. This will definitely keep me at this company far longer than I’d stay anywhere else.

  154. Stoppin' by to chat*

    This is good timing for this question since my company (very well-known software company, famous founder rhymes with “Gill Bates”) started unlimited PTO last January. So far, I’m enjoying it. I haven’t had any issues taking time off, and my management team has not weaponized it. Of course, I can’t speak for all employees. Of course, there’s a reason this type of vacation time set-up has a bad reputation, but I wouldn’t consider it a reason not to accept a job offer.

  155. theletter*

    I have unlimited PTO and it seems like it’s PTO at the whim of my manager. So it might be worth negotiating head on with the person who’s managing you, if you want to take off more than two weeks consecutively or take five or six weeks off per year.

  156. Coqui*

    I’m in software, and I’ve worked at a place where unlimited PTO meant “we don’t have to pay you any vacation days when you quit” and most people felt pressured into taking very little, but I’m now at a place where they mean it. To make sure people actually take it, we have a policy that says “unlimited PTO with a minimum of three weeks”, and managers check in not to see if you’ve taken too much, but if you’ve taken too little. I do think we’re an exception to the rule, though.

  157. ihaveaheadache*

    Unlimited time off is a scam. When we switched to unlimited time off there was a leaked email showing that the firm would save $15 million / year on the move and that was a key driver. That tells you all you need to know right there about how they know people will be taking less time off. We also have KPIs around having so many billable hours each year, how do you meet your KPIs if your time off is unlimited?

  158. CastleDreamer*

    I worked for a company that had this policy, and it was hard to take time off. I called it the Cinderella policy—you could only take time off if there wasn’t any work to do. The bosses acted like they were doing a favor when allowing you to take time off since you weren’t actually entitled to anything. They also freely cancelled leave if something came up at the last minute. I left early one day (over a year into my time there) to visit my dad who was suddenly hospitalized with a life threatening condition. My boss told me how lucky I was that it was a quiet day or else I wouldn’t have been allowed to leave. I will never again work for a company without earned leave.

  159. PercyJax*

    I’m currently in a job with unlimited PTO, which is new for me. So far, none of my requests have been denied, and I’ve taken 17 days so far (and I’ve been here around 6 months).

    Before I accepted the job, I asked my now manager how unlimited vacation plays out, and how many days she/others have taken in the last year. She said that unlimited PTO was relatively new to the company, and that in the past, my position would have been given about 20 days of vacation, and that anywhere between 5-6 weeks is pretty typical. In addition, I “legally/officially” have 10 vacation days, since that’s government-mandated. So I have to take at least 10 days throughout the year.

    I think the key is to ask what’s typical for people on your team to take, to get a sense of how unlimited vacation is actually used. I was pretty wary because of everything Alison mentioned, but the responses I got from my manager helped me know that I’d actually be able to take vacation (which has been the case so far).

  160. paige*

    You should definitely try to talk to folks who work there to get a better understanding of the culture around it! At my organization, a medium-sized nonprofit, we switched from 20 days/year to unlimited PTO 2 years ago and it’s been great! I feel like it hasn’t changed the way people take 1-2 real full-week-off vacations per year (though that’s probably skewed because we fully close the office for 1 week in July and 1 week in December), but it’s made it a lot easier to take more long weekends or take a random day off for no reason. Last year I took 17 days off, and this year I have 2 big vacations planned and am probably on track to more like 22 or 23 days. I feel like culturally it’s just gotten rid of the anxiety of not taking all your time or rationing your days because we just…don’t need to count it at all. You take off when you want to take off and you don’t worry about it!

    1. paige*

      That said, you also don’t get paid out for unused PTO when you leave, which is a bummer. We do have a separate bank of 8 days of sick leave to comply with some states’ paid sick leave laws, and that does get paid out if you leave and don’t use it. Basically though if you are sick you just mark it in the unlimited PTO bucket so you always keep your 8 days haha.

  161. Name*

    I work for a company that converted to unlimited PTO about 5 years ago. Before the change I accrued 6 weeks each year so I planned about 4 weeks of PTO and had a buffer in case something came up. I usually ended up taking about 4 1/2 weeks and that has not changed since we went to unlimited. But it really depends on your manager. As a new employee it would be worth asking the manager what is typical/expected. Another thing to note that is different with unlimited PTO is that it does not pay out if you leave the company because you don’t have an unused balance like you do with a more traditional policy.

  162. Decidedly Me*

    I’ve had unlimited PTO twice. The first was minimum of 10 days, with the suggestion of taking off at least 5 days at once. We didn’t get most holidays off by default, but could take them if we wanted. The longest I took at once was 10 or 12 days and I averaged around 25-30ish days a year (vacay) and almost always took at least a week off at once. My team was coverage based and we did everything we could to approve – it was rare that I had to deny time off.

    The second is new where I’m currently working, so we’ll see how it goes. The minimum is 15 days, with a requirement to take off at least one stint of 5 days or more. Holidays are separate and on top of this. I miss holidays not being included, as I’d prefer to extend a vacation rather than have a random day off.

  163. E*

    Our “unlimited PTO” is pretty hilariously stupid. Corporate employees…fine. Project employees are bid on a total number of hours for the project. So if someone takes more than their 3ish weeks allotted, then someone else better not take all theirs. Also, only 5 PTO days allowed in a row for “sick/medical” and then it requires you to take STD.

  164. Kivrin*

    I work in a tiny consulting firm and we have de facto unlimited PTO, since we basically each bill for the hours we work and self-fund our time off. I take about 5 – 6 weeks vacation time a year, usually in 2-3 week chunks, but with a day off here and there. We don’t ask each other for “approval” per se but signal “I would like March break off, will it matter if two of us are off at the same time?” Client needs are the priority — we try to take time off at the times when our client load tends to be lighter (summer time and around christmas).

    Generally the more junior people take less, which is correlated to their disposable income more than anything. Making it feel “fair” requires the senior partners to ask the more junior ones to examine their assumptions — ie., we had a conflict for years where two junior people had the same birthday and both wanted it off (it was the same week as a stat holiday) and one always just announced that she was taking it off and the other one assumed that meant she couldn’t, and got resentful. We solved that by closing the office for the week (which we do two or three times a year — one week in the summer, two weeks at xmas, sometimes for a few days around thanksgiving or easter).

  165. Parenthesis Guy*

    I worked at a place with unlimited PTO, and ended up taking about five weeks off.

    They did have some rules behind it. I think you were allowed to take two weeks off in any four week period without permission and maybe three weeks off in like maybe every eight weeks. But some people were able to get exceptions to those rules. The idea is that there were some protections to prevent abuse, but as long as people did their work, people were cool with PTO within reason.

  166. kiki*

    I work in a company with unlimited PTO. There are limitations around the length of consecutive days of vacation (more than 2 weeks requires special approval).Employees take an average of 15 days of vacation per year (holidays are considered separate), and it seems like the upper threshold is about 4 weeks, though people have taken longer than that but usually for big life circumstances: wedding/honeymoon, once-in-a-lifetime trip, someone had a long run on a popular game show, etc.

    On my team, things are very relaxed and I do think people feel free to use PTO as they wish, though I’m sure some folks are nervous about taking too much and take less than they could.

    I wish my company would come out and give a recommendation to take at least three weeks per year and say that more than four weeks would require special approval. I know that would take away from the “unlimited” feel, but I think it would help make sure everyone takes the time away from work that they deserve.

  167. Bruce*

    I take 1 2-week trip a year, we have a break between Xmas and New Years, and I feel pretty free to take up to a week off at other times. The downside is that a lot of the time I feel like I have to bring my laptop and keep in touch.

  168. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

    I’ve worked for two (tech) companies with “unlimited” PTO, both of which (including my current workplace) made the switch while I was there. I haven’t ever had a request denied, but I don’t request more than I used to – the difference is I’m more likely to take a single day here or there without worrying about counting days to have enough for the winter holidays. I never took more than a week at a time at either place. I’ll usually have 1 or 2 week-long breaks during the year, the time between Christmas and New Year’s (both places also at some point started closing the office at that point anyway), and a few days here or there. Weirdly my current workplace still counts sick days and those are actually fairly limited – I want to say we get 10.

    A lot depends on your manager and their manager. Do they model good work-life balance and encourage you to really unplug, or is it more along the lines of “you can take all the vacation time you want as long as you get as much work done as someone working 50 hours a week with no vacation”? Or that for them “vacations” mean they’ll check email 3-4 times a day and call in for meetings? Quality of vacation is as important as quantity.

  169. Eliza*

    My company has unlimited PTO plus a paid holiday closure between Christmas and New Year’s. I’ve been here just under 2 years and have never had anyone question my PTO requests. I came from a job where I got 10 days total, so I set a goal for myself to take at least 20 days a year, and I’d say most of my coworkers take that much or more (the upper bounds would be about 6-7 weeks throughout the year, I’d estimate).

    So my experience has been pretty great, and the holiday closure also helps a TON. Normally I would be saving my meager PTO days for around that time anyway, so being able to take so much time *in addition* to those days has been amazing. I think the biggest challenge is just being intentional about actually taking time off, especially because this year I don’t have any big trips planned.

  170. HeraTech*

    I’ve only worked for one company that had unlimited PTO. When I started there, new employees started with four weeks of vacation (yes, I work in technology). And I left soon after we converted, because we were under new management and that caused an exodus. One of my closest friends at the company lost FIVE WEEKS of banked PTO with zero compensation for his lost PTO. Essentially he lost the equivalent of a month’s paycheck when the company wiped our previous PTO balances off the books. I’m pretty sure that just wiping out our previous benefits like that had to be illegal, but none of us knew who to complain to.

    The so called “unlimited PTO” movement is 100% a benefit to the company, and not to their employees. With traditional PTO, you know how many days you’re getting, how and when you earn those days, and if you leave the company they have to pay out your unused PTO time as cash. But when the PTO is “unlimited”? They don’t have to guarantee you ANY time off, or keep a running balance of unpaid time off on their books, or pay you for unused vacation when you leave your job. You essentially have zero insight into or control over a major portion of your benefits.

    My current company has European-style benefits, and I started at six weeks of PTO. Just throwing that out there for people, that if a company tells you that they can’t afford to treat their employees well if they want to make a profit, they’re lying to themselves and to you.

    1. Name (Required)*

      My company converted to unlimited PTO and, depending on where you lived, different rules applies. In most states they do NOT have to pay out banked PTO – I live in such a state. We did have employees that lived in states that required a pay out of PTO and they did not lose their bank, but when they took PTO after the switch, they were required to use the banked hours first so it would eventually reduce them to zero.

      If someone left while still having banked hours and they lived in a state that required payout, they got paid when they left.

      Wiping them out entirely seems shady and I’m betting illegal in some of the states that require payout.

  171. Jude*

    I work for a company that has limited PTO but unlimited sick time. We do not have accrual/payout for either. Most people completely max their PTO.

    Pre-covid, people really only took sick leave if they were dying. Cruds and gastro issues would circulate the office. Someone came in with pink eye. I myself am guilty of coming in while still in the hacking phase of bronchitis (at least I had an office by that point?). There was very much a fear of taking “too much” time.

    Post-covid, between the normalization of quarantine/pre-emptive isolation *and* actually having a functional remote log-in system, people are far more likely to take sick time or work remotely. So if someone has a cold, they might work essentially part time for a few days, pushing important work, while still being able to nap & rest and not infecting the rest of the office. (The majority of us are exempt salary, so mixing sick time and work time is not a major issue.)

    I have to stress the importance of the remote log-in system though – even if our culture had changed on the fear of too much time aspect, having the ability to remain functional while being out of the office for a week has been key.

  172. Staja*

    My company used to have unlimited sick time and started at 18 days vacation. They are moving to discretionary time off this year and 80 hours of sick time.

    Last year, I took off 5-6 weeks between vacation, sick time, and comp time. There were no issues. This year, I’ll aim for one week vacations x2 and a few long weekends. We also got some additional holidays added that give us bonus 5 day weekends.

    I’d like to aim for the 18 days I had previously (or 23 I’d have been earning due to tenure), but my department is deadline driven and my manager doesn’t take ANY time off. (Seriously, her laptop goes on vacation and she she works every weekend).

  173. sea2sun*

    I don’t think I could go back to not-unlimited PTO unless it was extremely generous. I’ve never had a request denied at any of the places I’ve had it (even a deeply toxic workplace that was terrible for a variety of reasons). Most places have had a recommended minimum as well, if not an enforced minimum. At my current job, I’m using it to extend my already generous parental leave (taking it from 14 weeks to 18 weeks). It’s absolutely a your mileage may vary type of benefit – if you have the support to take the time it’s amazing, but if you don’t it’s not. I’ve always had the support though, even when the workplace itself was not great. FWIW I’m fully exempt and at a manager+ level in tech, which likely colors my experience as well.

  174. learnedthehardway*

    One of my clients has unlimited PTO – I explain this clearly to candidates that it means they need to have manager approval of time off requests, but that the policy is that these should be granted unless there is a compelling reason not to do so. Compelling reasons being – too many weeks off in a row, lack of adequate notice, too many people off at the same time, extremely busy seasons, etc.

    This can work for a company that has a good culture of respecting work/life balance, but it won’t work in companies that over-burden employees with work or that aren’t adequately staffed. You need to give employees recourse to HR in case of managers who are stingy with PTO requests, as well as training for managers to reinforce that they MUST allow PTO.

  175. Name (Required)*

    I have unlimited PTO and 7 sick days per year but also have the benefit of knowing what the max PTO you got was before they went to unlimited PTO. At 10 years of employment you received 32 days (but no separate sick leave), so I use that as the basis for what I try to use each year.

    Incidentally I have been here 10 years so I also feel entitled to all of those 32 days (and I have had a fantastic manager for the last year and a half, which I think helps).

    Long story short, I shoot for around 30 days since I know what the max used to be.

  176. Skippy*

    One thing I see mentioned only in passing below is partial days. I wonder if the 13 vs 15 days reflects the flexibility to be out for several hours to half days without spending down the PTO balance. In some company culture that doesn’t even count as PTO; other companies would deduct 4 hours to be gone for an appointment in the middle of the day. With flexible/unlimited PTO, it’s less of an issue to miss an hour here or there.

  177. fka Get Me Out of Here*

    My old job had unlimited PTO, except our department was so under-staffed the jerkboss wouldn’t let anyone take a reasonable amount of time off – but he would jaunt off to England for two weeks at a time and “work remotely”. I think the whole time I was there I only took one full week off, and that was a month after I started and negotiated as part of my acceptance. Otherwise I was stuck taking just one or two days at a time.

    My new job, with the awesomeboss, calls it “freedom time” or something silly, since it isn’t technically unlimited, but the only time my boss has declined a request was for two days right before our audit ended (and I went into that conversation knowing he would probably say no). I’ve took two full weeks off last year (separate weeks), and after our audit ended, managed to take three separate days around weekends that resulted in me having four-day work weeks for four weeks straight (Memorial Day was in there too). I also was able to take half-days during the first couple of days June close (not ideal for accountants, but I made it work), and I’ve taken random days off every once in a while. Basically, it depends on your company culture and your boss.

  178. Coverage Associate*

    I haven’t read all the comments.

    For me, the advantage of unlimited PTO combined with hybrid work is the ability to take partial days off for chronic condition flare ups without my manager noticing.

    We still have billable hour targets, so we still have clarity on total work for the year.

    Management at my last job expected unlimited PTO to enable people to work intensely for a quarter and then take 4 weeks off, but no one did that. I think that remained unrealistic in terms of the reward for good work being mostly work and wanting to stay in front of management after doing well.

    Employees pushed for years for a target amount of time off annually, and management finally announced 4 weeks. That includes medical and vacation, so not super generous.

  179. Mim*

    If you used to be a person who had to force yourself to take time off because of “use it or lose it” days, who are now working under unlimited PTO: How are you feeling? How is your mental health?

    I ask because my husband is one of those people who has a stressful job, and who is definitely incentivized to take a little more vacation time than he otherwise would so he minimizes what he loses. I think it’s really beneficial to his mental health and overall stress levels. Self care is really important. There is no way he’d take as many days like that if there weren’t days to “lose” at the end of the year. If you are/were like this, too, what happened when you switched to unlimited?

    1. 1-800-BrownCow*

      I apologize because I’m not exactly the type of person you’re asking for to answer. I’ve never had a job with unlimited PTO, but I do work where we have a “use it or lose it” policy. My issue is, because I have 3 kids and aging parents who are a long distance from me, I save my PTO throughout the year just in case of emergency at some point and I need those PTO days (case in point, I JUST had to use a week of PTO due to a parent’s failing health). Because I need to save days for potential emergencies (and usually there is at least 1 need every year, so it’s necessary), I never take days off for “self care”. This year is already becoming a stressful year for me and likely will get even worse and it really sucks that I’m having to be very careful with the limited PTO. Honestly, I could use a “self care” day and if I had unlimited PTO, I would take one.

      I think it can go both ways. Some people (me!) would choose to use the unlimited PTO for benefits for mental health and stress. Others would end up working hard and not feel the need to take time off since they aren’t pressured to “lose” days at the end of the year.

      1. Mim*

        Ugh, my sympathies. My husband’s PTO situation (for both vacation and sick time) are probably much better than average in the U.S., in part as a way to reward/attract/retain employees in a public services organization that, like many organizations of its type, can’t offer the types of salaries that many of its employees could find in the corporate world. In reality, his benefits are what should be at least the norm for everyone, and it really sucks that so many people are in situations like yours – in a society without adequate safety nets, without the option to take care of themselves the way they take care of others. You make a very good point about how the option to take more vacation time could benefit people. I wish there were a way to ensure that the norm was more time available for PTO, regardless of the mechanism.

        Lots of love. All this stuff is so exhausting.

    2. UseItOrLoseIt*

      In my case it was more needing use it or lose it to get bosses to approve the time because I’ve never worked at an adequately staffed company.

  180. Kyrielle*

    I was pretty wary when I joined my current company, as it was my first encounter with unlimited PTO. But speaking with the members of the team I was going to join, most of what I heard was that it used to be 24 days (which isn’t bad) and they just tried to take around that. That was roughly equivalent to the vacation I’d earned at my previous long-tenure job, so I rolled with it and took about that time…and all was fine.

    But my impression is, it very much depends on your team and your manager – especially several years later when it’s “always” been unlimited to a lot of the people here (vs having the prior amount to compare to).

    I did get push-back from one boss (I’ve been thru several) when I scheduled a two-week summer vacation less than a year after another two-week summer vacation. I wasn’t really very impressed. I pointed out to him that yes, if you look at a rolling 12-month period that resulted in a larger number (with my other times off), but if you look at calendar year it didn’t, and I wasn’t planning another major vacation that calendar year. At which point he was fine with it.

    That has, so far, been my worst experience with it – but from some of the stories I hear from other companies, or even other groups here, I’m lucky.

    1. Kyrielle*

      I will add, we *also* have ten days of sick leave which is explicitly not discretionary to our boss, a couple of diversity days to use for whatever significant days we want to cover for religious or other reasons. I think explicitly noting that sick time is a thing which does not require manager approval is helpful. (Unless you can convince the *illness* that it requires manager approval. If my manager not approving the flu meant I didn’t catch it, I’d be thrilled. But.)

  181. TiredHiringManager*

    Prior to transitioning to unlimited PTO, it wasn’t uncommon for people at my last job to save up PTO for a long (up to 6 weeks) international trip every 2-3 years. In our transition to unlimited, we almost immediately had upper manager ranting about how any request more than 2 weeks long was inappropriate.

  182. Unlimited PTO Truther*

    I’m in my second unlimited PTO company and for me its worked out very well. Both roles have been remote, and I have a feeling that plays into it, as there’s no visual optics to keep up with. In my case, I haven’t taken significantly less time off than I would at a job with less PTO. I don’t take an exorbitant amount, but I’m also not stingy when I want to take time off. In both of these roles, I’ve had great bosses that also encourage the usage of unlimited PTO. For example, this summer I’m planning a week long trip to Alaska. My company also has a “summer break”. My boss encouraged me to time my Alaska trip so that my vacation would be even longer.

    So far it has worked out wonderfully for me and I love unlimited PTO as a benefit and would continue to seek it out elsewhere.

  183. tam*

    Finally something I can contribute to!
    I have unlimited PTO. I took 6 weeks (non consecutive) last year no problem. Nobody batted an eye. Unless I want to take 15+ days off in a row I do not need manager approval.
    Yes, I won’t get a payout when I leave, but the company I’m at pays us at the top of our market so my salary more than makes up for whatever payout I’d get somewhere else. And if I get fired/laid off (unless it’s for something egregious) I am sent off with a generous severance package.
    It took me two years to work up the courage to take off more than 10 days a year, but now that I understand the culture I take full advantage, while still finding balance with my team so nobody is overburdened.

  184. Hermione Danger*

    My previous position was with an organization that had unlimited PTO. I took 3-4 weeks per year off, and had a boss that required everyone on their team to take at last 2 weeks per year, given how hard we all worked.

    That said, a co-worker on a different team had a really great opportunity for a month-long, international trip, got his boss’ signed approval, made all of the arrangements for coverage, and was informed by HR the day before he was set to leave, that he should have also received their approval, and because he didn’t have it, he wasn’t allowed to take the time. All the policy manual said was manager approval required, it said nothing about time off length or additional required approvals. When he pushed back, they told him that was too bad, but he couldn’t go. So he quit on the spot.

  185. Boof*

    I’m not sure my job has any official PTO rules – but my boss has explicitly said they’re not going to count/micromanage vacation days. I made sure to ask when coming on from my boss as well as a successful peer or two / any mentors how much leave was normal (to make it extra confusing, basically I am a medical provider so the core revenue is seeing patients, but there’s a lot of extra stuff that isn’t necessarily directly billable ie teaching, conferences, etc, but isn’t vacation. So there’s sorta two “time off” questions; what are the norms around how many patients to see/clinic days vs working/non clinic days, and what are the norms around vacation leave). It’s pretty much NEVER a good time to stop seeing patients for a week, plus our schedules are done several months in advance (I’m booked pretty solid for the next month at least) so I have to plan out how many weeks etc a year to take off well in advance.
    Which is to say, my impression is PTO works similarly; you’d better ask your boss how much is normal, ask your colleges how much they actually take, then promise yourself to take it. If other workers say they basically can’t ever actually take PTO, or only take a little bit, well there you go; either don’t go or be ready to defend whatever boundaries you are willing to be fired over in order to get a certain amount of vacation a year. Consider trying getting the amount of PTO you plan to take in writing if the company seems iffy about letting people actually take it.

  186. Jules the 3rd*

    My vacation is not officially unlimited, but it has been effectively unlimited, in that I struggle to take as many days as I am allowed. My employer’s US policy is unlimited sick days, flex schedule if we work overtime, 12 days holiday for everyone, vacation:
    0 – 9 years: 15 days
    10 – 20: 20 days
    20+: 25 days (I am at 22 years now)

    My positions for the last 18 years have had no backup, no cross-trained people. If I don’t do the work, it doesn’t happen. If I go on vacation, the work is waiting when I get back.

    To deal, I schedule vacations for quiet times or times that work for me (my birthday, Halloween, my son’s school holidays), and sneak in half-day Fridays. In several years, I was unable to schedule as many days as I had available, especially years 10 – 15, when I had 5 new days but the same amount of work. I’m hoping to get over 20 days this year, as I get more familiar with a new role. The majority of my current work has external deadlines, so I can’t delay it, but they repeat each year so I can usually work ahead. OTOH, I’ve taken 3 days vacation so far, and I’ve got two long-term projects that need to be worked into the schedule somehow, so it’s not looking hopeful.

  187. moni179jo*

    My experience was not great, but I think it was my manager’s fear of her boss potentially micromanaging it more than the company as a whole. Our VP level staff all had our PTO bought out and were given ‘unlimited’ time off. (I think our PTO was really expensive to keep on the books and this was their solution.) When I went through the year and put in several requests (all for a day or 2 at a time) my boss only approved the soonest ones and told me “we need to be careful to still only take about what we would have earned prior to this…” and then approved the remaining ones as they came closer in time. I think I was fairly close to what I had been accruing prior, but I was highly annoyed and since I left for a more flexible remote job within a year or two of this I’m not sure if she ever relaxed on this or not.

  188. Bruce*

    One more comment: whatever the official rules, having nice people as managers makes a difference. In the last 30 years I’ve lost both parents and a spouse, and each time I was told “take the time you need, we’ll manage”. It really made a difference being able to spend time grieving and then ease back in. I realize in some companies managers can’t get away with this, but I’ve worked for people at places that did it for me.

  189. BellyButton*

    I am late to answer, but I hope people see this. We have unlimited discretionary pto. which means it is up to the manager to approve. We are 100% remote, with pretty flexible schedules. The over all “unwritten rule” is that people will take about 5 days a mo. I run a report ever quarter to see how much time people are taking off. If people aren’t taking more than a day or two in the quarter I make sure to ask them about it in my 1:1 check-ins. I want to know if they feel their workload is so high they can’t take time off, if they are feeling burnt out, or if they pressure not to take time off.

    I also speak to managers about people taking time off and how that effects the team. I recently had to work with a manager and their employee who was taking so much time off it was negatively impacting the team. The employee had not completed training of her 2 direct reports to cover for her, and the employee’s manager ended up being stretched too thin and some things didn’t get done or didn’t get done correctly.

    Unlimited PTO isn’t the problem– the problem is the company. If the company’s culture doesn’t respect work/life balance, if the company doesn’t have enough people to do the work, if there isn’t efficient or effective cross -training, then people won’t take time off.

    My boss recently pointed out to me that I was working when I was sick and when I did I wasn’t as effective and it was better to just take the day off. I appreciated he was looking out for. Unlike my last job, when I had the Delta C-word and was so sick I could barely sit up and was still expected to lead a 4 hour Zoom meeting and got aggressive emails from my boss and grand boss when I attempted to reschedule.

  190. hmbalison*

    I’ve been at my company for 4 years with unlimited PTO. The culture here is typically most everyone takes 4-5 days at the holidays, and during the rest of year, people take 5-consecuctive days off a couple times year. My manager is the type who usually just takes 4 days off at a time, and he told me the first month that I worked at the company that “If it’s a 2-week vacation, it better be a trip of a lifetime.” Fortunately, our mutual big boss took a 3-week vacation two years ago, and someone else on our extended team took a 6-week vacation where she worked some times but otherwise was on PTO. So no more 2-week PTO limitations. This gave me the courage to go to Spain for 5 weeks last October. I ended up taking around 11 PTO days and worked 12 days from Spain. I’m already planning another trip. I will say that building up credibility as a productive, excellent employee helped me not get any push back from leadership.

  191. RJ*

    I had unlimited PTO at a tech company for which I provided customer/product support. So many impediments were placed on PTO approvals that I had practically had to create a Gantt chart to document the ‘blocked’ dates and see what days I could request. It was not a good experience due the the company’s limitations around usage.

  192. BellyButton*

    I am late to answer, but I hope people see this. We have unlimited discretionary pto. which means it is up to the manager to approve. We are 100% remote, with pretty flexible schedules. The over all “unwritten rule” is that people will take about 5 days a quarter. I run a report ever quarter to see how much time people are taking off. If people aren’t taking more than a day or two in the quarter I make sure to ask them about it in my 1:1 check-ins. I want to know if they feel their workload is so high they can’t take time off, if they are feeling burnt out, or if they pressure not to take time off.

    I also speak to managers about people taking time off and how that effects the team. I recently had to work with a manager and their employee who was taking so much time off it was negatively impacting the team. The employee had not completed training of her 2 direct reports to cover for her, and the employee’s manager ended up being stretched too thin and some things didn’t get done or didn’t get done correctly.

    Unlimited PTO isn’t the problem– the problem is the company. If the company’s culture doesn’t respect work/life balance, if the company doesn’t have enough people to do the work, if there isn’t efficient or effective cross -training, then people won’t take time off.

  193. Miss C.*

    Where I last worked, the first couple of years they had no guidance as to what “unlimited” meant, so we would talk among ourselves trying to calibrate what would be appropriate. At least some of us would. I wound up taking less than I did at previous jobs because it was all so fuzzy.

    But then there were people who took advantage of it and it really seemed unfair, especially since a lot of it depended on who your direct boss was. A co-worker regularly took 3 weeks off at a time, but when I tried to do that, our new boss balked. Another new person took a month (!) off, because her direct supervisor okayed it, even though we were all in the same group and couldn’t have gotten that.

    Overall I think it can work if there are guidelines (e.g. “35 days total is standard, more than that needs special approval”) but then it’s not very different from regular PTO (except that the company doesn’t need to pay it out when someone leaves).

  194. Pookie87*

    I just read somewhere that with unlimited PTO when you leave the company you won’t have any payout for your unused leave.

      1. Abundant Shrimp*

        Yeah, I should’ve probably specified it in my comments above that my workplace changed its policies to stop paying us for “limited” unused PTO years ago. (Everyone’s reaction was “well that’s a great way to ensure that people take two weeks off the minute they give notice” until we got to the next part in the handbook that said we also weren’t allowed to take PTO while on our notice period. Sigh.) So going to unlimited didn’t affect us in that way. Agree that otherwise, it’d serve as a veiled pay cut.

    1. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

      Yes, because you can’t quantify “unlimited” there would be no way to calculate how much is left that you would need to be compensated for. I believe it allows employers to basically have that potential liability off their books.

  195. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

    We went to unlimited PTO in 2023 and are continuing it for 2024. What I’ve found is that most people show the same behavior – the ones who never took PTO still don’t take it, the ones who used all available PTO (like me) are taking about the same number of weeks, and the ones who would still disappear even after their PTO was exhausted are still never around. I had 4 weeks prior to UTO, so I shoot to take at least that much, an it’s nice to know that if I’ve used up 90% of that by November and there’s an emergency, I won’t run out.

    I have not heard of anyone in my company not being able to take UTO. In fact, your boss will get a report in the 4th quarter if you haven’t taken at least 12 days by then. And ideally, they want everyone to take at least one full 5 day break from work.

    So for us it’s working pretty well!

  196. Mid*

    I’m *strongly* anti-unlimited PTO. I live in a state where PTO is required to be paid out when you leave—unless you have unlimited PTO, because then you actually technically have zero PTO. The switch to “unlimited” only benefits the company.

    I’ve interviewed with two companies that had unlimited. At both I asked how much PTO people actually took. One readily had data on how many weeks their employees averaged and said they required everyone take off at least three weeks, they wanted everyone to aim for at least four weeks, and they tracked how much PTO everyone took and alerted people if they weren’t taking off enough.

    The other company scoffed at my question, and some asking around my network made it very clear that “unlimited” at this company was actually “take any time off and you’ll be branded as a slacker.”

    I would be willing to work for the first company. I withdrew myself from the process for the second.

    I still distrust company’s motivations for switching to unlimited PTO. If they want their employees to truly take more time, they can make policies that allow people to take off more than allotted without being financially punished, or they can increase the allotted PTO. If they don’t want to risk someone having 6 months of PTO paid out when they leave, they can place limits on how much someone can bank.

  197. not that kind of Doctor*

    My employer switched to unlimited PTO about a year ago.

    I’m a manager so I try to model taking time off – I aim for one solid week a quarter plus days here and there whenever. Still, it’s hard for people to break out of the scarcity mindset. We’re also understaffed, but I try to pick up for my team so they don’t feel buried when they get back.

    Unfortunately our company culture is starting to change, and I’m feeling new pressure not to take time off during busy periods. So far I’ve been able to push back. For example, the solar eclipse is during close but I’m traveling anyway.

  198. Leigh*

    My company switched to unlimited PTO a little over a year ago. So far, it is truly unlimited, with the exception of we have to have coverage so the whole team can’t request off the week after Christmas (for example) because there needs to be someone from the team working. I have never been denied a request and I took a total of about 6 weeks last year. Its been a great perk for me. However there’s another company in my city with an unlimited time off policy and at the company if you take a day off, you better get those hours in somewhere else so essentially you get no time off.

    1. Abundant Shrimp*

      We actually did all request the week after Christmas off, and were all approved. I was asked to be reachable in case of emergencies. I was happy to! There turned out to be no emergencies.

  199. Porch Gal*

    My husband’s company started unlimited PTO a few years ago. He takes about the same amount of time that he took when he had a limit, about 4 weeks in total.

    The biggest problem we had with PTO was a couple decades back when his company would reimburse employees for unused PTO. Then he felt like he was “paying” for his days off by giving up the reimbursement. I was relieved when they ditched that policy.

    1. 1-800-BrownCow*

      Its not unusual for companies to ditch the reimbursement policy though, so it’s not something I would consider for a reason to not have unlimited PTO. My current employer decides on a year-to-year basis as to whether they will buy-back unused PTO, they let the employees know by end of 1st quarter if they’ll do a buy back at the end of the year or not. The previous 3 places I worked at, 2 of them dropped the buy-back policy during my time there and the 3rd place added a buy-back policy but then got bought out by another company 2 years later and that company did not offer buy-backs, so it was dropped again. I’ve never considered reimbursement/buy-back as a benefit since companies can decide to change it at a moment’s notice.

  200. Inkognyto*

    never had unlimited.

    I don’t even get paid vacation days that are separate. I work for a hospital org in IT.

    All time off is lumped into 1. Sick/PRO/Vacation.

    The problem is that lump starts at 21 days. So take off 10-12 standard holidays and you get low time off. It acrues also, and you 25 by 3 years but still not great.

    I’ve been pushing hard on this on survey’s about it. That if they wanted to meet standards for good working companies in the US. they should be givine 21 days on top of the holidays.

    They wonder why we cannot retain even healthcare workers.

    1. Abundant Shrimp*

      We have two large clinic/hospital system in my area and I interviewed for one of them. A friend had referred me and was very excited about us working together, to the point that he’d call me every day to talk up the job some more. One day he told me, in this order:

      – everyone starts out with 28 days PTO/year (I was beyond excited at that point…)
      – the 28 days include holidays (they had something like 12)
      – if you work in the office, you HAVE to take the holidays because the office is closed.
      – you start with no PTO and have to accrue
      – a teammate of his had to work out special accommodations, because he started just before Thanksgiving, and as such was immediately on the hook for six PTO days (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, two days each) but his PTO bank was zero hours. He worked something out, but not without a lot of hassle.

      I was horrified, asked around, and was told that this is standard for hospital systems throughout the US. This was also an IT job. And that’s the story of how I decided that I’ll never work for a hospital system if I can help it. I’m sorry for you and your coworkers. This system sounds exhausting.

  201. DrSalty*

    When I was promoted into a position that had unlimited PTO, I tracked it myself to make sure I was taking off at least as much as I was owed due to my tenure. I did exactly that. No PTO request was ever denied, and I never took off more than 5 days in a row. I took about the same amount of PTO as everyone else at my level. My company has a good culture of encouraging people to actually use their PTO. Our general policies are no more than 2 weeks at a time and plan it at least 2 weeks in advance (so coverage can be arranged).

  202. Menace to Sobriety*

    I thought unlimited PTO was the DREAM when I took a job with a big 3 consulting firm. It.Was.Not. First, when/if you leave, there’s nothing to pay out because you’ve not accrued or “banked” any PTO. So, I worked for 4 years there, and took 2 1week vacays the entire time. Second, (I’ve seen this at multiple places) bonuses, promotions, etc.. are tied to “utilization”. Some companies say that PTO, Training, etc.. are “utilization neutral,” meaning they don’t drop it, but this firm didn’t. EVERYTHING affected utilization (we were expected to be “100+% utilized = billable hours), AND to also account for 420 hours “over standard” during the course of the year, doing training, marketing, BD, recruiting, networking, and community service activities. Now, add in that you were expected to make up any hours taken that lowered utilization whether it was for vacay, or sickness, and it was a neverending cycle of working extra hours just to maintain utilization rates. Unlimited PTO sucks. Big. Time.

  203. Chauncy Gardener*

    My company has unlimited vacation, which is different than PTO. We have separate sick, parental and other leave policies, plus short-term and long-term disability.
    I HATE unlimited vacation because with a few exceptions, our people don’t take as much vacation. We do encourage everyone to take at least three weeks, plus we give all the US Federal holidays and then some.
    The best thing to do is to ask how much vacation people normally take at this particular company. You could maybe say you’ve seen this type of policy implemented differently at different companies.

    1. Chauncy Gardener*

      And, the company was started with the unlimited vacation policy. When I joined I pushed back on the policy and wanted to go with four weeks or similar. The optics were just not great to ‘take away’ unlimited vacation, so we didn’t change the policy.

  204. Just to clarify*

    My fiance and I work for different companies that both offer unlimited PTO as a benefit. He loves the policy. He is originally from Europe (we live in the US), and he usually takes about 3 weeks off each December (after an intense, cyclical busy season where he works many additional hours as a salaried employee) to go home and visit family for a long enough stretch to make a trans-Atlantic flight worth the trouble. If he didn’t have unlimited PTO, he would likely not be able to take this trip, and definitely wouldn’t be able to do both the yearly holiday trip and take time off for one-off weddings and weekend trips throughout the year.

    I have more mixed feelings about it. My first year with my company, I was still in the habit of budgeting PTO like I did in a previous job, and I went into it with an attitude of only taking a maximum of X days off per year. I was cautious about how much time I took off during most of the year so that I could “save up” enough time/credibility/capital to ask for a long stretch of time off over the December holidays. But when I did, my boss pushed back on the number of days I took off for that stretch, talking me down from 10 PTO days to 6, and I felt cheated out of a break I had been banking on. Plus, when I added it up, I realized I had taken off fewer days in that first year at my new job with “unlimited” PTO than I did per year at my previous job which had an accrual and banking system. Now that I understand the policy better and know how to work within it, I’m mostly fine with the policy. And my boss and company are generally supportive of taking time off throughout the year, so I do feel like I get the time off that I need. But my advice to someone operating in an unlimited PTO environment for the first time is that 1) it doesn’t accrue or pay out when you leave, so any time you don’t take off is money left on the table; 2) remember that there’s no such thing as saving up unlimited PTO; and 3) approval of your time off is still at your manager’s discretion, and you may have to be a little more assertive than you would in an environment where you earned days off based on work done and therefore feel more entitled to use the time saved in your bank.

  205. DMac*

    I’m in tech w unlimited PTO, my manager encourages at least 1 week off per quarter, and encourages of those breaks to be two weeks long. Plus whatever other days I need off. Comes to 25-30 days/year total, not counting sick days (separate from PTO) and holidays

  206. Rey*

    My company has both unlimited PTO and 100% remote work. I have been sssooo impressed with our leadership setting the example and then encouraging their departments to take PTO. When I haven’t taken time off in the quarter, my manager proactively mentions it at our check in and reminds me to put something in the calendar. They ask folks to keep it at two weeks if possible, but I’ve seen lots of colleagues who will use PTO as bookends for their actual travel days and work remotely for the time in the middle while they’re at their destination. I have also seen leadership go above and beyond for employees who were facing personal hardships, telling them to take as much time as needed and adjusting project timelines and assignments accordingly. Based on my experience here, I think its worked well because the CEO has talked about it and encourages employees at all levels to use it, so there isn’t a culture around not using it or begrudging coworkers who do use it.

  207. Andrea*

    I worked at a tech company with unlimited PTO. (I didn’t actually have unlimited PTO; I was full-time but hourly, and I accrued PTO at a rate of roughly 80 hours/per quarter. I banked so much that I had to take Fridays off for several months in a row because I was in danger of hitting the carryover cap of 440 hours. When I left my remaining leave paid out at $16k.) Our company was good at encouraging people to take vacation and to be mindful of timezones, etc (we had people on five continents), people routinely disappeared for three weeks at a time. They also offered one year parental leave. I later worked at another tech company with unlimited PTO where basically everyone took off from Thanksgiving to the middle of January because it was baked into the culture, so everyone knew to calibrate for it.

    I’ve heard of other places where it can be a scam. My only advice is to try to ask prospective horizontal colleagues about vacation culture during the interview process.

  208. raaaleigh*

    My company recently introduced unlimited “flex time off”, and it’s actually worked really well for me. Pre-unlimited, I had 2 weeks of vacation as a relatively new employee, and a reasonable amount of sick time (which we still have).
    With unlimited, I’ve ended up taking 5-6 weeks of vacation per year: a 2-week international trip, 2 mandatory holiday weeks off, and then scattered days for when I just need some time to chill or entertain a visiting friend.
    A drawback is definitely that the amount your vacation approval is now up to your manager – we have a good overall company culture, but there are definitely some managers out there who will discourage taking vacations, and the oversight is basically gone.


    I used to intern for a company with unlimited PTO for its full-time employees. This is in a rare corporate corner of a highly creative field, and most employees had active freelance lives. Unlimited PTO was offered to avoid having people quit because they were offered a 3-week contract they couldn’t turn down. It worked well in the sense that the majority of this niche labor force wouldn’t choose full-time corporate jobs without this degree of flexibility, and therefore the company was able to retain highly desirable employees. Many took between 6 and 8 weeks off every year, and the business was still able to function.

  210. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    I’ve never had this (do companies in the UK have it?) but it seems to me likely to lead to more inequity / unfairness. In companies where you get a fixed amount of PTO (or where it increases on a predictable basis, like with long service or job grade – everyone gets “the same” or the appropriate amount. An unlimited PTO system seems to unfairly advantage: favourites of bosses, people woth more lenient bosses, people with more slack in their workload, people whose role can more easily be “backed up” by multiple other people, etc. It doesn’t seem right for part of a compensation package to be circumstantial/ arbitrary like this.

    1. Prefers to Lurk*

      I agree! It addition to what you mention, even if everyone were acting on good faith, it hinges on a shared understanding of what’s acceptable which can vary wildly depending on past workplace experiences, cultural background, attitude toward work-life balance. It’s a perfect example of I’m not going to tell you what I want but I will be upset with you when you don’t do it right. Having it work out equitable depends too heavily on a consistent company culture across departments and on managers that are effective and good communication. If the goal is to provide flexibility to employees, I’d prefer particularly generous leave.

  211. tomato tomato*

    At a previous job pre-panini, we switched to this after having 10 days of PTO per year. I tried to schedule a 2 week vacation about eight months in advance, and they told me I might have to work remotely during it because they didn’t know if that was going to be okay. Like, I’m giving you enough notice to schedule new projects around that! But then the panini wound up happening and I got laid off instead.

    1. tomato tomato*

      Also, before switching to unlimited PTO, I had previously taken 2 week vacations (just used all PTO in one go), so it’s not like taking 2 weeks was unprecedented or anything.

  212. Beana*

    My company has unlimited PTO with a floor that you’re expected to take. I took 25-30 days last year and can’t imagine going back to limited PTO.

  213. Anne*

    I worked for a European company for 10 years, and ended my time there with 39 days of PTO per year (including holidays). So when I switched to a US company with unlimited PTO, I took all the time I wanted. I was a top performer and all my work got done, so my manager didn’t care. It worked out great for me.

  214. Onyx*

    My company has been gradually rolling out unlimited PTO (although they have tried to frame it as flexible PTO vs. unlimited) across their global offices over the last year. We still have to get approval for dates, but I’ve never received pushback on any of my requests. I took about 4 weeks across the entire year.

    Generally, I find people tend to treat PTO the same whether it is unlimited or not and that is dictated at the team level. My team’s culture is to do longer weekends more frequently vs longer trips but I prefer going on week long trips a few times a year.

    HR sent an email mid-year to scold folks who had taken “insufficient” time off to date so it seems like they are serious about folks taking the time off.

  215. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

    I always see discussion about how much time people take off with unlimited PTO, and not about how they feel 365 days a year as a result. Maybe it doesn’t matter as much to other people? But to me, the biggest deal about unlimited PTO is that I don’t have to make bunch of decisions. Is this worth taking off time for? What if I want to travel later in the year? What if I get sick? (Yes, in theory, separate buckets; in practice, you need to account for maybe being sick more than 6 days in one year and having a backup plan.)

    As someone who likes my job, I really don’t see much difference between taking 15 days off in the course of a year and 10, but I see a huge difference with knowing I could take today off because the weather’s nice if I wanted to! I’m choosing to work! And a huge difference between not having to resent this crisis that came up because it’s taking up a day or two of precious vacation time on something extremely not-fun. And if I do decide to take today off because the weather’s nice, I see a huge difference thanks to not having to go back and forth on whether that will make it infeasible to take a full 3 week trip to another country in September. I can just enjoy the nice day free of consequences!

    My mental state is just so much better with unlimited PTO I can’t describe it, and the fact that I’m still taking ~15 days off either way is almost irrelevant. The other 350 days matter so much more to my quality of life.

    As for other people at my company, including in management, I see them taking multiple 2-3 week trips per year, plus occasional days off as needed, so I really do believe I could take more time off if I didn’t like working this much. And maybe someday I will!

  216. unlimited awesomeness*

    My company has unlimited PTO. We are fully remote, and have every other Friday off. I take about 15-20 days/year. We are encouraged to use our PTO. I am not sure what other employees take off/year, but I have not seen it be a problem with anyone taking too much. Culture around our unlimited PTO is very healthy.

  217. New Mom (of 1 6/9)*

    I hope my situation is unusual. My tech job was advertised as unlimited PTO.

    One of my first days there I checked the internal wiki. One of the first things it says in the “Time Off” page is “No, it’s not ‘unlimited’. [….] it is always limited by ‘what’s reasonable’ or ‘needed to get your work done.’” It then gave “””guidelines”””–17 days a year plus 1 year for every year of tenure, up to 7 years.

    Needless to say, I was incredibly mad, especially since “time off” at my company is both vacation AND sick time. I felt super bait-and-switched. I’m not sure how I would have known this before joining. IIRC I asked people about the vacation policy in interviews, and everybody said they had no problems with it. In my first year I did have a request denied (but I haven’t since). I swear I wrote a negative Glassdoor review to that effect, but if I did I can’t find it anymore. I definitely did complain to an anonymous company-wide suggestion box, maybe multiple times.

    Luckily the company does not advertise it as “unlimited” anymore, so wrongs to me have been righted to others. That’s especially good because we’ve switched to an HR system that tracks your time off “balance” per the rule I described above, so you couldn’t even call the “guidelines” “guidelines” anymore–it’s just the rule now.

    1. New Mom (of 1 6/9)*

      I should add that that balance doesn’t roll over year to year, but you do get all of it on January 1st. I assume it does not pay out when you leave, because screw you.

  218. Recovering Chef*

    We have “flexible” PTO (it used to be called unlimited, but I suspect pedantic people like me asked if that meant they could take a whole year off). Our managers set guidance on how much PTO is appropriate to take (most teams say 3 weeks for newer team members and add a week as seniority increases. We also have several holidays (including a few “flexible holidays”), mental health PTO, sick PTO(which can be used in smaller increments than a day/half day, for appointments in addition to actual illness), and volunteer PTO. Managers are big on getting us to use that “extra” PTO. I haven’t had a request declined in the 4+ years I’ve been at my company. People requesting larger (I think over 2 weeks) chunks of time off do have to get special approval, which seems reasonable. People who need more than 1 business week of sick time at once are asked to use FMLA/short-term disability (which is part of our benefits package and 100% employer-funded).
    As for how to know what this case is at a company you’re interviewing with, the team/peer interview may be the best place to find out. Indirect questions about hobbies, last vacation you took, etc that usually happen in a peer/team interview can tell you a lot (e.g. if no one on the team has time for outside hobbies, or no one can remember the last vacation/trip they took, that’s a red flag). Some companies with unlimited PTO actually define expectations in the employee handbook, too.

  219. Rosemary*

    I work at a company that went to unlimited time off in the last few years after I had worked there for a number of years beforehand. I had hit the maximum cap for vacation accrual ongoing which was extremely generous for the US.

    I would say that it’s not even the company culture but the team culture that is most important. If you are working for a manager who micro-manages and dictates when time can be taken off then it’s a terrible experience, if you work for a manager who recognizes the importance of vacation and work/life balance and does not have to approve every bit it works just fine. My style of time off has changed in the sense that I often take much longer travel but will work on an extremely limited schedule. At the same time I don’t feel like it would be a problem if I took time off.

    None of this is to say I am a fan of the “unlimited PTO” as in most companies it is not unlimited and it means that when you leave there is no vacation payout. I wouldn’t not apply for a job at a company where it was part of the package but I would ask probing questions of the hiring manager and any peers on how much vacation they took in the last year and what the specific team culture is on vacation (does it have to go through a formal approval, etc.)

  220. Treena*

    My husband used to work for a company with unlimited PTO. It was very straightforward because they had billable hours (actual work, client/project meetings, plus they also logged internal meetings for primarily this purpose I think) I don’t remember the details but it worked out to at least 20-30 days if you worked 40ish hours/week. In reality he probably took only 3-4 weeks of actual vacation but many weeks he didn’t work 40 hours. If you wanted to work 45-50 hours/week you could easily take 8-12 weeks. Work was assigned and scheduled out so if you booked it ahead enough, you could easily take a month off at a time.

    Every year he squeaked by with his targeted billables, so even if he didn’t go on vacation, he took all the PTO he wanted.

  221. Mmm.*

    I worked at one and took a week off. I came back to the task coverage that had allegedly been arranged having not been arranged, so no one had don’t any of the work that would normally have been assigned to me. I was penalized for the late work and ended up working 60 hours per week for the next few weeks while I caught up on that week and did all of the new tasks.

    I’m currently at a place that has generous but not unlimited PTO, and they encourage taking it. More importantly, they have a sick leave policy that covers longer absences at full pay, and they offer bereavement leave for outside your immediate family.

    In short, I’d favor a company that offers very specific leave types on top of PTO over one that offers unlimited PTO. To me, that says they understand employee needs more.

    Hoewever, nothing is universal. Check Glassdoor ratings and see if they feel genuine. Unsurprisingly, that place also mandated Glassdoor reviews, so check your gut

  222. I Have RBF*

    I currently work for a company with unlimited PTO. I was initially skeptical, but my boss models taking enough time off.

    He has also been really great on all of the stuff around my spouse’s cancer and me needing to drive them to appointments. He doesn’t bat an eyelash about me taking off three afternoons in a week to take my spouse for dressing changes, blood work, chemo infusions, etc. Any other company I’d have to start taking FMLA because I end up taking so many small times away.

    I found out from a coworker in another group that this is part of the company culture, since he had the same accommodation when his late wife was doing the cancer-go-round.

    My usual vacation asks are about three weeks a year, and there has been no push back on that, and it’s been in line with what others take. I am beyond pleased that it’s not micromanaged, and the company treats us like adults.

    The pay is on the low end of market, but my job is fully remote, salaried, and has unlimited sick and vacation. Yes, I have some nights, weekends and on-call responsibilities, as is usual in my field, but my boss makes sure we get our comp hours for night and weekend work.

  223. March(ing toward) Madness*

    Both my partner and I had unlimited time off for a while. We coordinated to make sure we both took at least 20 days every year (so 4 weeks) minimum. I found that if we weren’t keeping track, we tended to use less. I never had a request denied, though we both did sometimes get calls/questions while we were out, that was also just the nature of both our roles.

  224. Never Again*

    My experience with unlimited PTO:

    December 1: “We’re moving to unlimited PTO next year.”
    *plan 10 day vacation starting July 1, after the busy season in my industry and when I could coordinate extended time off with my partner*
    June 29: “You’re being laid off.”
    Me on my vacation: no July paycheck, no PTO “owed” to be paid out, panicked and furious and DEFINITELY NOT RELAXING.

    Do not recommend.

  225. LoV...*

    We’ve only had it for a year, but I made it my goal to take as much vacation time as I had under the previous system, which I felt was fair and maybe even generous. After the 1st year was done, I was 1.5 hours over what my earned vacation was under the old policy. So I felt like it was a success. I didn’t get any push back from anyone.

  226. FormerProducer*

    *I can’t tell if this is double posting, hopefully not!

    I worked at a place with unlimited PTO until a few years ago. I usually took 5-6 weeks per year. I never heard of anyone being denied their time. The company went to a lot of effort to encourage people to take time off – it was emphasized in onboarding, in team orientation, in department meetings, and in company wide meetings. There was a lot of talk about “avoiding one point of failure” so that no person even felt like they couldn’t take time off.

    But mostly, it helped that people of all levels used their PTO. From newbies up to C suite, people took random days off here and there and took multiple weeks in a row off, so it was totally normalized.

  227. jpchatham*

    The company division I work for just had a meeting the other day where they went over our policy and what it really means. Our policy is sometimes called “Unlimited” and sometimes “Flexible” – regardless of what they call it, we do not have an official cap to the number of vacation days we can take in a year, and there’s no concept of rolling unused vacation time into the next year or paying out accrued vacation time when we leave the company.

    For context, we are a contracting company, so other companies will contract with us to build custom widgets. We’ll spin up a team of maybe 3-6 people to build the widget they ask for, which will likely take 6-12 months depending on how complex the widget is and how different it is from widgets we’ve made in the past.

    Our program managers expect each employee to spend at least 1880 hours per year working on widget-building for our customers (and no hours on anything else), and they bill our customers and staff our company according to that expectation. So at 40-hour work weeks, that comes out to 47 weeks worked per year, and about 5 weeks of time off which includes vacation time, planned holidays, and sick time. (Things like FMLA leave, parental leave, and bereavement leave do not count toward this, though, which is nice.) Flex time is an option, so we can choose to work 8 hours extra (maybe 4 10-hour days, or a few weekend or evening hours here or there) and then we will have 8 extra hours we can spend on vacation some other time in the year. We also often have the option of charging Extended Work Week hours once we’ve worked past 80 hours in a 2-week period, which don’t count toward the 1880 hours but instead count towards extra money in our next paycheck (at a 1x hourly rate).

    They prefer that we flex our time within our two-week pay periods, to make the accounting easier – if we’re going to build enough hours up to take Friday off “for free”, we should ideally work those extra hours in the same 2-week period as the Friday we’re taking off. They ask that we have all vacation time approved by management beforehand, but I have never known it to be denied at my company, and the culture here is more that we can be trusted and so in practice we just inform our supervisors when we’ll be taking time off. At the meeting, they said they discourage vacations longer than three weeks and will probably deny those unless it’s the trip of a lifetime.

    I think this is a much better system than the horror stories I hear about with unlimited vacation policies. I think it helps that my division of the company used to be its own company but we were acquired about a year ago, and the previous leadership gave us an explicit 5-weeks-off vacation policy with accrual. We didn’t have a lot of employee turnover during the acquisition, and there was a lot of pushback around the switch to unlimited vacation, so there’s kind of a culture of “everyone should use what they give us right up to what we used to have, since we’re not willing to lose it and they can’t fire all of us!”

  228. duckduckshrike*

    My last job had unlimited PTO and I took an average of 30 days off / year. Our official policy was that more than 2 consecutive weeks required manager approval. The more senior folks in my office made sure to quietly pull new hires aside after their first few weeks and encourage them to take 5-6 weeks of PTO.

    My new job also has unlimited PTO but I’m still trying to get a sense of what’s normal! I’m definitely planning on at least 20 days / year but might go for 30 again and see what happens.

  229. Lusara*

    My partner’s company switched to unlimited PTO about 7 or 8 years ago. They had 6 weeks of PTO prior to the switch (yes, I know how good that is), so they continued to take 6 weeks off every year. Nobody gave her a hard time about it.

  230. T'Cael Zaanidor Kilyle*

    I have unlimited, in a nonprofit setting where our boss often has to push us to take more time off. It works best in a setting where everybody is salaried and exempt. I also think it’s helpful if it’s accompanied by a “minimum time off” policy, like “you must take at least one full week during the year.” (Probably more in most workplaces, but our job has a couple of built-in weeklong shutdowns, so one week on top of that feels adequate as a minimum.)

  231. Scarlet ribbons in her hair*

    I had been working for a company for nine years. Suddenly, the office manager, who had become the office manager a couple of years ago, announced that employees could have as much time off as they wanted, no questions asked. I didn’t think that was a good idea, since I knew that most of my co-workers were slackers who loved to game the system, but the office manager didn’t ask me for my opinion, so I kept my mouth shut. I didn’t take as much as one minute off.

    Then it turned out that if someone took time off, they were required to stay late when they returned. People were unpleasantly surprised by this, but they didn’t know what to say, so they stayed late. Once I was asked to stay late, but I refused, saying that I hadn’t taken even one minute off since the new policy started.

    A few months later, the office manager announced that the unlimited amount of time off was no more, as people were abusing the system. People abused the system so much, she said, that now she was requiring us to bring in a doctor’s note if we were out sick for just one day. That got me angry, because, as I have said, I didn’t miss even one minute of work, and now I was being told to go to the doctor if I was out one day with a cold. I left shortly afterwards. Luckily, I did not get a cold before I left.

  232. Amber*

    I work for a company that has this but we don’t call it “unlimited”. we call it “Flexible PTO”. We explain to new hires that it’s flexible in so far as there isn’t a set limit, but it’s limited by the needs of the business and reasonable requests. It’s been just over a year since it was implemented and no one has gone overboard with their PTO requests. All PTO requests have been approved so far

  233. AB*

    i work at a multinational that went to unlimited pto about 5 years ago. there’s enough holdovers from the pre-unlimited era that people essentially take about the same amount as they did before and people respect their coworkers and employees vacation time as time away. but this could be a unique car because it was a change in policy and at a very large and corporate rather than start up environment .

  234. Green Mug*

    My son is at a company with unlimited PTO. When he goes three months without taking a day off, he gets a visit from his manager telling him that he needs to schedule a day off by the end of week. That started from day one on the job. He graduated in May, started in June, by August they were concerned that he hadn’t used any PTO. I love it because he comes home for several weeks around the holidays.

  235. NotAFan*

    It varies a lot.

    The first time I got one day off in the six months I worked there before I was laid off and I practically had to threaten to quit to get it.

    At another company you could take time off more or less on demand, but there was no coverage and you couldn’t miss any scheduled meetings so people who were slackers took time off at will and the rest of us either didn’t take time or took 3-4 day weekends then worked 12-14 hour days the next week because there was no coverage.

    Another company tasked HR with making sure everyone used at least three weeks which resulted in a lot of nagging and taking time when it wasn’t convenient.

    Note, too, that you don’t get paid for unused vacation when you leave which can be a nice exit bonus.

  236. kirabug*

    My last 2 companies had unlimited PTO. I never quite got a bead on what the first one expected because we went through 5 managers in 18 months. By the end we were pretty much managing ourselves and we wrote it into the team working agreement that we expected everyone to take at least one week per quarter plus sick days plus mental health days plus whatever else we needed.

    The 2nd company has had the policy for longer than I’ve worked there and I was worried on how it would be enforced but I’ve been there over a year and the policy has essentially been the same as what we invented at the first company.

    A rested employee who’s not stressed out over stuff at home performs better. We get a ton of stuff done and people only stay late if they’re hyper fixated on something. The boss expects us to take that time back if we do work late.

    Having come from an era where it took me 16 years to accrue 7 weeks of vacation and sick time, I much prefer that as soon as you start a job you have the time you need to do a good job.

  237. Andi*

    I take a couple weeks a year total, mainly for things like doctor appointments. However, one of my coworkers recently took 5 weeks to backpack across Asia, and took PTO for the whole thing with no eyebrows raised, so there you go.

  238. Semi-retired admin*

    My husband is a mid-level manager and has unlimited PTO. Without the “use it or lose it” incentive, he rarely takes time off and when he does, he takes calls and emails. His co-worker, at the same level as he is, takes at least a day a week. So, it just depends.

  239. TheBunny*

    My company has unlimited but the agreed upon cap is in the 4-5 week range, which is a perk for new employees but loses value for those more senior who may have that amount of time in the bank.

    I’m in CA where you can’t lose it, it’s considered wages that is paid out when you leave a company if you have a balance. I was at the 4 weeks accrual at my old company but found I didn’t use it as much because I liked having the banked PTO as a rainy day “fund” especially during COVID. At the new job I actually find I use it more.

    I took 4 days (which I wouldn’t have accrued at most companies) in my first 90 days for a pre planned trip.

  240. Stella*

    My company does unlimited PTO. When the company I worked for was purchased by my current company, they (the current company) paid out my accrued PTO and also rolled my bonus into my base salary — which was nice, especially since it was the biggest bump in my pay before or since.

    I think Alison is correct that unlimited PTO means staff generally take fewer vacation days since there’s no concern about accruing and then losing vacation not taken. It also means there’s no payout for accrued vacation days when you leave (either voluntary or via RIF).

    Another reason it’s beneficial for my company is that we have a significant number of Orthodox employees who observe holidays not generally included in the standard paid holidays, so it allows them some flexibility.

    I don’t particular feel like taking more vacation would be detrimental–my manager has never had an issue when I request time off, so I could probably be taking more time off than I am without any issues.

  241. HappyEveryDayNow*

    I’ve been working at a company with “unlimited” PTO — and based on my experience to someone with a choice between 2 similar jobs, one with “unlimited” PTO and the other with defined vacation/time off –my advice would be take the defined choice.

    I’ve been there just over 3 years and I’ve taken 18 days off — total, including my “floating holidays”. There’s also just 5 sick days and 5 set holiday, 4 floaters. At previous jobs, I had earned vacation of an average of 25 days, plus 11 holidays and 5 sick days. T

    The company culture is such that if you do take time off, you VPN in for email at least once a day and respond as needed. My immediate manager has taken even less time off — and if you’re on track to take more that 3 weeks off in a year, you’re spoken to. No, not unlimited in any sense of the word.

    The PTO practice here only helps management — there’s no commitment to time off so no liability is created that needs to be paid when someone leaves the company.

    I’m planning to retire in the next t6-9 months, so I’m sticking it out. And will be trying to at least take all my floaters and 15 real days off. Fingers crossed that it’s possible.

  242. orangeblossomfingers*

    I was concerned about this when joining my current company, too. My boss and many of my colleagues are in a different country and don’t get unlimited PTO but my boss just told me to plan for my absences and that would be fine. I pushed her for a number of days to aim for and she said I should pick my own number and keep track. I’ve never had a request denied. This is my second year here. Last year I was around 3 weeks off, I think?
    I work in tech.

  243. couchowl*

    I get 5 weeks paid vacation a year and use all of it (otherwise you lose it!), we can roll over 5 days as well. Next year I’ll have been at my company for 5 years so it goes up to 6 weeks vacation. They’re very good about not contacting you ever about work stuff until you come back from your holiday – I’m going away for almost a month in the summer and got it approved ahead of time by my boss. I’m not in the US though, you guys don’t seem to get very much holiday! Come work in the UK :)

  244. Agency life*

    My current company implemented unlimited PTO a couple of years ago, and from my perspective no one has abused it or significantly changed their habits. For myself personally, I’m more likely to take the occasional half day or Friday if things are slow, and it’s reassuring to know if any emergency comes up I don’t need to stress about time off. Some people were unhappy because it means no banked PTO would be paid out if you left, but I’ve always worked at small agencies that don’t even offer that so, eh.

  245. Nina_B*

    I’m a team lead and we have it in our company. The experience has mostly been good, although one team member took a lot of weeks off, back to back (a week off, then a week later, 2 more weeks off, and another two weeks off a few weeks later.. a lot in our busy team!). I did have to clarify whether there was a fair use policy, and now it’s generally understood not to take more than 2 weeks off at a time (although we happily accommodate remote working if someone wishes to go overseas for longer to visit family etc). It’s working pretty well especially for parents who wish to take off random days for their kids’ school meetings and things like that.

  246. Paladin1138*

    I work for a tech company in Canada with unlimited PTO – I take about 20 days off a year (outside of sick days and appointments) and I have never had a request denied.

    Until 2024 it wasn’t even tracked. And when tracking was added this year, it was put in place because some people were not taking their gov’t-mandated 3 weeks vacation, and that was a potential liability.

    1. Paladin1138*

      As a followup – last year I had a discussion with HR about taking an extended 2-month leave (for reasons that didn’t pan out, so the leave didn’t happen).

      HR told me that I could “only” take 4 consecutive weeks off paid, and any leave after that would be unpaid, but it would be granted.

  247. mobbls*

    Unlimited PTO is great for junior/newer employees who would otherwise not be able to take as much time off as their coworkers. My last job I had to work backwards on how much I could take for summer vacation based on Thanksgiving travel, Jewish holidays, and other life events. My current job has unlimited PTO and I’m going on a spring AND a summer vacation, plus I take a long weekend every month or two if I want to visit family.

    My company suggests 3 weeks minimum, and most people in my department take that or more. How fully people disconnect varies, but we aren’t expected to be plugged in. I can’t imagine goint back to a system where 14 days is fine but 15 is unacceptable.

  248. Birdup*

    I work at a tech start up with unlimited PTO and approaching my third year. In year one I was pulled into a meeting and told I had taken more PTO than someone who took 1 month of maternity leave and I was told not to take anymore for the calendar year (I started in April) and was told this when trying to take 2 days in December off.

    However, I was a lower level employee whose working hours were set for a reason (but was hired to a place with unlimited PTO so restrictions should’ve been shared when hired).

    I’ve since been promoted twice and was never told “no” again but I sometimes take a half day instead of a full PTO day to appease my manager.

    For reference I took 25.5 days of PTO last year and 27 the year prior (excluding sick time, but including our mandated monthly unplugged days). 24 in my first year, but in less months. I should step it up!

  249. MissAgatha*

    My company’s official policy is “Unlimited PTO but try to keep it to about 4 weeks,” and we’re encouraged to flex appointment time. As a supervisor, I don’t have to formally track it as long as I don’t feel like people are abusing it. After having worked at a company that was extremely micromanagery about time cards in general, my attitude is, as long as your work is being done on time I do not care. This sentiment is echoed by my manager. The company in general treats us like adults who are capable of managing our own time and it’s so refreshing.

  250. Itsjustme*

    My husband works for a company with unlimited PTO. They went from a max 4 weeks of vacation per year to unlimited PTO for employees above a certain level. I was familiar with the studies about employees actually taking less PTO under the unlimited PTO model. I liked that when his company rolled out the change, the email that communicated that change included that they expected most employees would probably end up using about 6 weeks per year. My husband hasn’t increased his vacation usage to 6 weeks, but he’s still taking 4-5 weeks most years and has only had issues scheduling when there happen to be others on his team also planning vacation at the same time.

  251. bookjunkie*

    What a timely thread as my company just announced they’re making changes to our PTO policy this week!

    We’re switching from “unlimited PTO” to “open PTO,” where everybody is “required” to take a minimum of two weeks per year, but nobody is allowed to take more than four weeks per year without special permission from our Executive Producer (with a strong implication that that’s meant to be reserved for things like family/medical emergencies). Our company culture has, up til now, been really good about encouraging people to take a couple of hours/half-days here and there for family commitments and medical appointments, and if you’re only taking a single day you’re allowed to just put it on your calendar without getting advance approval; so it’s honestly not clear to me if they’re going to be counting those half/single days going forward, or if the spirit of the new guidelines is “you can take up to four one-week vacations or two two-week vacations per year, but we don’t really care about a random Friday here and there as long as you’re not abusing it.”

    My previous company had “unlimited PTO” in the “if you want to succeed in this industry, you can’t expect to ever actually take a vacation” sense, so I’m definitely grateful to have landed somewhere that has a better culture around work-life balance overall. But my current team has grown a lot recently and I can tell it’s left leadership feeling like they need to have “real policies” in place since they no longer personally interact with everybody every single day, and can’t make judgment calls about who’s working too hard and needs to be encouraged to take time off, or who might be abusing the unlimited PTO policy without any oversight.

  252. MTgirlie*

    I’m in an academic lab with essentially an unlimited PTO policy. It works very well for us, though this type of policy may work better in a lab than a company, since there’s more of a feeling that you personally benefit from your own work (in publications), and thus are less resentful of anyone working less than you.

    Some people use it to take extended trips to visit family in other countries. I probably don’t take much more PTO than at my last job with a defined number of days, but I do feel much happier taking occasional long weekends or single days off without wondering if I’m better off saving it for a trip.

  253. Rana*

    My company has unlimited PTO and the stated recommendation is 3 weeks plus holidays and company closures, which include the week of July 4th and the week+ between Christmas and New Years when the whole company has off (so 5 full weeks plus things like Memorial Day). I am not sure how much most people take, but I take about that. Sick days are also unlimited and thought of separately.

    What I really like about unlimited PTO is that I feel free to take half days or a couple hours off all the time, without even needing to get approval (I just block it off on my calendar like I would a doctor’s appointment). I encourage my direct report to do the same. I only bother getting approval for full days off, and take about 15 of those. Plus the days off for closures, that feels like a good deal to me.

    I do think that I would feel less angst about taking my 15 days if they were guaranteed rather than unlimited, and I am sure there are some people who take less (I might take less in some years) that would take the full amount if they were guaranteed. But for me, who doesn’t have too much of an issue using my time, I like the flexibility on the partial days off that I think can go away if you have more defined PTO (wouldn’t necessarily, but I think I would feel more hesitant about just noping out mid-day).

  254. Andra*

    From what I can tell on my department, people who have unlimited PTO are easily able to take time off. I’ve never run into issues with getting time off approved. There are some higher level people who have very healthy attitudes about time off, work/life balance and family (actual family, not “work family”). Having upper level management that have those views helps massively. Some people do monitor emails or something while on PTO. I refuse to do that – when I’m off, I’m off. Everyone knows that and no one has complained.

    I can’t say how it works for those outside of my department. The company is a large global company, so it wouldn’t shock me if my experience is not representative of everyone else’s.

  255. anonymoose*

    We’ve had this policy for two years and it’s very successful. (Also, we are an outlier in our industry, and I am unaware of any competitor companies who offer this benefit—I greatly enjoy that differentiator, and it does help with recruitment and retention.) Coincidentally, I just had a meeting with HR on this topic the other day where I learned that, as a company, more people are taking time off than in previous (pre-policy) years —which is precisely why we have the policy in the first place: we want people to take time off. Even with the increased PTO usage, NO ONE has abused the policy—no one at all—and this was the managerial concern that kept us from adopting the policy sooner.

    Oddly, staff who were reluctant to use their PTO in the past are still wired this way. We can make it easier, we can encourage, but ultimately the choice is your own.

    Personally, I love it. I championed this policy for years and truthfully never expected it to come to fruition. I am thrilled it has been a success. As a human being and an employee, I find the greatest impact to be psychological. I no longer have aggro about what is “worth” using a day of PTO, as I can now use it for whatever I like. The feeling that all of my time is literally owned by my company and then fed back to me in limited bites is gone. I feel more respected and that I have more autonomy. This emotional response has been luxurious and humanizing.

  256. brjeau*

    My employer switched to unlimited PTO right after I was hired, about a year ago. (I work in the US office for a multinational nonprofit.) So far I think it’s worked fairly well, for a couple reasons: They explicitly recommend taking a minimum of 5 weeks off annually (before changing policies everyone accrued 3 weeks in their first year, for reference). Many senior leaders and managers take at least 2-3 weeks off at a time at least once a year, plus other smaller chunks of a few days at a time, which sets the tone. No one bats an eye when lower-level staff take similar time off, and when projects have been especially intense we’re encouraged to take a couple days off to decompress. As someone who struggles to take PTO especially in my first year (long habit of hoarding in case of unplanned need) I personally had 3 people come tell me to take my PTO, after they realized I’d taken just 2 days off in my first 9 months. (The project manager I no longer report to still asks me about what PTO I’m planning when we have informal check-ins, to make sure the same thing doesnt happen this year.)

    Honestly, I also think it helps that our founder/director is based in Europe and seemed to think nothing of having consistent leave policies across our offices. (We also have 22 weeks minimum parental leave)

  257. Thomas*

    My company has “unlimited PTO,” but also a “utilization percentage goal” that PTO counts against. It works out to 13 days off per year. This seems like they’re trying to have their cake and eat it too, I wish I knew if it was legal.

  258. Mama llama*

    The most important thing to know is that you can ask what is normal! Just ask HR how much most people actually take.

    There is often a handbook with some wording around expectations, how far in advance to request different lengths of vacations, etc. It’ll likely say “we expect most good employees to take X weeks/yr” or “if you don’t take any for six months your manager will talk to you”.

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