I don’t see the point of taking time off, explaining a black eye on Zoom calls, and more

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

1. I don’t see the point of taking PTO

I work a customer-service-heavy role, and my manager has been wonderful about encouraging us to take PTO if we’re feeling burnt out. Except … I don’t see the point. Yes, I’m burnt out from work, but taking time off work doesn’t magically make all my issues go away: I still have to cope with a special needs dog, I can’t “do anything” because my partner works nights and I either have to pick up the pieces for everything he can’t do or don’t want to disturb him while he’s sleeping, I don’t have enough money to take a vacation, solo or not (and even if I did, who will get groceries and take the dog to the vet while I’m gone?), and I’ll come back to everything being worse because my out-of-office messages aren’t read and customers/team members are wondering why no one has replied to them (yes, this has happened before). PTO doesn’t magically make anything else in my life go away and, if anything, it winds up making worse when I get back. I’ll take a day for doctor’s appointments or similar when there’s a chance I won’t actually get work done, but I just don’t see the point in taking more days than I “need” to. Why should I bother taking it in the first place if I’m not actually going to end up relaxed and recharged?

(For what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s an inherent problem with my life/job; it just doesn’t actually make sense for me to take time off.)

For starters, all those days of PTO that you don’t use are days you’re working for free for your company. Your salary is calculated on the assumption that you’ll work X weeks a year and have Y weeks off. Are you willing to work multiple weeks for free each year? Right now you are.

Of the reasons you listed not taking time off (the dog, the sleeping partner, the lack of money for a vacation, etc.), all of them are true of the weekends too, except for the time off making your workload worse when you return. But you still presumably take and enjoy your weekends, right? Or at least aren’t voluntarily spending them working when no one expects you to? That means the biggest issue — and the one you can potentially change the easiest — is the workload problem. So you should raise that with your boss! You said she encourages you to take PTO so she’d probably be receptive to hearing, “I find myself not taking time off because I always come back to a mess, like (examples). Can you help me figure out how to take PTO without customers and team members getting upset that no one has helped them while I’m gone?” Your boss should be able to find solutions to this — maybe it’s having your email forwarded to someone rather than using an out-of-office message, maybe it’s her reassuring you that you don’t need to care if people complain, maybe it’s hiring a temp, who knows. But talk to her because this is a work problem that should have a work solution.

The rest of it is a mental framing problem, in that you need to see days off as valuable even when you’re not doing anything big with them. There’s value in having time to lounge around and read, or binge bad movies, or build a tree house for your dog, or whatever it is you like to do to recharge. You don’t need to take a capital V Vacation to make time off valuable. If a one- or two-week stretch of that sounds like too much (although I take all of December off every year and I don’t do a damn thing and it’s glorious), start by trying some three-day and four-day weekends, and practice relaxing and doing nothing.

Do not work for free for your company.

2. How do I explain my black eye on Zoom calls?

A couple of days ago, I was walking my normally well-behaved large dogs when another dog charged them, unprovoked, and they tripped me, and I ended up hitting the sidewalk hard. Thankfully the other owner ran to get my partner (I was a block away from home) and my partner took me to the ER. I have a concussion, a small fracture in my rib, and various other bruises and bumps. But what is most noticeable is my black eye. I hit my head just above my eyebrow and my eye looks like someone drew on me with a purple sharpie, and since I’m very pale, it’s not going away soon.

I took a few days off from work and screens but since I primarily work from home and have a bunch of Zoom meetings backed up, I’m back at it on a limited basis. My team was shocked when they saw my face, but they have all been supportive and said it’s fine and they’ll get used to it. My problem is outsiders! Most of my meetings are on camera, and I feel weird saying I want to be off camera because of a face injury (sounds worse than it is) but then if I’m on camera it is very distracting and I can feel people staring.

An added complication is that some of the organizations I meet with support people who have experienced domestic violence, and I look like a poster child for getting punched in the face. (In my case the assailant was the sidewalk, but from the way I look you wouldn’t know that.) So my look is very triggering. In a couple of days, I could probably use some makeup on it, but it’s too tender for that right now. I just need an easy way to explain away this massive black eye that doesn’t sound dismissive.

Oh no, I’m sorry!

The easiest way to handle this is to just stay off-camera. Don’t make a big deal of it. Just say something like, “I’m recovering from being sick so my camera’s off today” or “long story, but I’m going to leave my camera off today.” Be matter-of-fact about it, as if it’s not a big deal because it’s not, and it’ll be fine.

3. My friend posts screeds on social media complaining about being rejected for jobs

I have a friend who is neurospicy and extremely brilliant, and is having trouble finding work. Which is a thing for a lot of us right now, for sure.

The trouble is, my friend takes every post-interview rejection so personally, that they will screed on social media about how they were “lied to” and “deceived” and grumble about “blasting them on Glassdoor” to “get even.”

I’ve used all of the reasonable points I’ve seen you make — maybe the firm promoted from within, maybe the position was put on hold — but my friend just can’t hear any of it, due to the panic they feel over not having a stable income at the moment. My concern is, they are posting this on their socials under their own name, and I’m worried it will harm their job prospects. Any advice?

Rather than try to make them see reason about the rejections themselves (you’ve tried, it’s not working), shift your focus to the fact that they’re shooting themselves in the foot: “You know, employers google candidates, and an employer who sees you talking about other employers this way will be reluctant to interview you. You’re hurting your job search by posting this stuff.”

But also … say it once and then wash your hands of it. It’s a kindness to talk to a friend when you see them self-sabotaging, but after that, assume your friend is an adult who’s going to do whatever they’re going to do. It’s a favor to flag it once, but then drop it. It’s not your job to fix this, and it won’t be good for you or for the friendship if you get too invested in trying to make them see it the way you do.

4. My boss didn’t want me answering urgent calls in meetings

Years ago, I worked for a healthcare third party that was integral but adjacent to the functioning of hospitals. Every few months we received an urgent call from one of our hospital customers (emergencies important to hospital functioning but not to patient safety). Since our days were filled with (Zoom) meetings with our other clients, from time to time the two would intersect. If this happened, my strategy was to apologize and excuse myself from my ongoing meeting, triage the message/set up a meeting with the client during my next opening, and the return to my current call. In total, this took me out of an hour-long meeting for 2-3 minutes. At the time, I felt this was a justified response. The meetings they interrupted were open Q&A sessions that often didn’t go the full hour and were not uncommon to reschedule due to small conflicts on the client or my side.

My boss, however, disagreed and said that when we were in a meeting, we owed the people in that meeting our undivided attention (outside of an immediate emergency like a fire or a family/friend/loved-one crisis) and phone calls should go to voicemail. He told me that any calling client would not be left to worry; if the initial call did not go through, it would be routed to a backup and then, if not answered, the backup’s backup, and so forth. There would always be someone to eventually pick up the phone.

Did my boss have the better method to handle urgent requests during meetings? Is total, undivided, uninterrupted attention reasonable for every meeting? I did watch him a bit during meetings we were both in, and he was pretty consistent in following his own rules, even during the totally optional and silly divisional game night.

I should also note that the rerouting of calls wasn’t always smooth. Often backups would prioritize their own client work doing no/only an abbreviated triage. Sometimes the person handling rerouting wouldn’t contact the backups but just me again via a different method (this happened once when I couldn’t answer … because I was on a separate emergency call). I learned my triage method from shadowing other, experienced coworkers during training. When should a company reiterate, retrain, or rewrite their policy if it conflicts with what’s practiced?

This is the kind of thing that’s really your boss’s call. You can try it the way that makes sense to you, but once your boss tells you “no, I want you to do it this other way,” you’ve got to do it his way. I can’t say from the outside whether he was right or not; it depends on all sorts of things I don’t know — but ultimately it doesn’t really matter because it’s his prerogative to decide.

However if you were seeing problems doing it his way, you absolutely should make sure he has the same information you do. So for example, you could have said, “My concern with letting calls go to the backups is that the backups don’t always answer. Twice last month customers with emergencies got shuffled from backup to backup and never reached anyone. If I shouldn’t excuse myself from meetings to take calls, can we do something to ensure the backups are picking up more reliably?”

{ 550 comments… read them below }

  1. Happy meal with extra happy*

    (In part because of my older dog) I often do weeklong staycations, sometimes with day trips or such, and they’re awesome. I’m also a bit of a homebody, so no travel stress, sleeping in my own bed, no alarms, either getting caught up on random house things or just bumming around in the middle of the day – awesome.

    1. DJ Abbott*

      I don’t like traveling either, and love staycations. I wish I had a whole week to get caught up on home stuff!

    2. Cat Tree*

      At the height of Covid, I was 100% remote, left my house once a week for groceries, and went outside for walks if the weather was good.

      I still took my vacation days. Twice in a year, I watched a marathon of all 3 LOTR movies. There’s always something to do that is at least marginally better than working.

      1. Baby Yoda*

        So true. And sometimes just a 4 day weekend really helps — and then you only have been out 2 days in a row.

        1. Hangry*

          Bonus if you can arrange your two days off as Monday and Friday. Then you get two four-day workweeks in a row!

      2. Dek*

        While Covid was (and is) still an utter nightmare, the lockdown itself was kind of amazing for me. It was just…a time of *rest.*

        Like, sure, I still worked from home. But I didn’t have to deal with people in person. I could work with my cat on my lap. I could take a nap at lunch. I DIDN’T HAVE TO COMMUTE!!! I just stayed in my apartment with my best friend and my brother, and never had to worry about Going Out Plans or anything like that.

        Even though I was still working the same 8 hours a day, I just felt like I had more time/energy. (Except for the entire day I lost to Merge Dragons while lying on the couch. But I think everyone was allowed one Depression Day as a treat)

        1. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

          Not commuting was revelatory. I am going to do my best to stay at least hybrid for as long as I can; how was it normal to lose those 2-3 hours a DAY to frustration and crowds?!

          1. Laser99*

            Yes, I don’t understand all the letters coming in about companies forcing their employees back in the office. Everyone seems so much happier with WFH. Any theories?

            1. L*

              There are still people that enjoy working from the office! I’d obviously never force my coworkers in, but I do much better working from not-my-house.

              1. sometimes the entire week is a monday*

                half my unit transitioned to permanent WFH after COVID lockdown. The rest of us cannot WFH as we have direct human contact as part of our job. The amount of interpersonal conflict between the 100% WFH individuals and coworkers has increased compared with when all of the same people were 100% in-office, both between the 100% WFH team members and between WFH and onsite individuals. I think it’s mostly because dicey conversations go better face to face (our job can be high-stakes). We have absolutely lost team cohesion and spontaneous collaboration since half our unit became 100% WFH.

            2. Work from work*

              Because people are more productive and offices work better when there is face to face contact.

              Not to mention all the jobs that cannot be done from home.

              Or the people who would prefer to keep their working and personal lives separate.

            3. Cinn*

              Depends on the nature of the job, but assuming we’re only talking about ones that can be comfortably done from home/hybrid, then I assume it’s a case of management wanting butts in seats. But I may be biased after finding out some of the attitudes higher management had about those of us who work from home and how we’re basically all a bunch of scroungers and thieves. -_-

              Sure, some people prefer to be in an office for whatever reason, and sure some jobs can’t be done purely remote. (And some do take the mick when WFH but that’s also true of office settings too, both of which are management issues not penalise everyone else issues.) But surely at this point it’s obvious blanket one size fits all isn’t the solution?

        2. ceiswyn*

          The Covid lockdowns were terrible for me in so many ways – but I’d been suffering from amenorrhea for a year, and literally a month after I stopped travelling to work every day and hitting the gym after, my menses returned.

          I was still working, and even working out, I just wasn’t travelling so much or getting home so late, and apparently that made all the difference.

        3. JustaTech*

          Oh, I didn’t lose a weekend to Merge Dragons, I cheerfully handed it over (while still sewing masks and watching YouTube and playing poker online with my friends) – I wanted to see if I’d figured out the optimization for the special weekend games.

          During early COVID my work asked us to please take our vacation to get that debt off the books, so I took “off” every Friday for the whole summer. I still went back up to my office/craft room, but just doing something completely different (and the thing I actually wanted to be doing) was a real relief.

        4. I Have RBF*

          I discovered that I really, really liked not commuting, not going shopping every weekend, and not being “social”. I didn’t like worrying about catching the crud, and I made a lot of masks. But a nap at lunch? Please.

          Since I have immune compromised and at-risk people in my household, after I was laid off I looked for purely remote jobs, and didn’t settle for bait-and-switch.

          I still take my vacation, because remote work is still work.

          1. Stella*

            Do you mean that you think taking a nap at lunch is a bad thing? or is it “yes please, I want a nap at lunch!”

      3. Lea*

        The idea of not taking my vacation days for any of these reasons is baffling to me quite honestly bc yes, sitting on the couch or the porch and chilling with coffee is preferable and pleasant

      4. Crooked Bird*

        LOTR marathon is what I do every year after the farm season ends! Extended editions, takes me 3 days. (b/c I do still have basic household stuff & time spent w/ my kid) It’s just wonderful–I’m so worn out when I start & by the end I’m starting to feel a lot better…

    3. TooTiredToThink*

      Same! When I was super broke and had a sick dog (had to give medication several times a day at precise times and didn’t feel I could trust a pet sitter to be responsible). I did a lot of day trips the first time I took a much needed week off. I was new to the area so everything was new to me. But I would encourage the LW to use tools to find things they may not even know exist in their area – sometimes I just browse Atlas Obscura’s site to find random off-path things to do. I like the idea of taking some 3 or 4 day weekends. Take the dog, go to a park with a blanket or chair and sit and read for awhile. You both will enjoy the fresh air.

      1. JustaTech*

        Or even just do a half-day thing, like try out some new parks that are a little farther away!

        During peak COVID my husband decided to invent new running routes to touch as many parks as possible (we live in a city with a *ton* of tiny parks, like the size of two lots tiny).

      2. Lime green Pacer*

        Waymarking (virtual geocaching) can be a good way to find out about even more obscure attractions, such as murals and public art. Lots of these things are poorly documented on tourism-type sites, but your local waymarker(s) may have recorded them.

    4. Sloanicota*

      I definitely understand how OP can feel the way she feels sometimes … there’s almost always a point before I leave on vacation (or after I get back) where I’m frustrated and annoyed because I feel like I’m basically doing the extra weeks’ work in advance or backfilling it. But usually the enjoyment of the trip convinces me it was worth it. If I wasn’t actually going anywhere and was just taking up the time with chores at home, it wouldn’t feel worth it. But that’s not a job problem, it’s a life problem! Your life should be more fun than your job. You should build a life that is more fun than a job at a call center. There are cheap or very low cost vacations and I hope you get to enjoy one :D

      1. doreen*

        For many years, I had a lot more time off than my husband. I don’t like to travel alone, so what I did was I would take off random days to run errands or paint a room or watch Netflix. I didn’t have to work extra hard before and after because it was only a day or two I was taking off. I still had some of the advantages of a day off (for example, sleeping late) and it freed my weekend up. I’d have rather actually gone away, but there was no way I was going to just not take my vacation days.

        1. Marzipan Dragon*

          That one random day off in the middle of the week to just take care of things is amazing. In fact I had one yesterday and got the car registered and went to the post office to buy stamps, then I picked up paint and cashed out bottles at the redemption center, both without the line that you have to endure on the weekend. I take about one day a quarter just for this purpose.

          1. londonedit*

            Wednesdays can be brilliant days to take off. You’ve got Monday/Tuesday and Thursday/Friday to sort out anything that happens at work, so your Wednesday off is completely free and you can do whatever you like. Similarly you’ve only got to work for two days before you get a day off, and then you’ve only got to work for two days and it’s the weekend. Wednesday might seem like a ‘meh’ day for a day off but it’s generally quiet and you can get things done if you want to – or it’s also quiet if you want to go somewhere like a museum or tourist attraction.

            1. Jay (no, the other one)*

              The last two years before I retired I had Wednesdays off. It was glorious for all the reasons you say. It is so much more manageable for me to work two days in a row that four or five. I loved it.

            2. TeaCoziesRUs*

              CGP Gray has a YouTube video my kids and I just watched about this! Pre-kids, I preferred every other Friday off by working 8.5 hrs the rest of the pay period. Now I love having a day in the middle of the week to run errands, meet a friend, etc, while the kids are in school and out of my hair. :)

          2. Aww, coffee, no*

            The ‘no queues’ bit is so, so true. I used to work retail, so was almost always working on Saturday and had a day off during the week.
            Then I changed to an office Mon-Fri job and now had to get everything done on Saturday, same as the rest of the world. I used to rant to my boyfriend about “There are so many people! Seriously, why are there so many people?!?

          3. JustaTech*

            When I take a day off to run errands I make it a “fun” day with a fancy coffee or lunch out and just enjoy running errands without having to literally run after my toddler.
            And also getting to go into stores that are usually packed (hello Sephora) and just browse at my own pace and not feel like I’m in everyone’s way.

        2. Baunilha*

          I actually love to travel solo, but last year I didn’t have any money for it, so I took two weeks off (not unusual where I am) and used the time to binge tv shows, started to walk for fitness, cleared up my closet and took the clothes to a thrift shop, repaired some clothes that were damaged, organized my book shelf, went out with my friends for coffee… I actually got a lof of stuff done (both chores and leisure) so when I got back to work I felt refreshed and recharged, and also reaped the benefits of having my apartment all clean and organized for a change.

          1. Baunilha*

            Forgot to mention doctor’s appointments! It’s great being able to schedule appointments any time of the day, as opposed to emergency stuff when you just have to accept whatever time they have available.

      2. MassMatt*

        I actually think that IS a job problem. LW says their coworkers don’t read her info re: being out of the office and she comes back from vacation to irate customers wondering WTH a they haven’t been called back. It’s not much of a vacation if you wind up returning finding you have a week’s work to catch up on.

        It sounds as though LW’s employer is understaffed or poorly organized, or both. This combined with home stress (spouse/partner works night shift, sick pet, etc) seems to really be getting the LW down. It’s understandable, but not taking vacations is not the solution. I’m reluctant to suggest therapy as it might feel like yet “another thing” but it might really help.

        1. Lea*

          Can she not set up an email out of office? Voicemail? Surely there is SOME way to communicate that you will be out!

          1. Leaving academia*

            The letter says those are ignored, which is why they are coming back to a week’s worth of work. That is absolutely a job problem.

      3. Dawn*

        I really don’t think you can stress that enough, because I think OP really needs to hear it:

        Your life should be more fun than your job. You should build a life that is more fun than a job at a call center.

        If your life is not more fun than your customer-service-heavy job, well… I might strongly recommend examining that life closely to determine what might need to change.

        1. TeaCoziesRUs*

          Same. I am NOT armchair diagnosing. I do read an undertone of despair and ennui in the letter, though. Finding someone to talk to – EAP therapist or counselor, local faith group leader / spiritual director, etc – about all of this is something I’d strongly recommend. You are carrying a heavy burden and sometimes just a compassionate ear can help to lighten the load.

          1. Dawn*

            Sometimes you really need somebody to tell you, “Hey, this actually isn’t ok, suffering is not your inherent lot in life.”

          2. Properlike*

            Seconding the undertone of despair. Rationalizing why it’s all a waste of time is the waving flag of “no, really, you need the time… look for a new job!”

      4. Roeslein*

        This is so confusing to me – I normally use time off to travel, but when that wasn’t possible due to Covid I used it to learn a new language, write, cook, do crafts, do a DIY project in my home… Sure, I got cabin fever after a while and just wanted to be in the mountains, but it was still more fun than working? Sounds like the OP needs better hobbies. I’m not into watching TV either but there’s plenty of fun stuff to be done locally.

    5. Bast*

      I am very much a vacation person, but have to say one of the *best* vacations I ever had was an unexpected staycation. It was 2021, and while we weren’t still in full Covid mode, there were issues that year with flights and cancellations, different states and countries having different regulations re: vaccines, quarantines, events being cancelled, etc and I just didn’t want to deal with it, so we saved ourselves the headache and stayed home instead. Originally I felt guilty about “doing nothing” but it was one of the best weeks off I’ve ever had.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yes, about 20 years ago, my sister and I both took off a week to do a staycation. We both spent the weekend before the days off doing chores around the house, and then during the week, we just did random things. For example, we went to the movie theater and just picked whatever movie was starting next. It was a week full of no responsibilities and no plans, and we still talk about it as one of the best vacations we ever had.

      2. Zephy*

        100%. My family had a trip to Key West planned for April 2020. Obviously we didn’t end up going, but you bet your sweet bippy I didn’t cancel my PTO request.

    6. Dek*

      For real tho. I just took a week off to stay home and just sort things out without having to worry about being somewhere or doing things for/with other people.
      (Now, that didn’t work out because Things Happen, but that was the intention. I’ve done it before, and frankly, it’s lovely)

      1. Hannah Lee*

        And even just the chance to NOT have to get up, get dressed for work, commute to work, be at work for hours, commute home … even for a couple of non-weekend days… is huge

        Because some days doing the work routine, while fine, is just a grind. So NOT doing it? Taking the time for an extra cup of coffee, to take a long shower, to dither about what I’m going to wear, to sit on the floor with my dog and make his ears floop up and down (so soft and floppy!) for 30 minutes, to spontaneously decide that this is the time to sort my socks, or deadhead the geraniums on my stoop, or binge-rewatch Due South without a “tick tock tick tock you have to be at work in 50 minutes” voice clanging in my head … it’s priceless.

        LW agree it’s partially a life issue, because it sounds like you need more fun and less stress/slog in your life life. But it’s absolutely a work issue too. Because your manager should be organizing things so people can take PTO without having the reentry be SO miserable.

        1. Daisy-dog*

          I really love writing that can perfectly sum up the perfection of the mundane. And your second paragraph was a beautiful example of just that.

        2. Hannah*

          I’m off next week and sooooo excited about my plan!! It’s basically, every time I tell myself “ok, you’ve really got to stop doing what you are doing and be productive” I get to respond “nope!! I’m on vacation and I’m not going to be productive.

          It will be glorious :)

        3. Goldenrod*

          “LW agree it’s partially a life issue, because it sounds like you need more fun and less stress/slog in your life life”

          Agree with this. I read a great article recently (unfortunately can’t remember the author) who was depleted from overwork and too many commitments.

          She said that, nonintuitively, the solution turned out to be ADDING more to her already busy life.

          Because her life lacked joy. She had to add something that gave her joy, that was just for her and not in service of supporting someone else. Paradoxically, this gave her renewed energy for tackling the other parts of her life.

          Just a thought…

    7. ecnaseener*

      I think LW is getting hung up on the idea of “PTO is for relaxing and recharging” and thinking it’s either pure relaxation or nothing. Sure, you will still have the same stressful life obligations while on PTO. But you’ll have an extra 8+ hours a day in which to fit them in, which will make them somewhat less stressful, and you can do whatever you want with the extra hours. Chill at home with TV or video games (headphones if you’re worried about waking partner), or if you don’t want to be at home all day, take a walk, go window-shopping, go to a cheap museum, go to a free local event — do SOMETHING just for your own enjoyment even if you don’t find it relaxing. Give yourself the gift of a few hours to just exist for yourself.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I was thinking of the beauty that is headphones, which will allow you to watch or listen to anything on your device without waking your night-shift partner during the day. Also, OP, I don’t want to read too much into your relationship with your partner but if you are working days and he’s working nights, I’m guessing it’s difficult to find time to just be together. Wouldn’t having some PTO give you more time to spend with him? Wouldn’t that alone be worth taking some PTO?

        I really like AAM’s suggestion of starting out just taking long weekends, one or two days of PTO at a time, so that you don’t feel completely swamped before and afterwards. What about just taking Fridays off for the summer? But you also should definitely talk to your manager about how to take PTO without coming back to irate customers who didn’t realize you are OOO. Any manager encouraging employees to take PTO should also figure out how employees can take PTO without the employees feeling like it’s just easier not to.

      2. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. I also get the feeling that LW isn’t great at self-care. Their partner may work nights but does that mean they can’t take a day off and just chill around the house or go out to lunch with a friend? Would their partner also take a day here and there to just enjoy time together? I felt like LW’s list of reasons just pointed to why they SHOULD take PTO and are already burnt out. I hope LW gives themselves the gift of time. If the job is so bad they feel like they can never take time off, then maybe even use that PTO to look for a new one with a better work-life balance. PTO is a paid benefit. People should use it, even if they don’t go on a lavish trip. As someone else said, there has to be *something* you can do that’s better than work.

        Or, secondarily, LW might want to take an honest look and see if not taking PTO/working a lot is a way to escape something uncomfortable in their personal life.

      3. Daisy-dog*

        Yes, some of my favorite days of taking PTO involve doing nothing special. Once, I reorganized my whole closet. Another time, I played Spiritfarer for 5 hours and then went to Target and a used book store.

      4. Bee*

        I was also going to suggest a museum, or something else in your area that sounds interesting but that you’ve never been to, as well as projects that sound fun but that you can’t fit into your normal life. During staycations I’ve gone to the botanic gardens, learned how to make macarons, and painted a wall in my bedroom.

        1. TeaCoziesRUs*

          I’ve learned from many a snow day that a 500 piece puzzle can occupy me for at least a few hours… it’s also quiet and a bit meditative.

    8. Venus*

      Given that the OP struggles with coworkers not helping out, I would suggest taking occasional days off work. I’m lucky that my work is flexible so if I have no meetings when the weather is beautiful and I want to sit outside with a coffee or hang out with the dog then I can request vacation time last-minute. I strongly recommend this to others, although some workplaces might require them to be scheduled well in advance, but the one-day staycation works well for me and I’d recommend trying it.

    9. hypoglycemic rage*

      I took both a staycation and a travel vacation last year and while I enjoyed the travel (hi seattle miss you), I also really enjoyed the staycation more than I thought I would. even just not having to set an alarm in the mornings was lovely, and I spent time at my local coffeeshop and read all day. I also went to the shedd aquarium (and parked it in front of the adorable penguins) for the first time since I was probably in middle school.

    10. Foxy Hedgehog*

      I always enjoy using PTO days 2 at a time–Friday and the following Monday. It gives you a 4-day weekend as well as back-to-back 4-day weeks. If you have more PTO days than you really need (as seems to be the case for the LW), it’s a good way to refresh and to get things done away from work.

    11. not nice, don't care*

      Most folks I know who make such a fuss about refusing to take time off are also unnecessary martyrs who thrive on being seen as too busy for weaknesses like days off.
      It reads as either martyr-bragging or just sadly out of touch with self-care/human physiology.

      I work full time and own a small farm, have special needs dogs and a partner with a wack schedule. Do I live for every moment I get to spend toiling in the dirt, medicating hounds of satan, processing harvests etc?? Hell yes.

      1. Goldenrod*

        “Do I live for every moment I get to spend toiling in the dirt, medicating hounds of satan, processing harvests etc?? Hell yes.”


      2. Butterfly Counter*

        I’m getting the same vibe.

        A day off where you can take the time to catch up on everything at home, including some chores and taking care of one’s pet? Perfect!

        It sounds as though OP needs to do some communication prior to PTO. Talk to boss and coworkers about picking up her slack while she’s gone so she doesn’t come back to chaos. Talk to her partner about coordinating days off or having him wear earplugs during the day he’s sleeping when she’s at home.

        Things don’t have to be expensive to be a vacation. Download an audiobook from the library to listen to on a walk outside (or inside?). Take a nap. Find a cool podcast to get into. Research a new hobby. Plan a trip for an actual vacation that you want to take and an plan to save for it. Or just pretend you’re serious about going because just planning a trip can be fun, too.

      3. Bananapantsfeelings*

        I personally find that when I’m deep in martyr mode, it’s because I’m not ok. A well-rested fulfilled top-mental-health me isn’t a martyr, but hoo boy I can be a major martyr when I’m off in a fundamental way.

        Take that PTO, my friend, and maybe afterwards look for a better-run call center.

    12. The Original K.*

      I took a week off last week and did very little. It was 100% to combat burnout. Someone I know is doing the same next week. I had no major plans other than “not work,” and it helped a lot (not fully; but out is very real).

    13. WillowSunstar*

      I have taken staycations due to not having money to go anywhere also. I’ve gone places in my local city I wouldn’t otherwise have gone, spent a few hours in a nice park or 2, used the day to do much-needed chores and run errands, etc. There’s always something that needs to be done outside of working, it’s good to use time to catch up on those kinds of things.

      1. TeaCoziesRUs*

        $5 for a pastry that I didn’t have to cook, a book, a blanket, and a park with a few shade trees are a wonderful way to get some Vitamin D.

  2. Namename*

    LW1—you don’t trust your partner to even be able to buy groceries? And you’re doing all this stressful work but you can’t afford even a long weekend away?

    I think you may want to look at some of these issues and figure out whether there are things in your life that need to change. Separate from whether you take time off. Because psychologically healthy people don’t indulge in this “I can’t I can’t I can’t” narrative.

    1. Martin Blackwood*

      This +100. It sounds like you, essentially, have the drawbacks of living alone (having to do everything yourself) with none of the perks (doing what you want at home). Theres ways to change both of those things, but it will take communication and adjusting.

      1. Martin Blackwood*

        As a example of what Im thinking of, if you entrust your partner with all grocery responsibilities, you might have to adjust to it cutting into your evenings together, or adjust to having no last minute changes, if he goes after work to the out-of-your-way store that opens at 6am. my suggestions of “white noise machine” and “sound absorbing panels” admittedly, dont take much adjusting, unless your

    2. Msd*

      I used to work nights and still managed to go grocery shopping. A person who works nights still has hours that overlap with “regular” schedules. Something’s out of wack here.

      1. anon24*

        I work nights, and most things are way harder to fit with my schedule, but I think grocery shopping is the one thing that isn’t. I get off work at 7am, the grocery store opens at 7am, I roll in after my shift when there’s hardly any other customers, the shelves are fully stocked, and I’m in and out in 15 minutes!

        1. Daisy-dog*

          I can imagine it being a good decompression activity. Separate work & going to sleep a little bit.

        2. Beka Cooper*

          My mom was a restaurant server for much of my childhood, and when we were little, my grandma would take care of us overnight a lot (my dad was/is a musician so also worked late nights). My mom said that she loved grocery shopping in the middle of the nights after her shift because it was so quiet and she didn’t have to take me and my brother, lol. Then she’d go home and sleep and pick us up in the morning.

      2. LateRiser*

        Even taking the dog to the vet – unless it’s literally every day, you can survive a one-off 3am-equivalent vet visit. I’ve certainly done my share of those.

      3. RussianInTexas*

        Even if you truly have extremely limited time, most larger grocery stores offer free curbside pickup if you schedule them for non- weekends.

          1. popko*

            Pickup, not delivery. I travel for work and Walmart, Safeway, and Target have had scheduled pickup anywhere I’ve gone in the US, as well as some of the smaller regional chains. (And Save On Foods, in Canada!)

            1. JustaTech*

              Kroger stores too!

              It was a total life saver when the baby was too small to sit in the cart (and I was too worried about all the viruses going around to take him out around other people for that long).

            2. I'm just here for the cats!*

              smaller stores have it too. There are 2 small chain grocery stores in my area one that services only Wisconsin. Heck even my local small local food co-op has pickup options.

            1. Momma Bear*

              Several of ours do as well, including Wegmans and Giant. I used to order curbside to coincide with the end of my work day with the store closest to my office.

          2. doreen*

            You might not consider it curbside ( because I think you do actually have to go into the store) but you can order and have someone in the store pick out your items to be ready at a specified time at all the larger stores in my area ( supermarket, Walmart, Target, warehouse stores). Most of the stores don’t charge, but one charges about $4 per order. It’s different from Amazon – with the supermarkets, I can order 2 hours before I want to pick it up at the actual store. The only pickup option I know with Amazon involves shipping your order to a pickup location , which means I almost certainly won’t be able to order anything for same day pick-up.

            1. AngryOctopus*

              I order Whole Foods groceries through amazon, and can pick up curbside for free. Not 100% sure how the pickup charge works if you don’t have prime, but it’s worth looking into, and you can absolutely get same day pickup (assuming your store isn’t insanely busy, as one in my area is. I don’t use that one because the parking lot is a dumpster fire).

              1. doreen*

                I think I forgot about that because I think of that as ordering from Whole Foods, not Amazon

              2. RussianInTexas*

                My HEB gets super busy, so the weekend pickup is difficult to come by. But for the week days you can totally do the same day. You can also create a “regular” shopping list and reorder it, and set the week day for it.

            2. Tio*

              Most of the stores I’ve seen have a minimum order requirement for free pickup (I use Jewel and theirs is $30) but I can almost always make a $30 cart if I want to. Worst case I throw in an extra jug of cat litter and bam.

              Tbh I don’t know of any grocery stores near me that don’t offer curbside pickup. The fees vary, but it’s still available

            3. Turquoisecow*

              Local chains near me started offering this service even before Covid, it’s definitely become more widespread since them. Only a couple of stores do delivery themselves but a lot of others are on instacart or similar 3rd party services.

          3. Amy*

            It’s extremely common in the US right now. From big chains like Walmart, Target, Whole Food, Costco, Publix, and Kroger to smaller regional stores too.

            1. PhyllisB*

              Walmart also will deliver. My sister uses this service and loves it. I don’t know what it costs, but may be worth it to take some stress off.

          4. Owlette*

            Walmart, Target, Publix, Winn Dixie, Aldi all offer grocery pickup in my area. And all of them also offer delivery through Instacart.

          5. not nice, don't care*

            Are you in the US? Even in my small town most grocery stores have curbside options.

        1. Daisy-dog*

          My husband and I both have the Walmart app, so we add things that we need to our order throughout the week. We then go together on Sunday mornings to pick it up (and don’t get even out of the car). It’s not one person’s responsibility which makes life so much easier for both of us!

      4. I'm just here for the cats!*

        Besides this, many places now have online ordering. If the OP is more particular about groceries or the husband just doesn’t do a good job, they can do online ordering and he can pick it up.

      5. Mango Freak*

        Wouldn’t someone who works nights be MORE able to do some things? If you go to sleep at 8am and get up at 4pm, you can definitely make it to the grocery store, and probably to the vet. No matter which direction I move the theoretical night shift, there are a few hours for adulting on one side or the other, same as anyone else.

        It sounds like LW barely *has* a partner. Maybe they need their own place, where they could at least enjoy PTO by hanging out with their dog and not worrying about waking their…invisible bad roommate?

    3. Annie*

      Yeah. Sometimes it’s because Partner/Hired Sitter/Other Person made a costly mistake (in dollars, loss/destruction of thing of personal value and/or health risk) one too many times, sometimes it’s an availability problem (stores aren’t open early or late enough for Partner, local pet sitters all have something that fits their dog’s description on their No list for example), and sometimes it’s something else entirely.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      I think there’s definitely something in this. I was surprised when OP said taking time off “doesn’t magically make my issues go away”… neither does overworking yourself for free! Quite the opposite. One day you’ll be too burned out to just put your head in a bucket of work in order to ignore out-of-work things you’re not happy with.

      1. Not a lawyer butt*

        Yeah…something’s gonna give way and break at some point, and it’s highly likely to be the LW.

      2. Brain the Brian*

        Yeah, this exactly. I went through my one of my parents slowly dying over the course of five or so years taking minimal vacations and working remotely when I went to visit, and now I’m so burned out at work that I hate it and can’t myself care about much of anything. LW1, make some adjustments in your life — like taking time off and filling it with things and people you love! — before you get here.

      3. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, it sounds like they are seeing PTO as being like sick days, something to be taken when you “need it” and they are essentially seeing the days they don’t take for things like doctors’ appointments as “mental health days” and wondering why they’d take them if they aren’t helping with their mental health.

        When time off is just…a normal part of your year. Like weekends or evenings after work.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          LW mentions that there’s no point in taking vacation if they can’t “avoid burnout” or return “rested and recharged”. Are they framing that as taking care of their mental health, or as taking time off has to be in service of the job/job performance? Because the latter would be really worrying. (“I can’t justify taking time off unless it would improve my job performance.”)

          1. Nah*

            Oof, that didn’t even cross my mind but I certainly hope that’s not the case! Poor LW…

      4. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Take time off voluntarily or your body will make you take it off involuntarily.

        I think OP is stuck in the if I don’t do everything it will all fall apart so I have to keep going. Instead of making any changes. OP even if a day or two doesn’t completely recharge you, it is better than no time off at all, while also still doing everything at home. At least with a day off you are only doing the things at home.

        1. RVA Cat*

          Anxiety is driving OP1’s control panel.
          The folks at Pixar have been there and it shows.

          1. Bast*

            As someone with anxiety, the portrayal of Anxiety in Inside Out 2 hit hard. I was talking with my partner about how relatable that character was.

          2. ferrina*

            That might be a good thing for OP to do during a vacation day- take themself to a movie! Specifically Inside Out 2.

            1. Spreadsheet Queen*

              When I worked retail, my days off were almost always random weekdays, and one of things I used to do was go the movies. Matinee prices are cheaper, and if you don’t get concessions, it’s less of a budget breaker. Highly recommend. Totally does not interfere with chores or a partner’s sleep schedule either. (I do want to see this movie. I don’t go to movies much now, but as an anxiety person, I’m interested.)

          3. Lea*

            Anxiety about the dog partly, if that wasn’t just an excuse. How often does the dog go to the vet? Surely not enough to make it impossible to leave the house a few hours!

        2. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Take time off voluntarily or your body will make you take it off involuntarily.

          This^. I’m reading a book right now called Laziness Does Not Exist and it starts off right away with this concept. The basic idea of this book is that you do NOT have to be going going going 24/7 and that if you are doing that, your body will eventually revolt and stop you in your tracks. And also that, sure, sometimes we spend a day on the couch watching the same movies we’ve watched a hundred times and that seems like a total waste of a day but if we’re doing that it’s because we NEED to do that.

        3. merida*

          This is such a good point! OP1 reads as very black/white thinking, but I like your point that essentially a day of pto doesn’t need to be the “perfect day off” in order to be helpful. I hope they can take that concept to heart.

        4. Watching Paint Dry*

          Exactly. OP, you are ALREADY burnt out. If your partner truly can’t help lighten the load at home, they probably are too. The way you two have been able to split the work of living is not working right now and your job is at best disorganized. My advice for one of the days off that you will hopefully take soon is to literally just sleep. Sleep as much as possible. I can almost guarantee that you haven’t gotten enough sleep recently.

      5. jasmine*

        Agreed. There’s a point where your body decides to just stop if you’re burnt out for too long. If you don’t build rest time into your schedule, your body will do it for you.

        Taking a few days of vacation might not get rid of burnout, but it’ll definitely slow it down. LW also seems to have a very “all or nothing” mentality which I suspect is also a symptom of burnout. There’s a spectrum between “everything’s miserable” and “I don’t have to deal with any problems”. I find myself with this sort of mentality when I’m very unhappy. It sounds like something needs to change in LW’s life, and I hope they can find some peace. In the mean time, taking time off and relaxing might free up some brain space to reflect on that without the same level of day-to-day stress.

      6. Lenora Rose*

        I’m just thinking; taking care of a special needs dog must be terribly stressful… but imagine how much *less* stressful it would be taking the dog to the vet for its regular support when you take the whole day off, and can sleep in first, then lounge about with the pupper afterwards, and don’t have to fit it around work time or those precious hours when your partner is awake and/or your friends are available?

        Or, you know, take one day off a week for a few weeks to do a random hobby or exercise class (as long as exercise is something you can enjoy) that’s only scheduled in the middle of the day. Then you’d feel the day off had a “purpose” besides just being “forced to stay home and be quiet while partner sleeps” but even if you spent the rest of the day on housework and errands, you’d still have one piece of it that was pure fun.

      7. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, I’m not this bad but I find myself avoiding PTO because I live with my elderly and rather cranky parents and if I stay home I have to listen to them bicker and beg me for attention. But all the stuff I want to do is at home, too, so I don’t want to go anywhere else. But that’s not a situation that my job can (or should) try to fix for me, and I should still use my PTO.

        But PTO isn’t supposed to magically fix stuff; it’s supposed to give you the space to fix stuff yourself if you need to.

      8. My Useless Two Cents*

        As someone currently clawing my way out of burnout, I get where OP is coming from. Especially if they are not getting the support at work and it just feels like more work is piling up while you are gone. The idea of taking off a day or two just feels like bailing out a sinking boat with a thimble. I dreamt of taking off two months and just getting bored to tears doing nothing. OP, if at all possible try taking a few three day weekends, even if it’s just to sleep all day. It really will help.

        Ironically it was getting COVID that helped me turn the corner. It was the week before Christmas/New Years (and the office shut down that next week) so I ended up with two weeks home doing nothing but sleeping and watching tv. I still didn’t feel *rested* when I returned to work but I had a good excuse to just do some true self-care and have been taking more time to do literally nothing. In the months since I have been feeling better and better.

      9. Peach Parfaits Pls*

        Yeah it really sounds like OP’s preferring to feed herself more and more into the machine because she doesn’t have hope anymore for anything better.

    5. Anon for this*

      I managed someone who was working too many hours and refusing to take leave because their home life was difficult enough that work was their “safe”, “good” place. It was REALLY hard. It made them a very difficult person to work with— they were incredibly invested in their idea of themselves as a Good Worker and work as the Good Safe Place which also meant that any problems at work or anything that changed was a huge, huge problem. They couldn’t take criticism or deal with change. Their previous manager had avoided giving constructive feedback or changing anything about their work because they knew how highly strung they were, but when I started we’d reached the stage where NOT changing things wasn’t an option. It was a huge battle, and when I and my managers didn’t back down, they had a big breakdown and ended up leaving work all together.

      I still feel awful for them but also— work *cannot*, long term, be the place you use to hide or escape from a difficult home life. Yes, short-term when you’re going through a bereavement or family illness or a relationship breakdown or something like that, work can be the calm place where things make sense and it all works, and that can be hugely helpful. But if you have that relationship with work long-term, with no sign of change, it can make you a very difficult and inflexible colleague. Everything feels very, very high-stakes because you’ve got nowhere else to go for an outside perspective. Normal business changes become an existential threat.

      LW, you say you’re already burned out. How will you cope with significant changes at work, or other frustrations of difficulties? Your manager may not be telling you to take leave because it’s “good” for you in an abstract way: it may well be she perceives the need for you to take time away from work and cultivate a more functional home life because it’ll make you a better co-worker, or because she can see it’s only a matter of time until you burn out spectacularly instead of by degrees. Anything you can do to make little changes now *will* pay off.

      1. SAS*

        This is a fantastic comment that I hope LW1 sees.

        The difference between work and personal life is that at work, we occasionally have to make decisions or do things that benefits the team more than it benefits ourselves.

        As someone who works in a high-burnout rate field (and has had burnout and worked with burned out people), for the sake of your team, please take your leave entitlement.

      2. Olive*

        This hit hard. This is speculation and (past) projection, but what I took from the letter was that the LW is burned out *at home* from issues that feel out of her control – caregiver burnout from the dog, the partner’s opposite schedule with possible other issues between them – and work is where she’s needed, valuable, and competent.

        If the office isn’t toxic, the coworkers’ behaviors might feel comparatively stable and respectful. When I returned from maternity leave, it was awesome to be in a place where no one was crying! Or needed my body for food! Obviously that was a temporary situation, but I totally agree that using work to escape from home can’t last. I also agree with the comments that burnout has caused tunnel vision – there are (maybe hard) changes at home that can happen and a good use of the PTO might be to think through these options (maybe with the help of a friend or family member who isn’t part of the household).

      3. The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon*

        I also think this is an important comment that the LW should consider. If your home is not a place that builds you up, it’s a problem every single day, not just on PTO days.

      4. Goldenrod*

        “Everything feels very, very high-stakes because you’ve got nowhere else to go for an outside perspective. Normal business changes become an existential threat.”

        This is very insightful.

    6. Mo*

      I was wondering if OP and their partner don’t live together. That’s possible from the information we have and would explain why OP is saying they’d still have to do chores.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        “I can’t “do anything” because my partner works nights and I either have to pick up the pieces for everything he can’t do or don’t want to disturb him while he’s sleeping”

        Nah. Their partner works night so they have to be quiet if they’re at home during a work day … but also it sounds like there is an unequal division of labor at home and they do a lot more chores than their partner does with an excuse of the partner working nights

        1. ferrina*


          If your partner is working the same hours as you are, then they have the same opportunities you do to do house work. Maybe not the opportunity to do the same housework- like taking the dog to the vet has to be done during daytime hours- but there is no reason they can’t do the grocery shopping, help with cooking/meal prep, clean up, etc.

          OP, you need to talk to your partner. If they are a compassionate partner, they will be worried that you don’t fell like you can relax. They will talk to you about how they can support you to help you take time off.
          If you are met with talk of how they cannot possibly do more, you need to seriously consider if this relationship is still working. It’s not okay for one partner to be constantly stressed.

          My story-I used to be in a relationship where I was doing 80% of the housework and 90% of the mental load. When we first started the relationship, I was doing 60%/70%, but I thought that was okay because he worked longer hours and I was the more organized one. Over time, he would ask me to take on more when he was busy/had a stressful time, and then he would somehow never remember to take back the responsibility that I had been ‘temporarily’ covering. One day I woke up and realized that all my time was either working at a toxic job or doing housework in a busy household (also special needs pet)- I had no hobbies and no friends. I tried talking to my partner, but every time I asked him to take on anything more, he either refused outright or ‘tried’ for a week or two then reverted back.
          I tried everything I could, but a relationship doesn’t work when only one person is putting in the work. I left him, and let me tell you, it was amazing how much less I had to do without him. I still had the same chores and work, but I was no longer tiptoeing around him and trying to accommodate or appease him. I didn’t realize how much energy I had been spending on him without him spending energy on me. That takes a toll. Eventually I also found another job, and life is so, so much better now. It took time, but I’m so glad I didn’t let myself get indefinitely stuck in that spot.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            I was in a relationship like that too. We didn’t live together but as a more organized person and someone who likes to plan ahead much more than my then-boyfriend did, I ended up doing a lot of the planning for our trips or even our nights or weekends together. I learned what kinds of things he liked to do and tried to think of trips or events that would include those things. He was a pickier eater than I was so I would always be sure to choose restaurants or cook meals that he’d like. While I was in it I didn’t even realize how much effort this was and I just figured that was how relationships worked but when I finally realized he wasn’t putting nearly as much into the relationship as I was I broke up with him and almost immediately realized how much of my time and energy I’d been spending on his wants and needs to the point of ignoring my own wants and needs.

            I was raised in an environment that encouraged not talking about your own needs so I never got to the point in that relationship where I opening discussed what I wanted with that bf (and even though it might not have ultimately changed anything, I wish I’d had the discussion, at least). OP, if your relationship is a healthy one I hope you *can* have that discussion with your partner and he can help you work this out. Best of luck!

            1. Watching Paint Dry*

              The main benefit of living with a partner is splitting the work of living. If it’s not split, OP, you have to think about how long you’re willing for that to go on – is it “for the rest of the year” or is it “until some nebulous future date when partner can find a non-nightshift job” or is it “potentially forever, because nightshift is who partner is and they can avoid having to do daylight chores by being a vampire”?

              Living situations are tough, and we cannot say things like “get a new job without a long commute” or “move somewhere where you and partner can be more separated while on opposite schedules” and magically give you the means and opportunity to do these things. But fortunately, reorganizing your life to suck less can actually be done, very often, on days off – whether that’s house / apartment hunting, job hunting, or returning the living space to a baseline level of cleanliness / organization that can sustain you through your work weeks and give you time to actually see your partner and dog on weekends.

            2. Reluctant Mezzo*

              Have you read The Wife App? This is sounding really familiar. My husband would ask me what I wanted about something, then he’d say, ‘no, we’re going to do the other thing.’ Then why in F did you ask, I thought at the time. So I spent way too much effort trying to read his mind about what he wanted so I could volunteer it.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          And either the OP is making assumptions about what they can do while their partner sleeps, or the partner is super picky about it. That might be helped with a white noise machine or better sound insulation in the bedroom (one of my siblings lives in a house that formerly belonged to a family with a kid who played some kind of brass instrument. One of the bedrooms is pretty heavily sound-insulated).

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      OP1, I want to gently suggest that in 10 years when you look back on this time, you will see that there were other choices you could make. You weren’t hopelessly stuck in every possible aspect of your life with no option other than continuing the status quo.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Talking to someone else can help identify where the logic stops and the brain weasels start. It can be a therapist, but even a friend or partner who knows you can probably tell when your spiraling or self-sabotage sets in.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        To be fair, I was once hopelessly stuck in every possible aspect of my life and it took them wanting to fire me and going out on mental health leave after having a breakdown to eventually lead me to a path out….

        I will also note that call centers screw with your head mightily and I can say from my own experience that if being out for a day or two (or worse, a week) only makes your work harder because you stopped swimming, I can see LW’s POV.

      2. Decima Dewey*

        OP1, use your time now before you have to.

        I used to power through when I thought I owed it to my job to do so. I now have several autoimmune disorders.

        Look for solutions to your work stress and your home stress. What you’re doing now is not sustainable.

    8. Hyaline*

      LW seems to have a a bad case of the “but *I* have to” where they’re not trusting that anything can happen without them. Partner can’t get groceries. No one else could care for the dog. Work will…IDK explode maybe. Sometimes this is true. Most of the time it is not. It requires good mental health plus some hard earned maturity to untangle what you are TRULY needed for and what can get by without you.

      1. HappyPenguin*

        Not the same, but your comment reminded me of a person I work with who I call “Yeahbut” (in my head only!) because every new idea, strategy, or thought is met with “yeah, but…” and the reasons it won’t work.

    9. Sunshine*

      I agree. You mentioned you would not be able to “do anything” because you would need to “pick up the pieces” of what your partner can’t do. I have experience with needing to do that. If that need doesn’t stop you from working a shift, why must it stop you from a leisure activity on a day you would otherwise have worked?

      And sure, you can’t disturb your partners sleep. If you find ways to pick up the pieces without disturbing their sleep, find ways to enjoy leisure time without disturbing their sleep!

      1. AngryOctopus*

        This 10000%. You can go to work with no major tragedies. So why can’t you take that 8+ hours (factoring a commute in) to do something Not Work? You need to give yourself space to not be working sometimes.

    10. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      Had a similar thought–surely the partner can buy groceries. Presumably someone who works nights also has a roughly equivalent amount of nonwork time. I think one issue with a person suffering burnout is that they are so tired and depleted that thinking of solutions to any problem feels overwhelming.

    11. MCMonkeybean*

      LW1 sounds overwhelmed both by what is needed of them at work and what is needed of them outside of work–but it seems like taking PTO should at a minimum help give you more time to deal with what’s needed outside of work, right? You don’t have to take a trip, you can use the time to take care of other things you need if that would help you feel more “relaxed.” My boss just took a week off to do a bunch of yardwork.

      Definitely talk to your boss about how to make sure things don’t pile up at work while you’re out. But also if you don’t want to take a lot of time off at once, doing a bunch of 3 or 4 day weekends as Alison mentioned might be a great compromise. You shouldn’t have a ton of stuff piling up in that time at work and you can use it to run errands that you need and do work around the house and then maybe by Sunday you might even have some time to just sit around the house and do a bit of nothing! Maybe you could find some small “self-care” pleasures to indulge in like a little at home spa night with facemasks and a mani/pedi or a nice long bath or just reading a book curled up with your dog and some hot cocoa.

      1. Emikyu*

        This is of course not everyone’s cup of tea, but I get at least one massage a month and sometimes I take a whole day off to do it.

        I was having nasty headaches for months before I started it – I’d been referred to multiple neurologists who were baffled at what might be causing my “migraines”. Those turned out to be stress headaches. Now if I’m at work and my head starts hurting for no apparent reason, it’s probably time to schedule another massage.

        It obviously doesn’t fix all the problems in my life, but I definitely feel more recharged and able to tackle them once I’ve taken the time to indulge in something for myself with no interruptions.

    12. Springtime*

      I agree with most of the other comments on this first letter, and I want to add one in a different vein. One of the unsung benefits of taking time off is that it gives everyone else a chance to work while taking a little break from you. I believe our relationships benefit when others have occasional chances to miss us a little. Or just reset. I like my coworkers, but it’s still nice to have occasional workdays without each of them. I can only assume they feel the same about me.

    13. Baunilha*

      Yeah, not to pry into OP’s relationship but.. what would happen if something happened to you, like being hospitalized for a while? I’m assuming your partner would manage to get groceries and take care of the dog, no?
      I already had my dogs before I met my husband, so even now there’s a still a sense of them being my responsability not his, but I’ve traveled at least three times that I can remember and my husband (who wasn’t even my living with me at time) was more than happy to take care of my dogs while I was way because it was important for me.
      And I’m not gonna get into the fact that you seem to think that you have to pick up your partner’s slack just because you’re taking time off. That’s not how it works.

    14. Samwise*

      We’re supposed to take writers at their word

      I’m in a similar family/home situation as the LW. My ill spouse can do many things— driving, writing, and carrying heavy bags for more than a short distance, managing unexpected situations (even minor ones) are not among them. My old/ill pet died a couple months ago (still grieving), before that again my spouse could not take the pet to the vet (can’t drive, etc)

      Now, I did manage to take half days around appts and a short vacation, but that’s because my boss and grand boss are supportive, and because I’m not trying to “exceeds expectations “. I let my boss know what needs to be done when I’m out. And I spend 15 minutes once or twice while on vacation to forward “urgent” emails to the right person— I don’t write any response or do any other follow up.

      So Alison’s advice is spot on

      And skepticism about the OP’s family situation is pretty insulting

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        I’d guess that people are being skeptical not because they think OP is being untruthful, but because the situation OP is describing sounds pretty unsustainable! Having to do all the chores for two people + take care of a sick pet + having very different living schedules is a very challenging situation to be in, and is the sort of situation where it’s a coin flip as to whether the situation resolves itself or if it implodes. That makes this a good time to sit down and reevaluate how much of the “known truths” are truly known – is it really true that partner cannot pick up any burden of household chores, for instance. Then figure out what can be changed. Can chores be outsourced or consolidated, etc. The same is true for work – if OP cannot leave for one day without things imploding, then the work situation needs to be rejuggled. Things like that.

          1. Kara*

            It is. And it results in breakdowns, burnout, and strained/failed relationships more often than not. LW already sounds like they’re nearing that point.

      2. Reluctant Mezzo*

        Oh, we all believe the family situation is like that. Been there, done that myself. It’s just not a good way to live.

      3. Anonforthis*

        So, i was in a not-dissimilar position from you and the LW until not long ago. Sick spouse, special needs pet, baby, breadwinner, never enough time for everything that needed to get done just to keep things running and if I don’t do it it won’t get done. Yes Hubby helped, but he wasn’t physically or mentally capable of shouldering more than ~15% of the load. What changed? I started to crumble. Didn’t matter that we weren’t in a position to change anything either; something still had to change because my body rebelled. LW sounds very close to where I was not long before the breakdown started.

        My question for the LW is: when was the last time you looked forward with excitement to something? When was the last time you felt -happy-, truly happy? If you’re having a hard time answering those questions and/or are having to qualify them in order to get the ‘right’ answer, please see a doctor. Not a therapist or counselor, a doctor; because a doctor can prescribe medication for depression and/or anxiety. I didn’t realize that I was deeply depressed. It had come on so gradually and clouded everything so fully that I’d managed to persuade myself that this was normal and that I was fine. I wasn’t, and I suspect you aren’t either. Then please take the rest of the excellent advice and find a way to ease the load you’re carrying. Good luck, i hope things get better.

  3. Pillow Fort Forever*

    I am in love with the idea of a treehouse for my dog. I would so love to use it on my next out of office message. That is all!!

      1. Panoramix*

        Right? My inner child still wants one… I do need a decent/better backyard for that, though.

  4. ThatOtherClare*

    LW#2: this script suggestion may or may not be your style, but I can offer:

    “I fell over the other day while walking the dog and now I have a big bruise on my head. It’s very undignified, so I’m going to leave my Zoom camera off for this call.”

    You’re telling the truth without making it sound too dramatic, and conveying that the injury is minor enough to make a small joke about (by calling it undignified), while also making it clear that you don’t want to show it on camera, and that it would be rude for people to ask (by calling it undignified).

    What alternative scripts do others have? I’m sure we could probably come up with a list in all sorts of different tones and styles for the letter writer to choose from.

    1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

      “I took a spill while walking the dog and I’ve got a spectacular black eye — I’ve been checked out by a doctor, it looks worse than it is, and I’m going to leave the camera off.”

      1. ferrina*

        This is probably what I would say. If you have a black eye, it’s a lot weirder to try to be coy than to just explain what happened. Especially since OP works with DV organizations. I can understand the sensitivity, but these folks know that injuries also happen by happenstance. Being forthright will help ease any concerns (remember, they also know that it looks like when someone is trying to cover up DV).

        1. inksmith*

          Oh God, I was running a conference for survivors of DV once and came into the room rubbing my head. Cue – what happened, you OK?

          I genuinely had walked into a door (well opened a door into my own face) but it felt so wrong saying that. Fortunately, they thought it was funny, especially once they were sure I was OK.

          And then there’s the time I went to be interviewed and filmed for a student thing on DV and only realised afterwards that the cut of my top made the scratches on my chest very visible. They were from my friend’s rabbit, but…yeah.

          1. Not Your Sweetheart*

            My one and only black eye really was caused by my walking into a door. I also had a large cut and bruise on my big toe from when it stopped the door, causing me to walk into it.

    2. nnn*

      LW mentions that they have a concussion, which is in and of itself a valid reason to scale back. Example: “I’m recovering from a concussion, so I’m going to be voice-only so I don’t overexert myself”

      (Dirty lens: my greatest regret in life is not resting more in the aftermath of my concussion. I never fully bounced back.)

      1. learnedthehardway*

        If the OP has a concussion, they should be limiting their screen time, anyways – that’s a perfect reason to give for not being on camera. Just say you’re avoiding screens entirely and are logging in via your phone.

        That said, it’s absurd that there is such a social perception of abuse or violence (because that is the subtext to a woman with a black eye) that the OP feels they can’t be seen in public until their black eye goes away. People need to get a grip and realize that people have accidents, and that their concern trolling about abuse is uncalled for.

        1. scandi*

          “social perception of abuse or violence” is a really funny way to phrase “widespread problem of men beating women”. i’ll take “concern trolling” over people politely ignoring women with bruises under the assumption that domestic violence is a private matter any day.

        2. Chrysoprase*

          The rest of the comment aside, I think you’re mixed up about what the phrase “concern trolling” means. Concern trolling is when someone wraps their disapproval or prejudice in a veneer of concern – like nagging a fat person and telling them “I’m just worried about your health!”, or badgering a person about having kids because “they might regret it when it’s too late!”, or covering homophobia or transphobia with disingenuous BS about “protecting children” – using fake “concern” as a cover, basically. It doesn’t just mean any inconvenient or misplaced or excessive concern.

        3. Silver Robin*

          Besides the fact that “concern trolling” is a wild way to describe people responding to potential domestic violence…

          OP specifically works with clients who have a history/work directly with survivors of said domestic violence. This is not random strangers, it makes total sense that seeing OP with a massive bruise on her face might be upsetting to people with direct experience of the worst reasons for that. It is kind that OP is trying to find ways to be sensitive to that without making things awkward or strange.

      2. Not like a regular teacher*

        Yep, this is the one. Or even just “I’m going to be off -camera today,” said matter-of-factly and like it’s no big deal. It’s not! At this point we’ve all seen or heard about all manner of technical difficulties and less than ideal workspaces. In the zoom meetings I run I occasionally have people let me know they need to have their camera off (or even that they’ll only be listening and won’t be able to have their mic on!) with no further explanation and it is no big deal.

        If you feel you absolutely MUST offer some justification, “I’m recovering from a concussion” or even just “I’ve just returned from sick leave and am still recovering” is more than enough.

        1. Ole Pammy's Getting What She Wants*

          THIS. dont give any more information than you want or need to! other people are not owed more than you are willing to give here. I often think of Pam’s line on the office when Michael was prying once – “that’s as specific as I’d like to be”.

      3. Caffeine Monkey*

        I’ve had so many concussions my brain is basically liquid (horses are a stupid hobby), and can confirm that I’ve always recovered better when I’ve rested way more than I thought I needed to.

        1. not nice, don't care*

          My partner shares the horse-related brain jelly. It was a sad day when we realized we were getting too old to wrassle giant equines with confidence we could bounce back from any antics.

      4. Hyaline*

        My first thought was—recovering from a concussion is a good enough reason to take a couple sick days, honestly, if the LW can! Take time off and you don’t have to think about the Zoom calls at all.

        1. MCMonkeybean*

          They said they did take a few days off, and are now dealing with a backlog of meetings as a result

      5. So Long and Thanks for All the Fish*

        Echoing the chorus of lowering screen time for concussion. If it’s easier to say than the general illness thing, you can consider saying that because of your concussion you need to be able to look away from your computer screen and primarily focus on audio input when possible, so you don’t want to look rude on camera if you need to look away to facilitate your cognitive recovery.

    3. D*

      “I lost a fight with the sidewalk and it’s very obvious so I’m going to hide in embarrassment for a few days.”

      1. Not like a regular teacher*

        I don’t think a joke about fighting would be appropriate for a workplace that supports domestic violence survivors.

        1. Shoot another shot, try to stop the feeling*

          That’s an overly sensitive reaction to the spirit of that phrase, which is that it’s absurd to fight an inanimate object.

          1. Lea*

            Honestly you could just simplify it to ‘tripped walking the dogs’ which is something a lot of dog owners have done including myself!

        2. Peach Parfaits Pls*

          Losing a fight with an inanimate object (or gravity) is fine to say since it’s so obviously whimsical. That’s not a reasonable level of hypersensitivity to apply to language.

    4. Zelda*

      I just don’t mention it. I leave my camera off about half the time, and I have a line about “not feeling very camera-ready today” prepared in case someone ever inquires. No one ever has.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        This is the way. The less you say about it, the less attention you draw to it.

      2. Nope*

        This. There is zero reason to preemptively use any of these scripts if you haven’t explicitly been asked why your camera is off. You don’t ignore the elephant in the room by pointing it out before anyone else has even noticed it.

    5. TheOtherKaye*

      I had a situation several years ago where I was playing with my dog; he threw his head back and his skull connected with my eye socket. We both saw stars, and I came away with the best black eye I’ve had for years… this was pre-covid, when office attendance was mandatory.
      Concealer make-up is your friend if you need to be in the office or have your camera on! Most of my colleagues didn’t even notice the black eye covered by concealer, but for those who did I started my script with “you may not believe me, but…etc etc” It always drew a laugh and sympathetic comment.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        I got hit in the face with a smoke detector (long story), and it gave me a somewhat subtle black eye. Nobody at work noticed, because I wear glasses, until I met with my boss, and she was like “do you have a black eye? Are you OK?” and I had to tell her the story.

        1. ferrina*

          Wait, what? Hit in the face with a smoke detector?

          Now I’m imagining you playing frisbee with a smoke detector.

          1. Always Tired*

            I have also been hit in the face with a smoke detector, though thankfully no black eye. Don’t know about Angry Octopus, but I was steadying the ladder for someone attempting to install a new one and they dropped it on my upturned face. I managed to mostly take it on the cheek/ear.

    6. Insert Clever Name Here*

      “I’m having some bandwidth issues so am keeping my camera off today.”

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, I was thinking that if the LW is OK with “lying” a little, they could say something like “my camera isn’t working.”

        1. Zelda*

          “Bandwidth” is also a moderately common metaphor for “time, energy, mental processing power.” And in that sense, not even stretching the truth– the LW does not care to put any energy into explaining the injuries, fending off remarks, etc.

          1. Chuck Finley*

            I’m continually amazed at the mental hoops commenters will go thru to justify the simplest solution of the little white lie. You have camera/laptop/internet issues. These will continue until coincidentally your black eye/concussion is healed.

            1. Zelda*

              1) Some of us have really strong conditioning against lying. For me, it’s about my personal integrity. I do not feel that I owe everyone on the planet the entire unexpurgated truth, but I deal with that by… purgating? Witholding true information, anyway, rather than volunteering false information. Other people can draw their personal lines where they will.

              2) I genuinely read Clever Name’s comment at first as being about mental bandwidth. Where I hang out, “I’m having bandwidth issues” or “I didn’t have the bandwidth” *usually* means “I’m tired/not dealing with this crap today,” not anything about one’s ISP. So it took me a second to figure out that Irish Teacher was being, like, literal!

              1. Lea*

                Bandwidth is a handy excuse regardless!

                In addition to your comment some people are just bad liars and should stick to avoidance or highly edited truth so they don’t sound shady

        2. inksmith*

          Agreed – my camera was “having a moment” yesterday when I wanted to finish making a cup of tea while the trainer recapped the morning’s training. Miraculously fixed when I sat back down again.

    7. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Staying off-camera is my first inclination, it avoids what I’ll describe below. If that’s not feasible, a quick acknowledgment about having a bruise and keeping the tone light is a good approach. But…

      A lot of people just don’t believe the reason for having a black eye, especially if you’re a woman. In the 90s I got a shiner horsing around with my then-little nephew, and said as much to my team. Mostly they looked uncomfortable, but some people privately asked me if I was in a DV situation and needed help. No matter what I said, or if I wore Jackie O-size sunglasses to hide my eye, the bruise caused gasps and ongoing concern.

      1. Nola*

        I once fell off the treadmill at the office gym and knocked out a tooth and bruised up half my face.

        At the office gym. At lunch time. In front of about half a dozen colleagues I worked directly with.

        The next week when I was back in the office I still got concerned looks and had a few folks pull me aside for the DV talk.

        Some one said it above – it‘s concern trolling.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          My mom was in a car accident in the 80s and her only souvenir was (thankfully) a gnarly black eye. Because it was the 80s, apparently people thought it was funny to make “oh, your husband is beating you again” jokes. As a kid I didn’t really get it (I was 7 or 8) but as an adult looking back it’s horrifying. It’s not funny!

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            I was raised in an abusive home, so jokes about DV are NOT funny to me either! And while I appreciated the initial concern from my colleagues – it was a large, black bruise – I didn’t appreciate the few who just would not let it go. They didn’t believe my denials because, of course, I would deny it, and kept asking ‘What’s going on at home? You can tell me…’

            Concern trolling is a good term for that kind of behavior.

        2. Cmdrshprd*

          “Some one said it above – it‘s concern trolling.”

          Eh I disagree, maybe some people but I would say it likely is genuine concern.

          I think people often forgot how self involved most people are, and think every one else is closely watching them/paying attention to what they do. but I don’t think that is the case. .
          just because you had a public fall/accident does not mean every heard about it and they don’t know about the cause for your black eye.

          Even for people who saw it or heard about it, it went in one ear and out the other, and they don’t make the connection when they see you with a black eye that it was caused by fall at work. People are more concerned with their own life/work to keep track of all the significant events in someone else’s life.

          I would rather people be overly cautious about trying to help potential DV victims versus assuming all visible injuries have a good excuse.

        3. Silver Robin*

          I am really confused by this.

          “Concern trolling” in every other context I have seen is people *feigning* concern in order to actually critique/insult somebody or impose their own values on a person. See examples of how we treat fat people. How is it concern trolling to be actually worried and actually offer support/check in?

          Could they be misguided? Could they be a bit clueless? Could it be an overcorrection (the presumption of lying about it, for example)? Absolutely. But concern trolling? That feels like such a weird (and wild) way to describe this to me.

            1. Silver Robin*

              That still does not quite sit right with me, because that still does not line up with how I have seen that used elsewhere. Again, the concern trolling I have mostly seen and experienced is people demonizing being fat, attacking the value of the person, under the guise of “concern”. These two things are too distinct to be described the same way because DV is actually a horrific problem that is wildly underreported and it’s victims under supported. We *want* people to be concerned about that! And though they are centering themselves, this is not undermining the person’s inherent value the way it is about fat people.

              Which is not to say that the behavior highlighted here is okay. I remember the story you linked, it sucked. Repeatedly questioning the person is not best practice for actually being supportive, even if you think they are hiding something.

              I think maybe this is closer to a particular toxic version of virtue signalling (look at me, how kind and aware and helpful I am) than concern trolling.

        4. not nice, don't care*

          We’ve come a long way in getting people to recognize and speak up about DV. Let’s not go backwards, even if you personally don’t like it. You never know who might actually find the trolling just the impetus for getting help.

    8. Anon for this one*

      This letter was very timely for me – I have a big bruise on my cheek (at the pool yesterday with my kid, I was floating with my eyes closed during adult swim and he threw a pool toy wanting me to catch it – caught me right in the cheek) and have been wondering what to do on Zoom calls.

    9. WellRed*

      OP I hope your coworkers didn’t actually say “we will get used to it.” What away to make someone self conscious. And yes, please turn your camera off. You’ve got a concussion too!

    10. Venus*

      I don’t like the idea of including much medical information, because it can cause people to want more details. A simple “I had an accident walking the dog and will be off-camera briefly” is my preference.

    11. Lily Rowan*

      I don’t think LW2 needs that much of a script, but I would just add to have a nice picture of yourself in your zoom account so that’s what folks are looking at, vs. a black box.

    12. RagingADHD*

      It’s just way more words than you need. Nobody needs the whole story of what happened. Honestly, nobody cares! And there’s absolutely no reason why you need to manage other people’s reactions to something they can’t see and don’t know about.

      “I’m camera off today.”

      1. Kevin Sours*

        Hitting exactly the right amount of detail can be tricky. In many offices “I’m off camera” is fine (in my work being on camera is exceptionally rare regardless). In some places there is enough expectation of being “on camera” that saying that without an explanation will be seen as weird.

        The principal of truthful but vague is the guide post. If “I’m off camera” is too vague keeping the explanation as short as possible is good. You want to explain and move on not tell a story. (“I fell yesterday and am more comfortable off camera” or some such).

  5. The Prettiest Curse*

    OP1, I’m pretty confident in assuming that your dog misses you when you’re working. Give them the occasional day off missing you. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your dog.

    1. Sharpie*

      Maybe you can take the dog somewhere nice for the day – you get time with your dog, you don’t have to worry about your partner and you get to actually recharge a bit. You don’t have to go far to have a day off work – maybe explore taking Friday or Monday off and giving yourself a three-day weekend (or four day weekend if you choose the Friday and following Monday).

      1. SAS*

        Having a 4-day weekend every 1-2 months is a great way to use PTO if you can’t go on vacation!

        1. Cat Tree*

          I used to visit family one weekend a month. They were just far enough away that it became an actual event, not something I could really do as a day trip. So then I would take the following Monday off work to do laundry and other weekend errands. That way I could see my siblings on their weekend, but still benefit from time off. Plus the following 4-day week felt nice and short.

  6. Not your typical admin*

    There’s so much value in time off! It’s good for you, and for the company. I learned this when I worked in a bank, and for security purposes, time off was mandatory.

    For you, time off allows you to recharge, rest, and forces you to not make your job your whole identity. You’re a better person, partner, and even worker when your life is in balance. Even if you can’t take a luxurious vacation, use the time to do something for yourself. Garden, read, binge watch your favorite tv show, bake, go on a hike, have brunch with a friend, ect. There’s so many opportunities that are free/low cost.

    On the company side – you taking time off is a benefit to them. It forces them to address issues regarding your workload, and ensures that if you leave the company will continue to function.

    1. Awkwardness*

      And if it is only about not living by the alarm for one day. Or bingewatching a TV show until 3 because nobody will care if you are hung over.
      Taking time off is more than just holidays.

      1. misspiggy*

        It sounds like the LW feels they can’t do these things because their partner is sleeping. That must be hugely stressful and it probably isn’t sustainable.

        1. Awkwardness*

          What do you mean?
          If OP is bingewatching at night, OP would not disturb their partner because they are out working. And if OP is sleeping long without alarm, I cannot see how they would be disturbing their partner too.

          I find it a bit difficult to just take the OP at their word that they have no options for anything and will not benefit from PTO because not all of OPs conclusions are reasonable in itself. Example: If they would plan to go on a day trip, how is it relevant who would take the dog to the vet? It is one day, 8-9h away, exactly the same time as being at work, and this obviously works too.

          1. Annie*

            Some possible reasons:
            -Partner might be a light sleeper, have a sensitive startle reflex, have a long and/or difficult commute, have a long and/or difficult work day, have their own extensive self-care routine that can’t be shortened or skipped because Reasons.
            -OP really means they can’t do Day Off Things as a couple because of disparate work/sleep schedules.

            1. Awkwardness*

              And their partner being a light sleeper would justify OP not even wanting to sleep long or taking off one day?

              I feel that in explaining and supporting those arguments you are essentially re-enforcing OPs idea that there is no point in taking off.
              But things are negotiable, there are low cost options out there, and it does make sense to talk about workload.

              1. Peach Parfaits Pls*

                Exactly, there’s a level of expecting the least from OP’s life that’s really distressing to hear OP express.

                If OP spends the day off outside the house, it won’t disturb sleeping partner. Have a lingering brunch, go to a matinee, sit in the park with a book, then try a new restaurant for dinner. Boom, done.

            2. Cordelia*

              you seem to be reinforcing OP’s view that taking time off is completely impossible, and I don’t think it is. People are making various suggestions – some of them might not be possible for this OP’s situation, but others would be worth trying.
              Night workers tend not to last very long in the job if they are very light sleepers, but even if this is the case – well, OP reading or surfing the net or watching tv (with headphones if necessary) isn’t going to disturb them, they don’t have to be doing noisy things. They can go out for some of the day while partner is asleep anyway. And if OP thinks it’s only worth doing Day Off Things as a couple – well that’s an issue that perhaps needs addressing in itself.

              1. ecnaseener*

                Annie’s not doing anything wrong in trying to understand where LW might be coming from. That can be very helpful for structuring the advice in a way that LW might be inclined to actually take.

            3. Grumpus*

              I don’t understand why partner seems to have no PTO to take? like they can’t take some days off together?

              1. Oh vey*

                I’ve had plenty of jobs with no PTO. I could take time off, sure, but I wasn’t getting paid for it. Ain’t no P in that PTO. There were a lot of times when I couldn’t afford that – several years in fact. Sucks to be poor.

    2. niknik*

      Really like that last paragraph, never thought about it that way. PTO as a kind of training mechanism to make your processes more robust. Also yes, take your time off, people. Disconnect from the insanity once in a while.

      1. Worldwalker*

        Any employee, no matter how essential, could be run over by a bus tomorrow. Any business has to plan for this.

        That essential employee could have a medical emergency. They could be injured giving their cat a dish of milk. (decades ago, I got a concussion that way) Your competitor could make them an offer they can’t afford to refuse. We could keep listing reasons why an employee would suddenly leave, but the reasons aren’t the actual point. It can happen, and it does happen, and a wise company plans for it.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        This is a good point on the advantage to companies. If Gladys is a single point of failure through which critical things must pass, you should figure out some alternate paths while Gladys is in fact contactable–will even be in tomorrow–rather than wait for her to win the lottery and catch that next flight to Fiji.

    3. Beth*

      I worked with a woman who was firmly entrenched in the mentality of “No point taking time off”, with a particular emphasis on “I’m so overworked and behind at work, and if I take time off I’ll just be farther behind.”

      There was some truth to that: our bosses were real bastards at piling on work without regard to workload. I had personally decided that bad staffing decisions were not my problem, and took all my allotted time. I was at least rested when I went back to work, and I refused to feel guilty at my inability to do more work than humanly possible.

      My poor co-worker could never see it this way, and although I felt deep compassion for her and encouraged her to take her PTO, I couldn’t change her.

    4. Just me*

      “I learned this when I worked in a bank, and for security purposes, time off was mandatory.” When I worked at a bank this wasn’t true. We got PTO days every year but they made it incredibly difficult to actually take them. Certainly wasn’t mandatory there!

      1. Not your typical admin*

        With ours it was incredibly mandatory. It was looked at as an essential step in preventing fraud by ensuring everyone’s work was taken over and looked over by an outside person at least once a year.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        It’s a federal regulation in some parts of banking for exactly what niknik points out–to discover that there are financial shenanigans, it helps to remove individual people from the work loop. Including email and phone calls.

        1. Sunflower*

          This exactly. When I worked at a bank, we were required to take one full week off each year. I hated it since I don’t go anywhere so it seemed a waste to take a week but I understood why. They don’t play around when it comes to finances.

      3. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        Did you work directly with the money? (Either as cash, or in the accounting departments.)

        I worked for a bank for many years and didn’t have that requirement, but I was in the back office with the programmers, and it was like any office job.

  7. Story&Clark*

    OP 1, I’m feeling really badly for you that you seem to feel chained to so many responsibilities. While it can be stressful to have work pile up, the recharge potential is worth it. Even if you stay home and do things locally. Surely there’s something you might enjoy as a day trip that you could still do! Maybe make a list of places in your city you’ve never been to or tried, or activities you’d like to sample. Even just a change of scenery—sitting in a fun coffee shop reading a book (or whatever), can fill us up. Tbh, you sound down to me…I hope you can take some time for yourself and remember what that’s like.

    1. ferrina*

      I’ve got a PTO day coming up, and I’m going to spend the morning volunteering, then go to the library, then a bakery and then either read my book at the bakery or take my coffee and pastries to a park and read there.

      Other days off I’ve gone to museums, followed by a leisurely lunch. Or get a new video game and play it all day. Or try out a new fitness studio, then go to a bookstore to reward myself for trying something new.

      I went through a long span (years) where I didn’t really have relaxation time, so I’ve had to re-learn relaxation. It is absolutely a skill that can be learned or forgotten.

      1. Peach Parfaits Pls*

        And when people can’t see value in just vibing and relaxing for the day, it can mean they’ve lost touch with the part of their identity that exists for its own sake, not dependent on taking care of others or achieving. Experiencing curiosity and beauty are ends in themselves, and if you don’t remember that you’re worthy of prioritizing those experiences, your life is not currently going all right.

  8. Deanna*

    LW2 I can sympathize. I’m part of a womans rugby club and matches can get a bit rough because of the nature of the sport. Alot of ladies in our club get asked if we’re being abused when out with bruises.

    1. Semi-Accomplished Baker*

      My mum accidentally burnt herself on the neck with a curling iron, and it did really look bad. Luckily no one asked her about it!

    2. allathian*

      A former coworker was a pretty accomplished wrestler, and after tournaments she’d come to work covered in bruises. If anyone asked what had happened, she’d pull out her phone and show videos taken by her coach.

    3. Neon*

      I slipped on the tile floor when I was mopping and hit my head on the handle to the sliding glass door. It happened so fast I had no time to brace myself. Got stitches in my forehead and had a big black eye. Looked like someone beat me up. I was so embarrassed. My coworkers were cool about it and this was 10 years ago. Took 3 weeks to heal.

    4. That Coworker's Coworker*

      I had a biopsy of an artery in my head, and a common side effect of that is a black eye: I quickly explained to each coworker I encountered, and to people on virtual calls, that it was the result of a medical procedure, just so they wouldn’t be worried about domestic violence!

      I think everybody believed me, though I can see how people might start to get worried or suspicious if it wasn’t a one-time occurrence.

    5. Three Owls in a Trench Coat*

      I dropped my Kindle on my face while reading in bed one evening. The next morning I woke up with a black eye. Guess who had a meeting with leadership from a local Women’s Shelter at the office later that day…. >.<

      They were very gracious when I explained I'm incredibly clumsy.

      1. Stella*

        My mom and I were just talking about dropping books/e-readers on our faces while reading in bed!

    6. ScruffyInternHerder*

      I’m involved in multiple sports that frequently look like I’ve had the daylights kicked out of me. The questions sometimes are, um, interesting.

    7. Snatland*

      Yeah I also have a hobby where bruises are pretty much par for the course (aerial hoop and silks) and a few people in my classes have had people check up on them. Fortunately most of us have photos or videos to explain.

  9. Lurker*

    LW1 — one thing I like to do is plan a day off to do errands — groceries, hair cut, calling whatever company to sort out an issue, laundry, etc. Whatever you either have to squeeze in on the weekends or after work – and then you have the entire weekend to enjoy and not have to do errands. That doesn’t solve the issue of feeling burnt out when you return to work, but maybe it will make the day off feel more productive.

    1. WellRed*

      I do this. Just Took a four day weekend and posted a picture from the laundromat about my long, middle age, to-do list day off.

  10. Daria grace*

    #1. There’s plenty you can do locally that doesn’t cost much money that would be good for you. A day off is a good chance to see any free/cheap art of museum exhibitions to or take your dog for a walk somewhere more interesting than you normally have time for. It can also give you a chance to get tasks you’d normally do on a weekend done so you have free time when others are available on the weekend.

    While your wellbeing should be your top priority, it’s also worth knowing that not taking leave can be bad for your company too. It can result in them accruing the liability of leave on the books they have to pay out if people leave. People not going on leave can also contribute to problems staying hidden. Part of why the financial services corporate I used to work for insisted people take some leave is fraud often came to light when people were on leave so other people having to do their tasks and answer their calls spotted discrepancies.

    1. Jackalope*

      On a related note, some libraries have passes to museums you can check out for free, which makes this potentially an even cheaper option. Also, if there’s a small museum in the area that you haven’t visited, some of those can be really fun.

      1. Not like a regular teacher*

        A lot of museums have free days once a month – you could check when those are and plan your days off accordingly!

      2. Worldwalker*

        A couple of years ago I went to the Chattanooga tow truck museum. I was surprised how cool it was, and how much there was to learn about a subject that had just been a part of the background all my life. It was really fun!

        There are all sorts of little specialty museums like that, tucked in everywhere. Businesses have them for their particular specialties. Town historical societies have them, both for the history of the town and sometimes its major industries. Hobby clubs have them. University departments have them, often free to the public. And they can be hugely fun.

      3. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        I was going to mention this — my librarian partner says that it’s a gamble whether the *specific* museum you were aiming for will be available, but if it’s just something interesting in town, there’s likely to be something that looks good.

    2. J!*

      Yeah, this was what I was thinking. Take your dog to the park, go to the library, wander around Target, whatever. You don’t have to be at home trying not to make noise to just take one day off and take it easy.

    1. Semi-Accomplished Baker*

      Neurospicy! I’ve got some friends who have learning differences, and they’ll love that term.

    2. Smeraldo*

      As an autistic person, I really dislike this cutesy term. Of course it’s fine if people want to use it to describe themselves, but please don’t refer to neurodivergent people as “neurospicy” without their blessing.

      1. Kat*

        For similar reasons, I especially don’t like it when it’s paired with a description of bad or counterproductive behaviour.

      2. Missa Brevis*

        Yeah. Neurospicy feels good to me, because a lot of the other terminology feels clinical, impersonal, and has some baggage for me – the same reason I tend to refer to my depression symptoms as ‘the brain weasels’ instead of ‘insomnia, anhedonia, and feelings of worthlessness’ (depression separate from my neurodivergence. apparently inherited one from each side of my family tree, lucky me).

        But at the same time I one hundred percent get why it feels too cutesy and infantilizing to a significant chunk of people. Very much a case where you need to know your audience.

        1. Aging Goth*

          I’ve called my anxiety and depression “Brain Bats” for many years and it’s become shorthand between me and my spouse for when I need to take a break or might need some extra accommodations. I can say “Bats” with a general hand-wave and they get that it’s time to give me space. BUT I would never randomly say about another person “ah I see Lucretia has a case of the Brain Bats”.

          1. ScruffyInternHerder*


            My ADHD kid and I (also ADHD) use “My Brain Squirrels are loose” on days when either of us/both of us need some extra support/space, with our people. I’d never say it to one of my kid’s teachers, much less the general public. (With teachers he simply says “I need a little extra support from my IEP today, heads up. Hopefully tomorrow will be easier on us all.”)

      3. Bleep*

        As an autistic person. I hate it too. I am autistic. I am neurodivergent. I am not spicy. Obviously people want to use it about themselves, fine. But please don’t use it about other people unless you know they prefer it.

      4. Nah*

        Cosigning this sentiment. I won’t begrudge others using it for themselves, but to me personally it feels simultaneously infantilizing and kind of dismissive? Especially when I’m really going through a rough patch because there’s a reason they call these things I suffer from disabilities, I’m a human being in need of support not a stray cat up for adoption.

        (To clarify I’m not judging anyone in this thread or the LW, just seconding the thing about asking if someone’s okay with the term before using it as a descriptor. Kind of similar to using “enby” for a nonbinary individual if it helps to think of it in that way – in that situation I’m totally fine with the word and use it for myself, but simultaneously know many others that can’t stand the term.)

        1. GroovyChick*

          Yep, as an AuDHD person, I feel much the same way. Others’ MMV but I dislike it for myself.

      5. Green Post-Its*

        Yeah, I find it annoyingly twee. Like a lot of things it was fine as an occasional joke but it’s been overused and I find it grates.

      6. curly sue*

        It’s actually used in the assessment we did with youngest kid. He’s got symptoms of ADHD and Autism (which he gets from both sides of the family, but his dad and I have ADHD). The assessor basically shrugged, said that he doesn’t show enough of any one thing to tick enough boxes for a formal diagnosis, called him ‘neurospicy, of an indeterminate type,’ and suggested a bunch of resources. Kiddo gets a huge kick out of that term, for the record.

        (He was also deeply amused by the statement the assessor made that Godzilla films weren’t enough of a hyperfixation to count towards an autism diagnosis, because “it wasn’t a weird interest, like collecting train hitches.” I have some major bones to pick with the way these things are evaluated, honestly, but that’s a totally separate conversation.)

      7. ferrina*

        I’m ADHD and I call myself neurospicy. I like it, because I like thinking of different “flavors” of thought. I don’t like the dichotomy of neurotypical/neurodiverse, because those are both a very wide umbrella. I’m not scary, but I’m not mild- I’ve just got some unique pep to me! It won’t be for everybody, but some people find my ADHD quirks very enjoyable.

        That said, I do tend to use “neurodiverse” when referring to the population in general or to people I don’t know, because if I don’t know someone’s preferred/correct term, I will default to the most neutral thing I can.

      8. LW3*

        Thanks for pointing this out, and I apologize for any offense I’ve caused.

        This is definitely Friend’s terminology I’m using here.

      9. SnackAttack*

        Same here! It feels…trivializing, I guess? Like a cutesy term that downplays all of the very real struggles I need to deal with as someone on the spectrum with ADHD.

    3. Ingrid*

      I am confused if the word became before or after using “spicy” for sex scenes in books. That’s where I first heard it as slang. I assume it is the opposite to “vanilla”. But it just seems odd to apply flavours to minds.

      1. Varthema*

        I actually much more easily see how it applies to my difficult-but-kinda-exciting-in-a-painful-way brain than how it applies to a book that simply has a lot of sex scenes.

        1. Silver Robin*

          sex = hot (arousing)

          hot = warm (temp), arousing (emotion), spicy (flavor), popular, fast

          People swapped in “spicy” because then they do not have to say “sexy” and bring up something potentially taboo, but there is a meaning chain that connects the concepts.

          Also makes sense to me in that “spicy” makes you feel heat without being hot temperature wise, and arousal also makes you feel hot without having to change the air temp around you.

      2. Sloanicota*

        I hear ya. Although I appreciate it’s sometimes useful to have a “big tent” kind of term that’s meant to include everything from mild ADHD to depression to schizophrenia without needing to get into the details, kind of like “queer,” and “neuroatypical” is quite long and clinical.

      3. Nightengale*

        the best I can tell, it came as a push back from descriptions of autism as “mild.” Autistic people starting using other salsa flavors such as “hot’ or “spicy” to point out problems with functioning labels.

        (autistic person who doesn’t use the term either but appreciates why it came about)

        1. Awkwardness*

          Oh, that’s the meaning behind it? How interesting.
          I did not know this word and when reading it, I had different assumptions where the “spicy” came from.

          1. ScruffyInternHerder*

            I certainly feel like I learned a few things from this particular thread…thank you all. No sarcasm, just my honest feeling of thanks :)

      4. Irish Teacher.*

        Pretty sure it came after. At least, I’ve been hearing “spicy” for sex scenes for decades, whereas the whole concept of neurodiversity is fairly new.

    4. Abigail*

      I think it’s fine to use casually.

      I think it’s undercutting an underserved community to use it in the context of requesting legally mandated accommodation. This is a work blog that will overwhelmingly be about legal accommodation and I think the use of terms like this ought to be used cautiously.

  11. duinath*

    1: Read a book in a park. Sit in the sun. Just take a few hours to do nothing, and think about where you are and where you want to be. You sound like you need a change, maybe spend the time you would usually be working for free figuring out if that’s true, and if so, what you want to change and how to get there.

    3: You can’t care more about your friend’s job search than they do. Sometimes you just gotta sympathize and then let it go. Or change the subject. Highly underrated, changing the subject. How ‘bout that sportsball.

    1. BigLawEx*

      I’m a big believer in muting people on social media. Not gonna lie, about 95% of the people I know/can see in person are muted. I love them more if I don’t know what they’re eating/thinking/ranting about on a daily basis. People in my life are well-behaved and observe social norms in person. The same can’t be said for FB/IG/TikTok.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Came here to say this re: OP3. Please, please just mute that friend on social media so you don’t see his rants. I have a “friend” who was more of an acquaintance in college and not someone who I particularly liked, at that, who only ever posts things about “woe is me, my life is so difficult,” and while I feel sorry for her, seeing her posts all the time was really affecting my mental health. I temporarily muted her and only realized when the 30 days was up that I hadn’t even noticed missing her posts, so then I permanently muted her. Don’t miss her one bit. If you feel you want to mention to him one more time the reasons why finding a job is so hard, go ahead and do that, but since you’ve already done so I think you can just mute him now and hope he finds a job eventually.

  12. Yvette*

    If you feel it’s inappropriate for you to be off camera, would you be able to comfortably cover the bruising with a soft eye patch? You could say that you had an injury and that it is sensitive right now.

    1. Missa Brevis*

      My concern is that that would invite even more comment and concern than unconcealed bruising, which is the opposite of what OP wants

    2. Distractinator*

      I say yes to the eyepatch, but don’t even call it out as an injury. “I’ve got a medical thing, I feel like a pirate but optometrist said the patch was a good idea” (ok so maybe don’t lie about the optometrist unless they’re people you won’t see again). And if you have any kind of glasses (even readers) it becomes much less obvious. Even “I can wear sunglasses if it’s distracting” might help

  13. Always Science-ing*

    LW2: Speaking from experience, please be extra cautious about not over exerting yourself during the concussion recovery with too much screen time. I got bad medical advice after a seemingly minor concussion ~15 years ago and am still dealing with post-concussion symptoms as a result. Brain injuries are no joke! Sending best wishes for a speedy and complete recovery.

  14. HBJ*

    #2 are you opposed to wearing makeup? It depends on how bad it is, of course, but especially since you’re not in person, concealer could work well. I’m not even a big makeup person, and I was easily able to cover a black eye with concealer the same tone as my skin. I asked my sister if she’d noticed, and she hadn’t noticed a thing, and this was in person!

    1. Yvette*

      Please, what concealer was it? a black eye has to be way worse than my under eye circles, and I have never been able to convincingly cover them with anything.

      1. Storm in a teacup*

        Have you tried a colour corrector? These are great to add under concealer and the best thing I’ve found at neutralising my under eye circles. Bobby brown, Live Tinted, ELF all do great ones. You need a peach, orange or red toned one depending on your skin colour and the colour of your circles.

        1. Yvette*

          I did but I think maybe I use the wrong color. I was using yellow but I just did a little research and I think I need to use peach. I’m going to take a closer look at elf. Thanks.

          1. Reel*

            Yes, peach or even red tones work well for dark circles -> I recommend experimenting with whatever lipsticks/blushes you already have (careful not to get them too close to the eye of course) to see what shades will work best for your skin and under your concealer.

      2. Peach Parfaits Pls*

        Same, every under eye concealer I’ve tried for my dark circles just makes it look like a several-days-old black eye instead of sleep bags!

  15. Not a lawyer butt*

    LW1, contrary to what the internet (and society in general tbh) likes to make us believe it’s NOT a moral failure NOR a waste of time to not be enriching your life experiences or producing something of monetary value every single free moment of your life. That way burnout lies.

    I do agree that you should work with your manager to find solutions, but frankly if people aren’t reading your OoO and then mad their question wasn’t answered that sounds like a them problem. I have a higher-up whose OoO flat-out states they delete all e-mails that came in during their vacation and they do call people out for not reading it (it helps that we’re IT so we can confirm beforehand that the OoO did reach that person)

    1. Anonymask*

      That is amazing and I wish we would implement that here! I always make sure to have alternate contacts in my OoO if the request is urgent, but people rarely seem to read them (eyeroll) If I could trust my manager would be reasonable and not freak out, I would be all for deleting the emails. (Manager is one of the people who doesn’t read emails)

  16. Decidedly Me*

    OP1 – I felt this way during the first year of COVID, but for different reasons. I think I took all of 5 days that year (which included, and pretty much solely consisted of, holidays). I’m a vacation type of person (my first of 2020 was supposed to be in April…) and if there was no going anywhere, what was the point? Staying at home wasn’t restful or rejuvenating for me – it would just feel like a long weekend, not a true break. So, I just worked. With all the other stress that 2020 brought, this was not good choice and I really regretted letting that time available to me just be wasted. While I still strongly prefer true vacations with my time off, I will never do that to myself again.

    Take the days and find something to do with them that you want, even if it can’t be everything you’d want it to be. I had Juneteenth off last week and a random Wednesday off feels weird to me. However, I used the day, didn’t look at work once, and it was awesome! I went to brunch with my partner, hung out at a park reading in the sunshine, visited a used bookstore to get a new book, and ran a few errands. Was it a vacation? No. Was it a good day? Absolutely!

    1. Ellis Bell*

      See, I love days off at home but you’ve got me thinking about what makes a holiday a holiday, and for me it’s exploring a new place, going out for something to eat, especially breakfast, and not having to do lifestuff like cleaning. I have definitely done the big clean and big shop preparation for a week off at home (Is it really any more work than packing and booking travel and actually travelling?) so I can do the minimum for a bit. There’s also a lot in my part of the world to explore on day trips, or overnight camping, even though I’m a very average British in that I’m only willing to do a limited amount of driving. But it’s also worthwhile to lean in to being at home, turn cooking into a pleasure and caring for your home into a more slow paced experience.

      1. Storm in a teacup*

        I think for us Brits it’s a lot easier to take holidays (vacations) somewhere completely different due to all of the cheap short haul flights to Europe. Plus we get more days.
        I have the same mentality as you though.
        Even when I worked in the NHS and had 33 days + bank holidays, taking a day off to just mooch around at home felt wasteful somehow when I could instead use it to extend a trip abroad.
        Covid taught me the value of taking a day to just potter in the garden or go sit in my local park with a book.

        1. amoeba*

          Bit OT, but even without flying! I mean, bit harder for you than for us on the continent, but I’ve done the other way plenty of times – the Eurostar brings you from Paris to London or vice versa in all of 2 h and from there, Europe is open!
          I live quite centrally in Europe and it’s amazing – in 8 h on a train, I can basically be in the UK or the south of France, and 3-4 h already take me to France, Italy, Germany, Austria…..

      2. londonedit*

        I make sure I take a couple of days off a year specifically to do something touristy in London. I love where I live, but when you’re only really travelling into town for work or for the odd night out it makes you feel like you’re not appreciating it enough! I make sure it’s not during school holidays, and then I have a day out doing something like visiting the Sky Garden or going on a boat trip or doing the cable cars over the Thames or going on a big long walk taking in various bits of the city. I have a nice lunch as part of it, it’s always great fun, and it always leaves me with a renewed appreciation of what an amazing city I live in and how lucky I am to be here.

        1. TeaCoziesRUs*

          My favorite restaurant in London was SushiSamba! I’m not sure it survived the panda, but if it did then it might be one to add to your list?

    2. bamcheeks*

      I didn’t want to take annual leave during lockdown because my life was split between “be unable to leave the living room being climbed in by two small children” and “be upstairs in the study thinking grown-up thoughts and talking to grown-ups”! Switching between the two kept me sane, and the thought of someone saying I had to forgo the talking to adults part and have no break at all from smal children made me want to cry. It’s the only time I wasn’t raring to take leave!

    3. londonedit*

      Yeah, I did end up taking holiday in 2020 (and my employer said we could roll over 10 days into 2021, which I also did – usually we can only roll over 5 days and they have to be used in the first three months of the year) but I really didn’t want to! To start with it was ‘I don’t want to waste holiday in lockdown when I can’t go anywhere, I’ll wait until everything goes back to normal’ – LOL – and then it was ‘what’s the point, I can’t really do anything, I’ve had enough of just hanging around the house/my local area’. It’s the only time I haven’t really wanted to take any leave, and it was really weird. In the end I took a week off when we were allowed to travel again so I could spend time with my family (don’t worry, I isolated myself for 10 days beforehand) and I took a few long weekends here and there. I have to say it’s definitely made me appreciate my leave more now I’m able to do whatever I want with it again!

      1. Cordelia*

        I did take time off in lockdown, but only because we were very strongly encouraged to once it became clear this was going to last for a lot longer than we hoped. I’m in healthcare and was working throughout, and really didn’t see the point of wasting my annual leave sitting at home – I love to travel and usually max it out every year. But, I’m so glad I did. I took a week off and slept, did home yoga, read, watched tv, tried some new recipes, took walks as often as allowed, cleared out some cupboards, had online lunches with family and friends….I hadn’t realised how close I was to burning out before this. OP, it’s not possible to keep going the way you are. Perhaps try taking some PTO and doing nothing, and see how you feel about it – at the moment you’re assuming it’ll be a waste of time, same as I did, but you don’t know that. Your manager is encouraging you to do so, so ask for their help in sorting out the workload and cover issues.

        1. Jackalope*

          Reaffirming this. I took a week of staycation during COVID instead of visiting family for Christmas and it was so helpful. I had a to-do list for myself, most of which I completed. Some of the items were things like “deep-clean the bathroom” and some were more along the lines of “try the new games you got for Christmas”. I got a bit of both done, and it was so nice to have the time to do whatever I wanted or needed to. I know that the OP is concerned about disturbing her partner, but she can always schedule fun or out of the house with the dog activities for her partner’s sleeping times and then do the housework activities at the time of day that they’d normally happen, only without having gone to work that day.

          1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

            My partner is always bumping up against the edge of their vacation accumulation/rollover, partly because their last relationship was with a subtly but wildly abusive woman and work was a comparative oasis of calm and kindness. (Until recently it was the kind of workplace that just let bullying and spurious complaints run rampant depending who was doing it, so these things are definitely relative.)

            I poke them to take days off here and there and they do stuff like:
            * cat maintenance
            * a videogame they’ve been excited about
            * that book they were meaning to read
            * laundry
            * Pokemon Go at the park
            * clearing out browser tabs and sharing the interesting ones on social media
            * extra sleep

            as well as more traditional vacation topics like birthdays and family time and so forth.

    4. kiki*

      During early covid, I think a lot of folks at my company felt the same way (that PTO is best used for full-on vacations and trips) but my company ending up requiring that people take at least 5 consecutive days off before the end of the Q3 (we had unlimited PTO, so there wasn’t an issue with folks losing days they were saving for something else).

      Too many people were getting burnt out and cranky. The pandemic stress was getting muddled with work anxiety, which led to less productive workers and, honestly, a less-than-pleasant work environment for everyone. It was really amazing to see that folks were genuinely in much better spirits upon their return.

  17. Peach Parfaits Pls*

    “I don’t think it’s an inherent problem with my life/job”
    OP1 if you genuinely don’t value taking PTO in the way you say, it absolutely is. Whether you’re wanting to be at work so much in order to not have to figure out your life’s core, or you’re so overburdened at home that true recuperation isn’t something you even feel like you can try for, what you’ve written here are huge red flags that things are not all right.

    I’d urge you to take some quiet time (maybe a PTO day or two!) to mull over who you are and what you love outside of your job and your relationship. The world is bursting with things to get passionate about. Don’t live with an anemic scope of interest.

    And a meditative day taking a walk and reading a book can be worth ten “go-somewhere” vacations.

    1. Em*

      I would encourage OP1 to listen to the Hidden Brain episode “Why You Feel Empty” about languishing:
      Feeling indifferent, unmotivated, empty, no highs/no lows.. it’s not just how life is. It’s a sign that you’re not doing so well. And the modern world with all of it’s challenges doesn’t make being ok easy at all, but it’s worth trying to find improvements where you can.
      To paraphrase Viktor Frankl, you’re not asking life what it’s meaning is. Life is asking you what the meaning of *your life* is, and it’s up to you to provide the answer. You have agency to make changes and find your meaning. It doesn’t have to be complicated or deep or beautiful, it just needs to resonate with you. Wish you all the best, OP1.

    2. Still*

      This. If you’re at a place in your life where you can’t fathom taking a day off and relaxing and “it just doesn’t actually make sense for you to take time off”, that absolutely is a problem with your life and job.

      No matter how many responsibilities you have in your personal life, surely those can’t get any worse with you having more time to yourself during the day? How is spending an additional unpaid 8 hours at work making your private life any easier? You have to take care of those things in your private life whether or not you take time off; how can having more time to do them be a bad thing…?

      Most people have things they enjoy doing in their time off. Reading, going for a walk, meeting up with a friend, sitting out in the sun, window-shopping, exercising, checking out a free museum, doing small projects, playing computer games, cooking a nice meal, getting to sleep in, painting by numbers. What do you do on weekends when you have a couple of extra hours to spare?

      Maybe just bite the bullet, take a week off and see what happens.

      And if you strongly feel that there are factors that will not allow you to relax on a day off, that’s not a reason to never take time off. That’s a reason to make changes so that you get to relax. Maybe that means talking to your partner and them committing to taking things off your plate for a few days. Maybe it’s you going out to eat by yourself or with a good friend, and your partner fending for themselves. Talk through what you would need to happen in order to relax, and make it happen together. If I were your partner, I’d want to do whatever it takes to make sure you can enjoy your PTO. Btw, what does it look like when they take time off? Do they?

    3. Helewise*

      In grad school I remember being asked what my hobbies were by some English language-learners and I was completely stumped. I hadn’t realized until that moment that I had a life balance issue, but I really, really did and it wasn’t until I was out of the situation that I was able to see it.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Try to be kind to yourself; it’s really hard to have hobbies when you’re in grad school. I had no hobbies in grad school, partly because I went to grad school for my “hobby” (music). It wasn’t until I started to have a career in music that I realized I could actually have other hobbies completely unrelated to music, and that’s when I started biking a lot and then eventually hiking whenever possible. I moved out of music teaching and into an office job 15 years ago (but still get professional music gigs on a lot of weekends) and it’s only in the last several years that I realized that I can do music for fun and not just when someone pays me to do it. Life balance is especially hard when you’re a grad student because you feel like you have to prove yourself all the time and therefore must be “on” all the time, same with when you are early in your career. When you get to be my age (lol) (mid-40s), you will hopefully realize that you can relax a bit and not be “on” all the time like you were in your 20s.

        1. Peach Parfaits Pls*

          One valuable skill I’ve found is not being dismissive of “hobbies that aren’t hobbies” in life, like almost microhobbies. People think of like, sports or ceramics or blogging or birding or collecting. And those are awesome! BUT… you can develop little quirky activities that you love but that aren’t full “real” hobbies, and those can be awesome too.

          I’m thinking little things like making a meal each month out of just the most seasonal fruits/veg, or reviewing all your nail polishes, or paying attention to one specific tree in your neighborhood and seeing its growth/animals. Or trying to read a book from as many countries as possible.

          Little things that aren’t established Hobby Classic but that are still worth enjoying when they bubble up in your interest. Stuff like this makes the world so much richer than you’d think it has the power to do.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Oooh, yes! Excellent point! As a hiker and a Wingspan player, I’ve gotten into birds lately, in the sense that I enjoy seeing birds and trying to figure out what they are (with the help of Merlin, of course). I might occasionally even go on a bird-oriented hike or something like that. But I’m not going to suddenly become an avid birder who plans entire vacations around seeing that one bird species on their life list, nor do I plan to study bird guides and learn the exact difference between a sharp-shinned and a Cooper’s hawk. And I’m reminded of a dear friend who said that her 8 y.o. son was a lot like me in that he gets really into the weeds about some topic or other that he’s suuuuuper excited about; she found that very interesting about him, because she is not at all that way and just likes to dabble in lots of things. I guess being an “avid” hobbyist is seen by a lot of people as more “valid,” somehow? I disagree with that assumption, but a lot of people seem to have it.

            And, you know, going to the beach isn’t something that’s considered a “real” hobby but it’s a really nice thing to just, you know, do.

    4. Observer*

      Whether you’re wanting to be at work so much in order to not have to figure out your life’s core, or you’re so overburdened at home that true recuperation isn’t something you even feel like you can try for, what you’ve written here are huge red flags that things are not all right.

      This is exactly what I was thinking when I read this.

      LW, PLEASE take this seriously and start working on making things better. You’ve gotten some good suggestions for starting places. Keep in mind that you can get a lot of mileage from even small things. And that can also free up some headspace and energy for looking at bigger changes.

  18. JustTheWayItIs*

    I’ve never had a job that had coverage for time off. A few jobs ago I had a medical emergency, went on short term disability for ~2 months, and came back to having to catch up on two months of missed work.

    Back when I was still able to travel I took real vacations and just dealt with it. These days I can’t travel and mostly take 3-4 day weekends. I admit it’s often hard to see the point as what typically happens is I come back and put in 12 hour days the following Monday and Tuesday to get stuff done that otherwise would have been done while I was off. My company switched to unlimited time off and that’s made it even harder because I don’t have the X number of days is part of my compensation impetus to take time off. There’s no residual relaxation benefit because of the added stress of catching up.

    So I feel you OP. There’s nothing wrong with using your time off as a bunch of 3-4 day weekends, especially if you’re not traveling or doing something special. It may not help much, but give it a try.

    Another thing I used to do when I worked hybrid and had more mobility was take a random Wednesday off and go out for a leisurely lunch. It didn’t have to be someplace fancy, but a sitdown meal that wouldn’t be rushed and maybe had more than one course, perhaps a meal that came with a soup or a salad.

    I found that it was often a nice, relaxing experience and doing it in the middle of the week made it all about the meal as an event and made it feel like a real break from routine in a way that just extending a weekend doesn’t.

    Good luck!

    1. D*

      My company actually changed out PTO to remove a week of our vacation (4 weeks to 3) and replaced it with a week of company shutdown so people would have to take it off and not come back to a pile of work because we were all off.

      As someone who takes all my time off, it was annoying to have to reschedule around the company shutdown which was not when I had plans or events, but I see the point.

      1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        Yuck. My company just added a company shutdown to the holidays we all get off – they’re now closed between Christmas and New Year’s. I hope they keep doing it! But if they took that time out of our PTO it would really suck for people who don’t celebrate Christmas.

    2. Analyst J*

      Same here. I’ve found taking a day every few weeks is better than taking several off days at a time. Burn out is very real and while it’s disheartening that the only real vacation time I’ve had since joining the corporate world is the week before starting a new job (I’m genuinely curious who these unicorn companies are that have coverage for people to be offline for a week at a time), the more frequent breaks help me stay sane.

      1. Shinespark*

        Companies with coverage are out there, if rarer. I work at a multinational finance company (household name sized), and my department has a buddy system for cover. Our team is split into groups of four and it’s the other people in your group’s responsibility to pick up any client emails that come in for you while you’re out.

        It does mean you have more work some weeks when your buddies are on vacation, but you can go offline completely because you know there’s someone to take care of any emergencies. It’s a really good system!

      2. londonedit*

        I mean, people being off for a week or even two weeks at a time is totally normal here in the UK, and by and large people deal with it and it isn’t a problem! No need for a ‘unicorn’ company, just one with reasonable expectations, which most are.

        No, you don’t have a temp brought in to do your work if you’re on holiday for a week or two, but your colleagues will pick up a few tasks here and there, your out of office message lets everyone know you’re off, you’ll have told any key people that you’ll be off between X and Y date, and people accept that people go on holiday! Yes there’s a bit more work before and after in terms of getting things off your desk before you go, and then catching up when you’re back, but ‘Sorry, just got back from two weeks off and I’m still catching up’ is a perfectly valid excuse that only unreasonable people wouldn’t understand. If your workload is such that you genuinely can’t go on holiday without everything falling apart, and if there is no one at all who could step in and move a few things on while you’re away, then that’s absolutely a workplace/boss problem. It’s not your problem. People should be able to take the holiday they’re owed.

        1. amoeba*

          Yup. It’s literally the law here that people have to take at least one two-week stretch every year so we can truly disconnect. Companies are doing fine with that!
          And I think even in the US being able to take one whole week is not something unusual? At least in a reasonable company, from what I get here on this blog…

      3. Two Dog Night*

        TBH I have no coverage at all–small company, no one else does what I do–and I still manage to take full weeks off. Mostly I’ve been doing this long enough that I know which months my workload is likely to ease up, and I schedule vacation for those times. Taking chunks of time off is possible at most companies in the US–they’re not unicorns.

      4. Salsa Your Face*

        I had a job that was the opposite. We each had huge portfolios of fast-moving projects, and if we were going to take even a half day off we had to go through each one, find someone to cover it, and send them all the details they would need to know. It took hours, and it wasn’t worth going through all that for a single day off. It was either take a week off or do nothing.

      5. JustaTech*

        My husband tried taking one day here an there (during the ski season) and he found that when he did that he just had to jam 5 days of work into 4 days, but when he took a whole week off then the people around him were like “Oh, Mr JustaTech is out this week, we’ll just skip this week’s meeting” instead of “well, can you meet Thursday instead?”

        His company is big enough that there is *someone* else for really urgent stuff, and also there’s always *someone* who is out on extended leave, so they’re just used to working around people being out, and no one person is a single point of failure.

        So a lot of whether one day off here and there works better or worse than a week at a time will depend on the nature of your work and the culture of your organization.

    3. Insert Clever Name Here*

      I like your suggestion of taking a random Wednesday off as a way for OP to ease in to taking PTO. I wonder if they’d also consider taking just afternoons off in order to spend some time with their partner before the partner goes to work; my SIL works the night shift and sometimes we’ll get together for an early dinner before she has to start her shift at 7pm.

      1. Stella*

        It never occurred to me to just take off a Wednesday or other day during the week. What a fantastic idea! I’m going to start doing this immediately. Well, right after our summer shut-down week, which started today with a half-day off. I’m working on a big, complicated, annoying project, and I had been thinking about working on it during the shut-down just to get ahead, but I really think I need the break, so I’ve changed my mind. Plus, after reading these comments, I realize I should take the time off. So thank you, commenters!

    4. Antilles*

      So I feel you OP. There’s nothing wrong with using your time off as a bunch of 3-4 day weekends, especially if you’re not traveling or doing something special.
      100% this. Last year I used most of my PTO in single-day increments over the summer, going to the pool every single Friday.
      And honestly? Those days were some of the most low-stress “vacations” I’ve ever taken. I very much enjoy traveling, but there’s still plenty of effort involved with planning, buying tickets, packing, coordinating with other travelers (spouse/friends/whoever), the airport, etc. But a mini-staycation? Five minutes to mix a cocktail, five more minutes to change, and all done let’s hit the pool.

      1. Helewise*

        I’ve been doing that more this summer and it’s been wonderful. Taking my kids to the beach and puttering in the garden on Friday? Yes, please, more of this.

      2. Princess Pumpkin Spice*

        Cosigning this. Taking off a Friday or Monday and having a low-stress mini stay-cation does wonders for my mental health. A fun fact I learned is that my nail salon has “happy hour” specials, from 10am – 2pm Monday through Thursday, so I make the effort to take an hour here or there and go. It shows up as “appointment” in my calendar, and most people I work with don’t immediately spot a fresh manicure. Take the time, OP!

    5. Lynn*

      Years ago I was trying to recover from a series of bad personal life stuff (one of which was a sudden health crisis that really impacted my executive function and my energy levels) and I found it hard to take even week long vacations because I literally couldn’t handle planning for being out of office that long (plus there was no way to predict if I would even be up for anything other than lying on the couch).

      I found that adding one or two days on to any office holidays helped a lot – so I took a four day weekend for every three day weekend, around Thanksgiving I took one extra day on each side of the two days we got off (so Wednesday through Monday). It made the breaks a little more of a real break, and I didn’t have to think too hard to “plan” them. I did that for almost a year before my health recovered enough to be able to take longer vacations again.

  19. glt on wry*

    OP#2 – I had the same dance with a sidewalk a few years ago and only had my own misstep to blame, not even feisty dogs. Ended up looking like a Star Trek species (hello, Worf) for quite a while, but was fortunately off-camera for work. I avoided all other social interactions, too, but eventually, I had to go out.

    When a very nice, (very) young lad at a store tried to ask me gently about the bruising, I was very kind but firm that “I’m really okay. I fell, and I’m embarrassed about being clumsy.” He tried to ask me twice about domestic abuse. I knew that there was no way I could totally convince him that my clumsiness was true, but the more I said, the more I was digging a hole of explanation.

    If people do happen to see you, they are going to be concerned. And I think that’s okay! Then they have to let it go and believe you when you give your solid answer. (And then they’ll be looking out for you after, but that’s on them. But also, kind of good that they have your back, I guess?)

    I agree with Alison: Stay off camera. If you can’t, be upfront (My dogs are crazypants!), and be prepared that some people will be skeptical.

    1. amoeba*

      I’d probably just go with “I do martial arts”. I mean, I do! But it would probably be a good excuse even for unrelated sidewalk accidents….

  20. Matt*

    #4: where I work, this is a point where culture opposes written policies.

    A few years ago they published “cultural” guidelines like choosing your participants, sending an agenda, doing breaks, ending 10 minutes early to avoid back-to-back meetings … and staying off the phone in meetings.

    Reality is that everyone is on their phone (I’m talking about personal meetings, I don’t know what they do in online calls since luckily we’re very camera-off) the whole time and every five minutes or so someone is running out of the room taking a phone call. And that’s not a quirk of some people, but more and more the expected culture – there is at least some explanation pressure for being unavailable for one hour or more.

    Personally I miss the old times when there were no office mobile phones, just the desk landline, and if you were in a meeting some coworker would just tell the caller “XYZ is in a meeting”.

    1. LTR, STLW*

      Oddly enough, we ended up following an old times like process when we went on site to visit a hospital! It was a little easier, though, because backups would be formally engaged to take over for the week rather than running into the pickle where the backup is looking at your calendar and deciding how much support to provide while your on the last 23 minutes of the call.

  21. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

    OP1, you say “Why should I bother taking it [PTO] in the first place if I’m not actually going to end up relaxed and recharged?” – it’s a very good question. How much leave would you actually need, to feel relaxed and recharged? Three months? What would have to be different, for you to feel relaxed and recharged? New job? New partner? New life? Someone else to help look after the dog?
    You say you are burnt out, and I believe you 100%. It’s the burnt out part that is telling you that one day off won’t help – and it is correct, it will just make your workload worse. That’s because no one else will be taking over your work. Taking PTO is a good preventative of overload, but it sounds like you need a lot more than that now. Being burnt out is an awful place to be, and grinds down any joy in life.
    Take it seriously, see a doctor for some blood tests to make sure your iron and thyroid etc are ok, access any workplace counsellors that are available, and talk to your boss about how the workload can become a normal one.
    Your job is eating your life. But part of you is fighting back! Part of you chose to write to Alison and say Help! Listen to that part, and have courage that things can change. Very best wishes to you for better things ahead.

    1. Allonge*

      This. Of course two days off will not solve this, but keeping on working AND taking care of your family will 100% keep making it worse.

      The point of taking leave is not the issue here – OP, you can make changes that will help.

    2. Snarky McSnarkson*

      Lizzie, you are a very warm and kind person. I hope OP1 is receptive. It also sounds as though you have experience in burn out.

  22. RCB*

    “I tripped on the sidewalk while walking the dog”, it’s really that simple and people won’t think twice about it.

    1. o_gal*

      You can also turn it into a joke: Aliens abducted me, but their tractor beam didn’t work properly and I banged into the side of the entrance porthole.

      I had light plastic surgery to remove some bumps on my nose, so there were stitches and some bruising. I went with “I lost a fight to a guy with a knife.” And then explained it was a plastic surgeon.

      1. Peach Parfaits Pls*

        Turning it into a joke may signal that the real reason is fraught, though. And the real reason is normal and understandable.

  23. CityMouse*

    It sounds like LW5’s office really needs a designated emergency number given to hospitals that can be covered by a designated person or persons, instead of sending people to backups? We can log into a specific shared number through our computers at work. they definitely make phone systems that allow this.

    1. Annie*

      My read on that letter was that LW was the first-line contact, but something frequently fell apart when it came to the second-line contacts, such as existing workload, wanting to speak to LW personally, etc.

      The fix for that would be to let the backups fail hard enough to get the boss’s attention.

      1. CityMouse*

        True but it sounds like LW is frequently unavailable and this is an urgent issue. Having a designated number and having an a schedule of coverage would help.

        1. LTR, STLW*

          We did have a weekly designated point person for hospitals to call, but only after working hours. Annie is spot on with how things would go during the daytime. I should also mention that not all backups let things slide! Some were great but not everyone was always on point consistently enough to have made that a non concern. The issue with letting the backups struggle enough to get the boss’ attention was that none of my backups were under my boss and the different managers in the division had different levels of concerns with how active someone was as a backup when the primary was in office but just unavailable for an hour or so.

          1. Cmdrshprd*

            Maybe this is semantics and you know your job better, but if it only take you 5 mins to handle the call and schedule a follow up call for a later more convenient time it does not really seem like an emergency.

            To me an emergency call is drop everything right away and handle this now.

            it might be that there is a mismatch/misunderstanding between you and your boss on the urgency/priority of these calls?
            You seem them as emergency calls, your boss sees them as important/urgent calls but not emergency.

            it might be an emergency call on the hospitals part but it does not necessarily mean it has to be treated as an emergency call on your part.

            1. LTR, STLW*

              Very good point! I was leaving out some details on company directives and semantics because my letter was on the long side. These kinds of calls were generally what my old company would have thought of (and might still) think of as second order emergencies. Less, ‘drop everything and get to this now’ and more ‘get to this ASAP even if you have to cancel all the rest of your meetings for the day’. Even my boss would delay meetings/show up late to back to back meetings to deal with an emergency message/request that came in.

              Often our clients considered these level 1 emergencies, so a lot of the 5 minutes was reassurance that we would be able to handle it soon.

              1. Jaydee*

                No advice, just sympathy. As someone who works in a field that involves a fair amount of contact with hospitals, there is nothing worse (or more annoying) than something a hospital thinks is an emergency. Like, you guys deal with literal life or death issues on the daily. The fact you submitted an application last week to our program and haven’t heard back from us yet is…not an emergency.

            2. LTR, STLW*

              Good point! There were definitely some details I had to leave out of the original letter due to length. These calls were often what my old company would have thought of as second order emergencies. Less ‘drop everything and get to this now’, more ‘get to this ASAP even if you had to delay or cancel all meetings for the rest of the day.’ My boss modeled the distinction well. He delayed several of our own meetings to deal with urgent calls or messages. Often too clients would be in a panic/treat these as level 1 emergencies, so a lot of the triage was also just spent reassuring them that we’d figure this out.

              1. LTR, STLW*

                Sorry for the double reply. For whatever reason, my initial one didn’t go through so I wrote the second, and now both are in

  24. Nah*

    Kind of concerned LW1 doesn’t have confidence that their partner could even get their own groceries without LW there to do it for them, I think that’s definitely something they might want to have a plain conversation between themselves about. (Just something that stood out to me!)

    1. doreen*

      May not be anything to be concerned about – the vibe I get from the letter is that the OP doesn’t think anyone can do certain things as well as they can and that can be for reasons a conversation won’t fix. I haven’t gone grocery shopping alone in about 30 years. It’s not that I can’t shop for myself- it’s that I won’t do some of the things my husband does, like go to three supermarkets every week because the butter is cheaper here and the flour is on sale there.

      1. Nah*

        To clarify, I don’t necessarily mean it in the “OP is in one-sided relationship doing everything for a lazy partner”, but could mean anything from nothing/what you describe as a habit (though poorly worded in the letter if so), or them feeling like they *have* to take on every single possible responsibility even though their partner is a fully functional adult, possibly being driven by (or the other way around! who knows?) this situation where they feel they’re the only person they can ever rely on at work or at home.

        It could also be that this division of labor really fit them well at one point, and partner doesn’t realize just how much stress and anxiety LW is going through (it sounds like they don’t see each other much with the shift differences, but again, little info to go off of here) and would be totally down to rework things to give LW a break. Or hey, if partner is a jerk, knowing that (and hopefully dealing with it) might alleviate the stress they feel around the house too.

        It just hinges on opening up to partner and having a frank discussion about what’s going on and if they have ideas to work through this.
        (I also feel LW could really do with a couple sessions with a therapist, but realize not everyone has access to those services, or feels comfortable about it to go if they do)

    2. PayRaven*

      Yeah, this is what stood out to me as well.

      LW1, I’m so glad you decided to write in. Something is off in your life, and you’re feeling that, but it might not be the job that’s the problem.

  25. Craig*


    I had a similar problem with emails unanswered on leave. when I brought it up it lead to a company wide change and helped all my colleagues that were suffering silently too.

  26. andy*

    #1 If I had to guess, the inability to figure out what to do with a free day is a sign of depression and burnout on itself. You need PTO to figure out how to be a person if not at work.

    You can start by just chilling in a bed and taking walk with the dog.

    1. MsSolo (UK)*

      When I catch myself thinking “I can’t take a holiday, it’s too stressful” I know I’m burnt out. And honestly, sometimes the best thing you can do in those circumstances is take two weeks, because everything that goes wrong without you in the first week has to be fixed by someone else in the office, so when you get back you only have issues from the second week to catch up on and everyone realises that actually you’re really important and good at your job and appreciates you a bit more and now they’ve been forced to learn some of your tasks you can take time off in future more easily.

      (or it turns out nothing burns down and actually your job can do without you, which is also an important lesson to learn)

      But also, yes to taking a day or half day each week to recharge, and get on top of the household tasks that are also stressing you out (food shopping is so much easier on a weekday when the stores are half-empty), or a couple of days to complete a satisfying craft project or DIY task or play a videogame with headphones on.

      1. Snow Globe*

        I will agree a longer time off might make the return easier. If I’m out for a couple of days, everything waits until I’m out. If I’m gone for over a week, many of my regular assignments get transferred to someone else, and many problems that arise are solved by the time I return.

      2. Sloanicota*

        Although I have heard other people who are going through tough things at home – divorce, family health dramas, teen growing pains – say that they’d honestly rather just be at work.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          I took last Friday off (instead of Juneteenth, because cells and 5 day assays wait for no man) and Target at 1:30 on a Friday is also glorious.

      3. amoeba*

        Don’t know who said this, but made me think of the quote: “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour.”

        (Just Googled and supposed to be “an old Zen saying”…)

  27. Green great dragon*

    ‘I was assaulted by a sidewalk’ sounds perfect to me, including for when you’re ready to be back on camera but still showing a bruise.

    1. Not like a regular teacher*

      Lw mentioned that they work with people who support domestic violence survivors. In that context, joking about assault is not the way to go.

      1. CityMouse*

        I agree, she should just say she had an accident with her dogs that resulted in a fall. My grandma’s dog once knocked me over when he was really excited it’s something that happens and people understand.

  28. Sparrow*

    LW #2, if you don’t want to get into medical stuff at all, would it be possible to cite internet/computer issues as your excuse? E.g. “My internet is acting weird today, so I’m leaving my camera off to avoid lag” or “My webcam is malfunctioning”.

    1. Cam*

      or “my camera stopped working and the replacement won’t arrive for a few days. So I will be voice-only”

    2. Haijlee*

      Or can you use the Avatar feature for a few days? A LOT of people do that in my company on the regular. Its kind of nice because you do feel like you are interacting but you aren’t necessarily on camera exactly.

  29. Sassandra*

    LW3 – just to commiserate:
    I have a dear friend who just got their autism diagnosis at the ripe old age of 52.
    Which is cool for them, and will help them be nicer to themselves in the future I think.

    But – they also have a hard time finding a job.
    And that results in long rants on Linkedin and other social media how the work market does not understand autism, how noone is brave enough to hire someone with autism and how they are looking for the perfect job that fits the perfect wish list.

    Thing is, their autism is not something I think anyone would notice during a recruitment process.
    This person does not have a lot of degrees, and their work history is kind of bland (but they have definitely held jobs for long stretches of time, so nothing sketchy there), and I know they are now applying for jobs way above their qualifications.

    I find it so hard to find the right thing to say.
    I just know that having rants about employers being evil is not what you want to have showing up if potential employers google your name….

    1. Hamster Manager*

      I saw someone on LinkedIn yesterday putting Giant Company You Know on blast really similarly to some of the burnt bridges letters that have been posting lately. They of course sent the dreaded reply all email listing all the department’s failures, and were being very active in the comments about holding Giant Company to account, and complaining that the company won’t do anything about those issues now that they don’t work there anymore. Like?

      I was cringing so hard! My dude, you are actively harming your chances for future roles (he was director level at Giant Company You Know).

  30. Ingrid*

    Maybe we should have a thread sometime with tips for making life easier for people living together and working day and night shifts?

    1. Annie*

      There will likely be a lot of overlap with the reader suggestions from this letter: https://www.askamanager.org/2021/11/my-partner-and-i-both-work-from-home-and-were-moving-in-together.html

      My own suggestions:
      -Look into tools for blocking out light and sound while asleep. Extra pillows, extra blankets, earplugs, sleep mask, white noise, sound dampening panels, blackout curtains, winter cap that can be pulled over eyes and ears, it all counts!
      -Go over household responsibilities and have a conversation about which ones are best covered by which person.

    2. DannyG*

      I‘ve been on both sides of this: late wife worked ICU overnights for years while I was on days. During the height of COVID I was working 12 hour overnights, 10 days per fortnight in an inner city hospital while my wife (new) is retired and keeps a daytime schedule. Mostly comes down to respecting the sleeping partner’s needs. I am a heavy sleeper, so as long as I have a dark room, moving air, and some white noise I’m good. With 12 hour shifts it can be hard to work in other activities. When my wife was back home I would shop once weekly on a day off, made a lot of crockpot meals, froze portions for later use, washed clothes when I got home, dried when I got up.

    3. Sloanicota*

      Ooh, I hope you repost this on the open thread this afternoon. It usually goes up just after 11 and earlier comments get seen more often.

  31. Let's not taco about it*

    OP#2. Not touching on the lack of support from your partner because that’s a whole other can of worms…

    Assuming you get a standard 2 weeks vacation (aka 10 days. which is terrible but that’s a whole other issue). If you take a 3 day weekend every six weeks or so use up a lot of PTO days. Enough that you hopefully won’t feel terribly behind at work

    Also though check your partner (caveat we don’t have kids). If I’m at home to use up some PTO then I’m not at home. I’m “working” aka doing whatever I want even if that’s just lounging all day.

    And the handful of times I’ve actually left town? He figured out how to navigate the grocery store real quick on his own

  32. Dog momma*

    #4. emergencies that affect hospital function could very well affect patient safety. Without more background, it’s hard to say.
    Retired nurse, both clinical, quality/ Utilization Management.

    #1. Difficult bc partner works nights, but they should both share in day to day responsibilities. Assuming there are times you are both off the same weekend. How do you schedule vet or doctor appointments now? Does partner help with cooking, errands, shopping etc on their own downtime? Contribute to monthly bills/ expenses/ entertainment costs..out to lunch , movie or show, something fun for both of you. If not you have a partner problem & being on opposite shifts means you can ignore the situation.
    You’ll eventually burn out, and will need sick time. So yeah, use your PTO . You earned it and its built in to your salary/ benefits.

    1. LTR, STLW*

      Great point on there still being a potential threat to patient safety! My original letter was running on the edge of the long side, so I kept details to light. More specifically my division was less likely to run into patient safety issues. We were more likely to deal with something along the lines of copays not displaying when a patient came in. Concerning for the hospital, but not a direct, direct threat to patient safety like the wrong dose of a medication being recommended.

  33. Brain the Brian*

    Separately from all the comments about why it is, indeed, important to take time off — LW1, can you set an OOO message specifying who people should contact in your absence — not just that you’re away? That might help cut down on the amount of work that builds up when you’re logged off.

    1. JustTheWayItIs*

      This assumes they have coverage – that someone else would do something about the mail in the interim. That’s not been the case most places I’ve worked. Anyone else I might list both has their own work to do and likely wouldn’t know how to help them even if they had time.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        Then that would be something for the LW to discuss with their manager. We don’t keep formal “coverage lists” where I work, but I can specify a point of contact or two in my OOO messages, and those people generally know how to direct requests. “Be available all the time” cannot be the solution, and the LW here does say that their manager is supportive of taking time. It would be worth a conversation about how to make that easier on everyone.

  34. Jenny D*

    LW2: I’ve been having similar problems due to falling off my horse. I’ve now got a standard response: “I performed a horse-initiated unscheduled ground and gravity inspection. I found that gravity works and the ground is hard.”

    I’d think a dog-initiated one would work as well.

    1. DannyG*

      Love this phrasing. Late wife & foster daughter were both horse women, with the bruises to show for it.

  35. Ella*

    LW3, is your friend asking you for help with this? I ask because I am a professional career coach and still have to practice the very difficult art of not distributing unsolicited advice, even to my clients.

    I’m not saying this isn’t hurting your friend’s chances. But people have to be in a place where their discomfort with their situation is bigger than the discomfort of getting an outside perspective and changing their behavior before that outside perspective is helpful to hear, and usually the feedback isn’t taken constructively before they teach the point where they ask for it.

    Of course, I also don’t know your friend. There are a few people who take feedback well even when they didn’t ask for it, and your friend may be one of them! Even if that’s the case, Alison’s suggestion to mention it once and then leave it in your friend’s hands is the best course to follow.

    I hope your friend ends up somewhere good.

    1. Hyaline*

      Definitely something to keep in mind! One consideration, too–is this a “giving advice and coaching” issue, or a “there is spinach in your teeth” issue? That is–a “spinach in your teeth” situation is one where the person legitimately does not realize that there may be a problem–they have not noticed or thought through how there could be a downside to what they’re doing. If they really haven’t considered “oh, potential employers could see my rants” (and maybe if their socials are adequately locked down, potential employers can’t!), there’s value in pointing out the “spinach.” Only the OP really knows their relationship and their friend well enough, but if it’s a “there’s spinach in your teeth” issue, I’d be more inclined to say something than just unsolicited advice.

    2. LW3*

      I think Friend has just reached a level of panic where they can’t hear anything but the inside of their own head.

      We’re all helping where we can, but they’ve definitely been rejecting a lot of advice lately, and so I’m trying to just back off and be there if I’m needed.

      Which is really, really hard to do, tbh.

      1. el l*

        I think if you’ve told them literally “Your social media rants are making things worse and a higher likelihood of further rejections,” you’ve done everything possible. Can’t help someone who isn’t motivated to listen or get better.

        A short-term difficulty has metastasized into a major attitude problem and a partially-deserved longer period of unemployment. What a waste of potential.

  36. Epsilon*

    LW2: as other commenters have noted, I am also a horse rider and trainer. Pre-covid, in another life, I was seeing children with behaviour issues and as part of the assessment would ask parents about domestic violence. A horse head butted me right in the middle of my forehead and I ended up with two black eyes – one swollen shut. The bruising travelled down through my eyes and down my cheeks – I looked a mess – but had scheduled appointments. Face to face! Interestingly, no adults asked me what happened! All the kids did – completely honestly and openly. It was very easy to explain and then we moved on.

  37. Justin*

    I get what OP 1 is saying about certain time off – I’m an extremely fast worker and I have managed to get so much done at work that I’ve basically created certain things that no one else can answer questions on. So I do feel weird when I take a long time off (though in my case, I like a vacation; I struggle when it’s not a vacation like this current week when my son’s school is closed and I took the week off to be with him).

    But the solution is to really see what Alison is saying and talk to your boss about people not respecting your time off and lowering your workload.

    I would lose my WHOLE mind taking a month off like Alison (no offense to her! Talking about me), but that just means I plan projects for extended leave. This week was tough but I also wrote an article for a website.

    So there’s the work part, and the “keeping brain occupied” part.

    As for the “neurospicy” friend (my lord, as a fellow ND person, do I dislike this term, because it feels to me like an excuse to act the way this friend is acting; not blaming OP, I hear it a lot), give your friend direct guidance and move on. Will it weaken your bond? Maybe. That will be on them.

  38. Irish Teacher.*

    LW1, PTO isn’t for when you are “burnt out”. Ideally, one should never get to the point of being burnt out. Nor do you need a special reason to take it like a vacation and it definitely isn’t “to make your problems go away.”

    It’s just time off, time to sleep in or binge watch your favourite show or read a few extra books or binge read Ask a Manager or go out for lunch without having to rush back or even just to get a few chores done without rushing.

    You seem to be seeing PTO as like the days you had to miss school as a child because you were sick or had a family wedding or whatever, but it isn’t. PTO is the equivalent of the summer holidays or spring break. It’s just that you choose when to take those. (I’m not saying you are thinking in terms of a child. Just that there are two types of days off – those for special reasons like sick days or maternity leave or bereavement leave and then those that are just because they are days you don’t work. The latter aren’t meant to be for any special reason.)

    I love my job and have never been anywhere near burning out but I still look forward to time off because it means a few weeks when I don’t have to set an alarm or when I can read until midnight or just do some stuff that I kept putting off like go through my wardrobe and throw out some clothes that are getting tattered or stuff like that.

    Work is generally only one thing in our lives, not the only thing or even the most important thing and the reason for time off isn’t so that we can perform better at work or so that our work doesn’t harm us or even to do something really special like go on holiday or to a wedding. It’s just…some of the time we have for everything else. Maybe instead of thinking, “I have…say 20 days off each year,” try thinking of it as “I have to work 240 days each year” (I’m taking out weekends and 20 days; obviously these are just examples. I don’t know how many days off you have each year or even if you work a 5 day week) and reframe your question as “I don’t see why I shouldn’t do extra days’ work each year.” Well…there’s no reason to.

    1. Colette*


      I currently work a schedule where I have every second Friday off, and I manage to fill all of those days. I run errands and do stuff around the house – and then my weekend is time when I don’t have to do those things. On occasion, I play video games, read a book, or hang out with a friend.

      The OP may be able to go for a hike, walk through a shopping mall, visit a historical site, go to the gym, work on a project, take a class, or just take a long nap. There are lots of options that don’t involve working for free.

      1. Sloanicota*

        That is also my approach to Fridays! I use them to run errands when things are less busy and take care of any businesslike life tasks (dealing with bank stuff, paying bills, whatever) as well as doing house chores and taking the dog for a really long mid-afternoon walk. That would sound like a sad way to spend PTO except what it really gives me is a Saturday/Sunday that’s fully focused on just fun.

        1. londonedit*

          I’d love a four-day week (with the same pay, of course, which clearly isn’t going to happen anytime soon!) for exactly this reason. I’d use Friday to do the boring chores like shopping and cleaning, then Saturday could be used for something fun, and you’ve still got Sunday to relax and recharge before the working week starts again. Trying to fit everything into two days is difficult and it means sacrificing some of your precious weekend time for boring things like food shopping – a day dedicated to getting all of that out of the way would be perfect!

        2. AngryOctopus*

          We have half days on Fridays in the summer, and it’s so nice to have lunch out, maybe go to the grocery store, get into the garden if it’s not terribly hot (maybe even if it is, can shower right after!), go to the post office, etc. etc. etc. Just gives you a little break and maybe frees up a weekend day so you can take a day trip w/out having to forego any errands.

          1. Irish Teacher.*

            I had the most awesome timetable this year where I managed to have all my “roster periods” (periods when I am to be available to cover for colleagues out sick/taking students on trips, etc) at the end of the day, which meant that I could go away early on those days if I wasn’t needed for cover. Last class on Wednesday, last class on Thursday and the final two hours on a Monday. And I had a free class before lunch on Mondays, so if I wasn’t needed for cover, I finished at midday on Mondays.

            And yeah, it’s nice to get home that bit earlier so you can actually get something done and not have it piled onto the weekend.

  39. RussianInTexas*

    as a person who is currently serving on jury duty and has to take some extremely limited PTO to be paid, I wish I had more and that I had a boss insisting I take them. I checked my work emails yesterday and there will be a mess when I get back, even though I do get help with the coverage. There is always some kind of a mess when I get back. But I will take every single day owned to me.

  40. Katie*

    OP1 – I get it. I have two disabled kids. They are a loooooot of work. I rarely take trips (unless you count trips to the hospital…). All my PTO days were days my kids were off school too.

    I still take my PTO. I figured it’s just one less (big!) thing I have to do that week/day. Yes, all of the other life stressors are there but at least when I go to the grocery store, I can do it on a Thursday morning when far people are there. I can finally read my book for a few minutes before my kids need me.

  41. Sled dog mama*

    For OP #1, today is my last day of a week long staycation. It has been wonderfully refreshing to only have to look after the dog and myself. I know that it’s because I won’t return to a mess at work.
    If you are returning to a mess every time you are off work for more than a day that’s a work problem. Your boss needs to figure out a way to manage without you. What if you (or any employee) had a medical emergency and had to be out for an extended period, would the work just not get done?

  42. Rebecca1*

    LW1, can you take some half days? In my job that’s something a lot of us do to keep work from piling up while still getting some nice rest time.

    1. Agnes Grey*

      I’m a big proponent of half-days or late starts/early departures! Starting the day just that little bit more rested, or having crossed one thing off the at-home list, makes everything feel more manageable.

    1. Dancing Otter*

      And maybe a new partner.
      Plenty of people work night shift and still take care of life stuff for themselves. Why are you shouldering the whole burden to the point your partner couldn’t cope if you took any time away?

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Yeah, the whole “who will buy groceries or take care of the dog??” really bothered me. You can’t take on the whole burden of running the house when both of you work, LW, no matter who works what shift. That’s not fair to you at all.

  43. Amy*

    Burnt-out LW, I am 100% sure this is affecting your work. I’ve seen in colleagues. A kind of helpless mania about work “there’s nothing I can do / the whole place will fall apart without me.” It’s much less professionally effective than you might think.

    You have to take the time off. On any given day in summer, 20% of the responses I get are OOO from customers and colleagues alike – it’s normal and not at all surprising or upsetting.

    In fact, if someone tells me they can never take time off at my company, it does not inspire my confidence. My instinct is that they struggle with time management and organization. In my spouse’s industry (finance), it can be a sign of embezzlement or financial crimes and for this reason, 2 consecutive weeks of PTO is mandatory.

    We all need space to separate ourselves from work and problems, to gain perspective. Frantically treading water isn’t sustainable.

    You might be interested in the memoir Ambition Monster about the addictive nature of workaholism.

    1. Goldenrod*

      “You might be interested in the memoir Ambition Monster about the addictive nature of workaholism.”

      Has anyone read this? I’m curious if it’s a good book….

  44. Penguin*

    I also have a senior animal with special needs and last year my husband’s work schedule didn’t match up to mine specifically. And when I was first starting in my career and couldn’t afford to travel for my whole annual PTO. When that’s the case I like to take an extra day around whatever holiday weekends comes up. For example in the US, this Fourth of July is a Thursday so you can take the Friday off and make it a four day weekend. Not a lot of work is getting done around these times (because many are on vacation) so it minimizes the stress of coming back to being behind at work.

    If you need to be outside of the home while your partner sleeps from working nights, and are looking for low cost or free things to do on a PTO day, check out your local library for museum passes or free county parks. It can help make your day off feel a little richer!

  45. melissa*

    I would alter the script just a tiny bit to say “My camera will be off for a few days.” If you say “today” and the tomorrow comes and you’re still a black screen, people will think “Oh no this must be terribly serious.” So set expectations ahead of time.

    1. amoeba*

      Yeah, if it’s people you’re likely to meet again in the next days, I’d use that one. (From the fact that it’s external calls I guess maybe there won’t be any repeat participants? In that case, today should be fine…)

  46. I should really pick a name*

    I still have to cope with a special needs dog, I can’t “do anything” because my partner works nights and I either have to pick up the pieces for everything he can’t do or don’t want to disturb him while he’s sleeping

    You still have to do all this when you’re working, so doesn’t taking PTO mean you have more time for these things?

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s an inherent problem with my life/job

    I think it actually is.
    You’ve listed a number of challenges that seem to be specific to your partner and his work schedule.
    You have customers/team members who ignore out of office responses.
    These are not universal situations.

    1. Sneaky Squirrel*

      100% this. LW says they’re already burnt out and they listed a lot of responsibilities that prevent them from being at rest. That’s a lot to cope with. LW should take PTO to help prevent a crash and burn when it all becomes too overwhelming. Having an extra day off once in awhile to do the vet runs/errands can help alleviate the stress of having to shove everything into a 2-day weekend. I, personally, find that grocery stores are much less stressful to deal with during a weekday afternoon than a weekend.

  47. Choggy*

    If LW1 isn’t doing anything to change the situation at work or home when they do take PTO then I have to disagree with them that it’s not an inherent problem with their life/job. I feel there is something deeper going on that I hope they may be able to see from the many comments other posters have left. PTO should absolutely be used to refresh and recharge, that you say it doesn’t make sense for you to take time off, is a red flag to me. Start with work, talk to your boss about what happens when you do take time off, and brainstorm solutions. You can do the same at home with your partner, have you spoken with them about this, aren’t they also concerned you aren’t taking time off from work? Do you not feel comfortable asking for help from either your boss or partner?

    1. Colette*

      I actually think it might help the OP to forget about refreshing and recharging and focus on reducing stress. Yeah, maybe going to the grocery store on a Tuesday morning won’t make you refreshed, but it takes some of the pressure off your evening.

      I also wonder if the OP is putting pressure on herself that’s not necessary – specifically “don’t want to disturb him while he’s sleeping”. Yeah, it’s probably not the right time to break out the power tools or sing at the top of her lungs, but the OP should be able to make normal living amounts of noise (such as doing dishes, cleaning, etc.). That’s part of living in the world, and if her partner can’t handle it, working nights may not be for him.

      1. Choggy*

        Yes, I remember the stress of having a partner who worked nights, and thankfully it did not last long (we talked about how unsustainable it was and thankfully he had a job where he could switch to days). He also used a noise machine, and used ear plugs to lessen any disturbance from sounds, not just those made by me, but life in general. I feel OP’s letter smacks of defeat before even trying to find out if there are alternatives to the work/home situation which is making them declare PTO as being pointless.

        1. Really Anon*

          I’m reading the defeat part as well, yet I also wonder if there’s something else going on that makes it difficult for OP’s partner to balance his needs with hers. If you have the sort of partner who didn’t need to be convinced to use a noise machine or ear plugs, that’s important. From personal experience, living with the sort of partner who doesn’t understand that they have to help themselves live in a shared world might be why OP seems so hopeless.

    2. Goldenrod*

      “I have to disagree with them that it’s not an inherent problem with their life/job”

      Yes, I had this same thought.

  48. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    LW4 – you might only think its 2-3 minutes you are ducking out, but it goes like this:

    1. Noticing the call as one that needs to be answered.
    2. Interrupting the meeting by leaving to take the call.
    3. Actually taking the call.
    4. Interrupting the meeting again by returning.
    5. Re-orienting yourself back into the meeting.

    You are in the meeting, stay focused on the meeting. If you are splitting your attention between the meeting and the calls, you aren’t giving either one your best. For the meetings, see above, for the calls, you are thinking you need to get back into the meeting.

    There’s a back up system for a reason. Use it. If issues then develop with the back up system, discuss those. but stop ducking out of the meetings.

    1. LTR, STLW*

      That’s right in line with what I discussed with my old boss, and I did follow his process after we talked even if it took some getting used to. I think what kept the doubt in the back of my mind was that the experienced/tenured members of my division followed my initial method pretty consistently. There was kind of an informal hierarchy at work along the lines of: emergency client issues > regular client issues > regular/mildly important internal issues

      1. Angstrom*

        Hmmm…maybe have a couple of company- or department-wide fixed internal meeting windows that would be communicated to clients as “Any calls in this period will go straight to voicemail/messaging”?

        1. LTR, STLW*

          That’s a really interesting idea! They’d have to balance it because not everyone had the same client load/not all clients were in the same time zone as their support, but they did do something similar for the company all-hands…

  49. Justout*

    LW1: I might be mis-reading this, but to me you sound the kind of depressed / down / burnt-out that comes from constantly prioritising others (your job, your dog, your partner) and never prioritising yourself.

    It’s very easy for some people (me included!) to fall into this trap and very hard to climb out of it, but finding tiny things to do that are purely about what YOU want – literally, sitting on the sofa reading a book, going to a cafe for a coffee and people-watching, taking a random walk around your neighbourhood, binge-watching a box set on Netflix… – can make a HUGE difference to how big the other burdens on you *feel*, even if they don’t actually change in any practical way.

    Be kind to yourself, use your PTO to give yourself a bit of space to put yourself first occasionally.

  50. Angstrom*

    #4: This isn’t a just meeting problem. This is a “How do we handle urgent calls when someone is unavailable for ANY reason?” problem.
    The backup systems are not working. Your boss has to be made aware of that. The meeting culture will not change unless people are confident their clients will get good service from their backups.

    1. LTR, STLW*

      There was somewhat of a long-standing, background discussion around this between different managers in my division as well as people in my role but of a longer tenure. Not all these groups shared the same opinion, but no emergency about the emergency calls ever rose far enough to force a settlement on the disagreement. While the system could absolutely be frustrating, there were backups who did great triage and gaps between meeting enough that this never rose to the level that the need to set a uniform standard felt acute.

  51. Delta Delta*

    OP 2 – If you have to have your camera on, just be totally honest and say you fell during a dog walk and got bruised on the sidewalk. If you have a flair for the dramatic maybe you can tell it in kind of a fun way. Another idea – it may also help if you can adjust your lighting so that your face is visible but perhaps not terribly bright.

    There have been a couple questions like this before, where the LW noted that despite their explanations (roller derby or rugby maybe?) people did not believe them and insisted they were DV victims. Just beware of that piece too, I suppose.

  52. Managing While Female*

    LW1 “(For what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s an inherent problem with my life/job; it just doesn’t actually make sense for me to take time off.)”

    See, but if the circumstances of your life are making it so that you’re burnt out and don’t see the point of PTO, there IS an inherent problem with your life/job. You need more support so you can feel like you can take time for yourself. I agree with Allison’s advice above about how to handle the workload stuff. Now for the life stuff…

    I see this often with women where they think they need to take on the bulk of household labor because of x or y reason but 9 times out of 10 it’s because their partner (not always consciously, and definitely with help from the patriarchal system that tells us and them that these things are ‘women’s work’) doesn’t believe that they need to contribute. OR (and this happens a lot too) the partner thinks that they are contributing, but don’t see all of the invisible stuff: mostly, the mental load of remembering what to pick up for dinner, whose birthday is coming up, when the dog needs to take its meds/go to the vet, the drip on the faucet that you need to remember to get taken care of… etc. etc. etc. I’ve seen this described as something similar to the news ticker at the bottom of a broadcast that has updates on everything going on in the world. It’s OVERWHELMING.

    The thing you need your partner to do is not have tasks delegated to them (that doesn’t decrease the mental load), but to TAKE A TICKER. Take full responsibility for some part of household management.

    Now, I hear what you’re going to say now: “But my partner truly CAN’T because they work NIGHTS and they have x, y, z things going on that just overwhelm them.” Babe, listen: you’re overwhelmed too. Unless your partner is completely incapacitated, I’m sure they’re able to take SOMETHING. It’s up to the two of you to figure out what that thing is.

    If your partner is a good one, they will listen to this and want to help because, whether you believe it or not, you’re taking on too much of the load at home and it’s not fair to you.

    Trust me that if you’re able to sort this out and have a more equitable distribution of labor around the house (and at work!), you’re going to really enjoy your days off. You’re going to be able to relax and unwind and, you know what? You’re going to do better at work and in your relationships/life as a result of it. Taking care of yourself isn’t a selfish indulgence. It truly makes EVERYONE’S life around you easier, happier, and more fulfilling. I hope you take this to heart.

    1. Hyaline*

      Yeah, the attitude about the partner was…troubling to me. Because if a grown person, even one who works nights, can’t even figure out how to get groceries themselves…this person has failed at adulthood. If this person can figure it out, but you’re using stuff like that as an excuse, you’re both infantilizing your partner and treating them unfairly in your representation to others. Whiffs of self-martyrdom abound here, either in enabling an uneven breakdown of labor at home or taking on too much for unhealthy reasons.

      1. londonedit*

        I get it, I mean I’m sure working nights is stressful and difficult and being able to sleep during the day is incredibly important. But I agree that surely there must be some way for the partner to pull their weight. I have friends who work odd shifts and they still manage to do the food shop and clean the house and whatnot – surely their life isn’t merely sleeping or working? There must be time in between where they’re awake at the same time as everyone else. Or couldn’t they have their food shop delivered? Just about every supermarket here offers online shopping and delivery – yes there’s a minimum spend but here it’s usually about £40 which is easily done for a weekly shop. There must be ways the OP and their partner can find to make their lives a bit easier and take the pressure off.

    2. Princess Pumpkin Spice*

      I really feel for this LW. They sound a lot like I did, before my divorce. I, too, thought it was a work issue, but the idea of applying and interviewing and starting over just seemed so daunting and like too much. Therapy and some self-reflection helped, and I realized it was a partner issue. To make a long story quite short, our relationship wasn’t salvageable, but my life, my time, my energy and inner peace… that was. OP, I really encourage you to find out what is making you feel this way. What is the core problem? Everything is fixable, after a fashion, you just have to know what is a cause and what is a symptom.

    3. MsSolo (UK)*

      I think, also, if you are both truly overwhelmed (executive function issues limiting how many tickers your partner can pick up, for example) take a couple of days off and figure out some automation together. Can you create a calendar with literally every reminder in it, from birthdays or dentist appointments to insurance renewal so nobody has to remember them? Can you set up an online grocery delivery with the basics every week so you only need to pick up treats? Can you hire a cleaner or specialist dog walker or gardener or taskrabbit someone to do whatever chore is currently stressing you out too much to even start doing it even though you know the longer you leave it the worse it’ll be to do?

      I know it can seem impossible to think about putting new things in place when you’re struggling to stay on top of everything you’re already doing, but this is why you need to take the PTO so you don’t have to keep doing those things for a few days while you hammer it all out and make the calls and set up the calendars and block book the delivers. And then spend an evening/night-shift-equivalent with a bottle of the beverage of your choice, a movie you’ve been meaning to watch, a new toy for the dog, and a well-done-us cake.

  53. Seashell*

    LW1, maybe you could take off on days where people would be more likely to expect you to be off. Assuming you’re in the US, like the Fridays before Labor Day & Columbus Day, a few days around July 4th/Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s, any time that local schools are typically closed and parents might be taking off. Maybe the customer flow would slow down then too?

    I’m taking a staycation this summer and plan to get stuff done around the house, read, take walks, watch a movie or two, eat lunch at places I wouldn’t ordinarily go, go to stores that are busy during the weekend. I have more time to use up this year, so I’m thinking of taking some random Fridays in summer to do stuff with my teenager and enjoy having a shorter week.

  54. Cordyceps*

    #1 Pointless PTO

    OP, I completely understand where you are coming from on this. While I completely agree with AAM’s advice, and you should take all of your PTO simply as a matter of principle if nothing else, I think what you are describing is a fairly common problem.

    I know for myself, even if I desperately need time off due to burnout, I will avoid taking it until we are less busy (which seems to be a smaller window each year). The reasons for this are similar to what you’ve stated. The work doesn’t go anywhere, I have to work a bunch of extra hours before I leave on PTO and then a bunch of extra hours when I return to “make up” for being out. I am frequently assigned new projects while I am out on PTO and return to urgent emails for a project that is already way behind schedule. I frequently regret taking PTO and wish I had just kept working. The only (sort of) solution I’ve come up with is to try to take it when we are less busy or to save it up for large blocks of time off (a full week or more) so that management will be forced to give those projects to someone else.

    I’m sorry you’re dealing with this, you have my complete sympathy, and I wish this wasn’t such a widespread problem in companies.

    1. GroovyChick*

      I came here to say this. I was in a job in exactly the same situation – no one else would pick up the work that wasn’t being done, so if I was off for a week I had to work like the clappers the two weeks before and after to make up. I finally quit that job last year and moved to a place where I now work in a team. Someone is there to pick it up when I’m away and it has made all the difference, meanwhile my previous job still hasn’t found someone to replace me.
      It’s immensely frustrating, and I tried for years and years to get more support. In the end it broke my heart because I loved what I did, but I had to walk away for the sake of my mental health. I truly sympathise OP – there may be some things you can change (I see lots of advice from the commentariat), but at a workplace where you can’t hand work over or there aren’t quiet periods, time off feels more like a curse than a blessing.

      1. Cordyceps*

        Yes, exactly, I didn’t want to tell the OP to “just find another job” because I know that can be much easier said than done (or obviously, I’d have done it myself by now). But, that probably is the only realistic long-term solution if you are in a workplace where they simply don’t care. I’m gearing up to do exactly this but I know it will take a while…

        1. Samwise*

          Right. It’s one more damn thing to do. And it’s time consuming and stressful, and almost never gets a fast resolution. It’s likely to in fact add to feeling bad because of the inevitable rejection or ghosting.

          Even if “get a new job” is in the long run a really good solution, the cost right now can be much too much when the OP doesn’t have any spare time or energy or psychic space to give to a job search.

  55. Hyaline*

    LW1, is there truly *nothing* you enjoy doing outside of work? Reading, fishing, gardening, walks with your dog, watching movies, cooking, trying new restaurants? If there isn’t, I’m not trying to be a jerk saying this, but you really need a hobby. It doesn’t have to be productive or fancy or involved–you can decide to get into birdwatching or baking or container gardening or reading. Is there something you used to enjoy that you haven’t had time for in years? Revisit it. You can make it a “challenge” where you’ll watch every Bela Lugosi movie ever made or visit every old school diner in a 50-mile radius or pick up an Intro to Lit syllabus from a university course and read all the books. But when you have something you enjoy, days off aren’t a blank page staring at you–it’s time open to spend with something you enjoy.

    Other excuses you make can be nipped off very quickly, and others have already done so, but to add–you don’t have to go anywhere, and you don’t have to take a long chunk of time. Take a couple days every few months and make long weekends. (Those four day weeks are an amazing perk to a three-four day weekend, by the way.) When there’s a local or semi-local event you want to go to (art festival, classic car drive in, concert, 4H Fair) take the whole day off even if you don’t have to. Look at stuff you might enjoy that’s a short drive away that usually you’d write off, and take the day and do it. Never miss Old Town Pickle Fest (or whatever) again. Or take a week and do…nothing except what sounds good in the moment.

    You say your partner works nights–does your partner get PTO? Gasp, coordinate your days off like many of us have to do! Or agree that you’ll spend your PTO days independently. (If raising the question of how to take PTO together or spending time solo sounds impossible, that’s…a problem with how you’re viewing your partnership, and you raised some red flags of self-martyrdom in your letter…it’s a trap that’s easy to fall into.) If he’s sticking to his usual schedule but you want to feel the freedom to enjoy your day without bugging him, take a day trip or two with your pupper or even rent an AirBNB locally–it might feel like a splurge to stay put, but if it lets you watch TV at full volume and bang around in the kitchen if you want to, go for it.

    1. Lexi Vipond*

      I’d be worried they’d end up with a black eye when the dog launched itself out of it onto them :D

  56. Person from the Resume*

    LW1, I do understand that when you come back from time off there is work to catch up on. That happens. And as Alison suggests somethings to do that may improve it.

    Everything else sounds like you really need a break from your personal life too. It sounds like you’re doing more than your fair share of chores and home responsibilities in a two adult household. The night shift doesn’t mean someone can’t do their fair share. I think that’s where you need things to improve to help end your burnout.

  57. June*

    OP#2: My favorite script for this that I use is, “I need to take a camera pass today,” and then transition into the meeting topic or asking folks how they’re doing.

  58. Dek*

    For #3, I think it’s worth mentioning…don’t necessarily tell them that they’re wrong. I mean, they are, but for some flavors of neurospicy, that doesn’t work (currently dealing with a sibling in crisis and medical custody right now). But what you can affirm is how they feel, not why they feel that way. “That must be frustrating” or “that sounds scary” etc.

  59. kalli*

    If I take time off a) I don’t get paid and b) I have to do that amount of work in half the time when I get back.

    Except it’s easier to do that when I’ve had sleep, so.

    That’s not the point here.

  60. Princess Pumpkin Spice*

    LW1, the Iranian yogurt is not the issue.

    Once upon a time, I was in a very similar situation. I felt like I couldn’t take any PTO because of ALL THE THINGS, and even taking time off to get home things done meant a mess at work, but if I didn’t take of time from work all the home things would spiral out of control. At the time, I was married. I asked my partner for help – any help. I’m in no way telling you that this is true for you… but I had a partner issue. It was like ending that relationship took away a major external force that had been constantly working against me. Yes, I still have an ill senior cat. Yes, I still need to single parent my daughter. But I finally feel like I can breathe. Is there still stuff to do? Yes, absolutely. Does stuff get left unfinished? Sure. But there is space in my brain now that wasn’t there before. And I make it a point to take one day off a month, just to recharge and relax, and occasionally get personal things accomplished (it felt very frivolous to take a Friday off to watch Bridgerton, but I have zero regrets about that).

    Again, this may not be the issue. But I would highly, highly encourage you to assess if you are getting the support you need from your partner. And if you are not, see what adjustments can be made so that you do. Good luck.

  61. too many dogs*

    LW #1: Totally understand your situation. I have a 93 year old mom-in-law that needs checking on daily, a couple of old dogs on medication that can’t be boarded (couldn’t afford to, anyway), and a partner whose work schedule is all over the place. And I’m the supervisor at work, so being gone causes the same kind of mess you deal with. I finally started MAKING myself do what many of the other commenters do: take a small staycation. Take one day off, and do absolutely nothing. Read. Watch favorite movies. Walk your dog. Take naps. Turn off the computer. Do NOT check your work e-mail. You sound like you also like keeping up with everything, so if it helps, do one or two little tiny chores on your day off: clean out a drawer, straighten under a sink. And be kind to yourself.

  62. noncommittally anonymous*

    LW2 – solidarity! I’m currently sporting a really impressive shiner from hitting myself in the eye with a tomato cage. I like to diffuse concern with humor (It was a tomato cage fight. I lost.), but, mostly, what Alison said. If you don’t seem to be taking the injury too seriously, others won’t, as well.

  63. HSE Compliance*

    Oh, LW2, been there done that. Except it was my horse, who in trying to shake to get a fly off of him, whopped me in the head and I ended up with an impressive black eye.

    I was pretty matter of fact about it – and most everyone was vaguely aware I had a horse – which helped. No cameras in that role, it was all in person, so harder to avoid. I agree that staying off camera (technology issues?) would probably be easiest if you could swing it. I’ve done the same “horses, y’know, oops” for the other times I’ve inevitably gotten a bruise from some barn shenanigans, and I think the tone of “aren’t animals fun sometimes?” helps.

    I only had issues with one person who was insistent that clearly I was making up the horse and it was my then-boyfriend and kept leaving DV pamphlets on my desk and awkwardly standing kitty corner down the cubicle aisle watching me. Everyone else responded with “oh, yeah, horses, huh that sucks. So about the reports/testing results/cookies that someone brought in”.

    1. Delta Delta*

      Unless you encounter another horsey person who has a similar story of a horse-related bruise. Then you’ll show each other photos of your horses, discuss preferred fly spray brands, swap stories of blanket/fly mask banditry, and compare farrier rates. Because horses are the actual best but they also make us a teeny bit bonkers.

  64. theletter*

    OP1 – if you’re experience of coming back to the office is that everyone is upset that no one helped them, then the environment is not really supportive. There should be rotating support staff that can be reached through a ticket system.

    One nice thing to do on a day off, if it’s not too noisy, is to batch cook meals that can be fridged or frozen, and plan outfits. I love organizing my house so that on days when things are busy, everything I need is on hand.

  65. Sneaky Squirrel*

    LW1 – From a business perspective, they want staff to use PTO not only for burn out, but because accrued PTO is a financial liability for them. The best reason for you to take PTO is because you earned it and by not using it, you may be leaving money on the table.

    It can be hard to separate yourself from work when you know you’ll come back with more work, but this is how companies identify gaps. A company shouldn’t rely on any one person to hold them afloat. If things don’t get resolved when you step out, this is a need for more training or a higher head count. These are things you can bring up with your manager as concerns.

    But I think you need to examine why you feel you won’t recharge when you’re not at work. You don’t have to do a grand vacation, check off a bunch of tasks in your life, or even have any itinerary at all to justify taking a day off. Sometimes you just take the day off to focus on what you want to do. Some of my best days off are when I get to sleep in, binge watch tv, make myself a nice meal or dessert, and finish the book I’ve been reading.

  66. Jamjari*

    LW2, this resonated so hard. No dogs involved, but I tripped once and stopped the fall with my forehead. My eye was swollen shut and bruised. This was in the days before Zoom. I wore an eye patch in a some situations for a few weeks, more for other people’s comfort than anything else, though I did receive both MMA fighter and abuse comments from strangers: “I have an eye injury, doctor’s orders”. It might not work in your case – or you’ll feel even more awkward – but I thought I’d commiserate.

  67. CubeFarmer*

    RE: LW#2, several weeks ago during the height of hay-fever season, I was taking my allergy eye drops, which I’ve discovered, have the effect for me of making my dark circles look very prominent. That, and well, the allergies in general were making me look pretty ragged.

    I went on a zoom call with my camera on and to my horror, I immediately noticed that it looked like I had a black eye. Something about how the camera highlighted shadows. I quickly explained, “Oh, I know I look like I have a black eye, but it’s just my hay fever.”

    I genuinely have no idea if the people on my zoom believed me, but I hope that they did.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I might just assume that you were mutating into a giant raccoon, but that’s where my (very weird) mind tends to go at first, and by the time I realized that that couldn’t be the issue, my mind would be on to something else and I would completely forget about the dark circles.

  68. SometimesMaybe*

    #1 I kinda get where LW1 is coming from. If you have a pretty good work/life balance and you enjoy your job, taking time off can be stressful. For many people, including myself , (without a specific vacation plan) the idea of sitting home alone watching TV for a week is not enjoyable. If I do not have fun reason to take time off or people to spend it with, honestly I would just as well stay in the office. I am not saying you should not take time off, just realize going to work isn’t horrible for some people (I especially notice this with my older employees, who generally use much less PTO). Many people do manage their daily lives without overworking or experiencing burn out. The LW has opportunity to use PTO should they choose to, but otherwise as long as their work is fine just do not force them to take time off.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      But LW#1 says
      – “Yes, I’m burnt out from work, but taking time off work doesn’t magically make all my issues go away: …”
      – “Why should I bother taking it in the first place if I’m not actually going to end up relaxed and recharged?”

      So the LW does say that they are burnt out. They SAY they are burnt out from work, but frankly it sounds like their personal life is creating as much or more burn out than work. Even taking time off from work to take care of the personal stuff that is piling up could help with personal burn out.

      Additionally the the fact that boss is encouraging it is at least a bit of a hint that their work might not be fine.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      I have a good work/life balance. I enjoy my job. I don’t need a fun reason to take time off.
      And it’s fine if you don’t see the advantage of it, but it sounds like you’re assuming people need time off because their work lives are absolutely miserable.

      Also it doesn’t have a to be a week off.
      A day off here and there can be useful for running errands at places that close early, completing tasks around the house, getting furniture delivered when they give you a four hour delivery window…

    3. Irish Teacher.*

      While I take your point, I also want to point out that work doesn’t have to be horrible for people to value time off. People can really enjoy their jobs and still enjoy and benefit from a week when they don’t have to get up early or where they can just go for a walk at midday.

      PTO isn’t about managing one’s daily life or avoiding burn out. It’s just time for the rest of your life. Even if somebody really loves their job and it is their absolute favourite thing in the world to do, they still probably have other things they like to do as well and there isn’t much time for those other things during the working week.

      And if they really don’t have anything else they want to do, that can be a cause for concern. Because if work is truly the only thing they enjoy and they cannot enjoy a day when they are not working, well, what about when they retire? What if they are laid off? What if they suffer a disability and are unable to work? They would then be losing everything that matters to them.

      I’m not saying this is true of you, as it sounds like you just prefer to save your vacation time for doing specific things, but I just wanted to point out that it’s not a case of either people think work is horrible and spend all their time counting down to their next day off or they love their work and dread the idea of a day off. I would say both of these groups are small minorities – OK, there are probably more who think their job is horrible than who don’t want to take time off, but I still hope that is a minority. And neither of those is a group one wants to be in. One means being unhappy at work and the other being unhappy outside it.

      Ideally, one would enjoy work but would also have other hobbies and interests and friends that one looks forward to having time off to pursue.

    4. Not Totally Subclinical*

      I’m trying to wrap my head around “a week off work” = “sitting home alone watching TV for a week”. No hobbies? No friends to have lunch with? No local places you could visit? No boxes of random stuff that you really need to go through and purge? No home improvement task that you could do yourself given a week?

      I generally enjoy my job and really like the people I work with. And I also have multiple hobbies, a volunteer gig, a slew of neglected home tasks, friends who have lunch breaks or are stay-at-home parents or retired, etc. If I’m spending my week off watching a screen, it’s a sign that I’m exhausted and needed that week off.

      1. SometimesMaybe*

        I was responding to the overwhelming number of comments (and Allison’s suggests) that suggest solitary resting activities, such as binging tv, reading, chores, etc, are how the OP should spend their PTO. I know this site greatly leans towards introverts, but given that the OP is in a customer facing role and they imply their partner is unavailable much of the time, spending more time alone might be more draining than refreshing for them. I am not saying PTO is not valuable – it is, but a staycation (which is what the OP would most likely have to do) may sound more exhausting than relaxing. I hope they can find a community of people to enjoy time with rather than just a special needs dog and neglectful partner, but in their current position I agree that PTO can seem like a waste of time.

        1. Kaisa (The Librarian)*

          However, we need the time to “waste” if we are going to find those things – whether it be a community of people through a shared interest, a new hobby, or a new favorite book series/author you want to spend all day reading.

          1. Sometimes maybe*

            I think you and I have a different definition of “waste”. Any activity should add value – sleeping, reading, working, talking to friends is not a waste, but engaging in something that adds stress or negativity affects your life is definitely a waste.

          2. Peach Parfaits Pls*

            Frittering an afternoon away is an excellent chance for encountering new acquaintances, interests, and thoughts you otherwise would have crowded out in your usual routine.

        2. Irish Teacher.*

          Those were just examples. People weren’t saying they were the ways the LW should spead their time off, just that they are things people sometimes don’t think of, plus people are going to think of things that interest them. There are so many options nobody could possibly list them all, from going out to pubs or clubbing, reading, watching TV, playing sport, gardening…

          The point was that PTO isn’t there as an emergency measure for when you need time off right now or you will burn out; it’s just for you to do whatever it is you enjoy outside work (and if there is nothing, then that is a problem in itself). People were giving examples of things they enjoy, but obviously, the LW can replace with anything they enjoy.

          If the LW’s only alternatives are to spend time at a job that is burning them out or engage in activities that add stress or negatively affects their life, then…there are bigger issues going on. That would be a pretty dreadful situation to be in. But the odds are there is something they could spend their time off doing.

    5. Peach Parfaits Pls*

      “sitting home alone watching TV for a week is not enjoyable”
      – … then don’t choose to do that with your day off! You can do literally anything! If all you do is watch tv and get antsy, that’s a real “if you’re bored, then you’re boring” situation.

      1. Goldenrod*

        Yes, this. Take a walk. Go to the library. Go to the zoo. Go to a local cafe and get a cup of hot chocolate. Go see a movie by yourself. Read a book. Go to the park. Explore a new neighborhood. Go to the grocery store and buy fruit. Rent a kayak. Pick a restaurant you’ve never been to before and treat yourself to lunch. The list is endless…

  69. CubeFarmer*

    LW#1, you need to look at what you wrote and make a change to make your life better. As you admit, you’re burnt out. Take a walk, read a book from the library, visit a museum: these are all no, or very low, costs ways to recharge.

  70. Ricotta*

    LW1, I’m actually in a nearly identical situation (broke, spouse is sleeping constantly due to a major health crisis so I have to be quiet, own a pet that spouse can’t manage due to said health crisis) but I take time off anyway because of optics. Explaining to your boss that you don’t see the point of vacation time is just going to make you stick out as strange. If for no other reason, try to blend, so you don’t cause yourself issues down the line.

    Imagine if you made a mistake and your boss thinks “Hmm, if LW had taken some time to recoup like we discussed, this wouldn’t have happened. I don’t think they’re a good judge of their own capacity. I’ll have to manage them a bit more closely.”

  71. Burnt ends*

    OP1, the times in my life where I felt like there was no point to taking PTO because I didn’t feel refreshed afterwards have generally been low points.

    Most recently, a confluence of burnout, working too many hours, caregiving at home, a partner who wasn’t pulling their weight for reasons that each sounded valid at the time but cumulatively meant that I was carrying way too much. I spent my vacations acting like a housewife/SAHM which is not actually a vacation.

    There are no easy solutions, but my advice is to take the vacation, and block off one hour each day to do something that I used to enjoy. I wasn’t particularly enjoying anything (which may be a sign of depression but can also just be A Thing when you’re super burnt out) but I picked stuff at random so I wouldn’t spend my whole vacation lying on the couch reading on my computer. It didn’t help at first, but it is actually very important to go through the motions.

    I also started doing less at home. Oh, it all falls apart? Too bad. I held up the things that were really important (caregiving) and scaled back on everything else.

  72. I need coffee before I can make coffee*

    LW #1, what I think you should do depends on what happens to unused PTO. If it is use or lose, you should find ways to use it in small amounts, like 3 day weekends, or even half day or early out Fridays if you can do that. You’ll get some benefit without the stack up of work from multiple days off. If unused PTO is paid out, I still think you should try to use more of it than you do, but it is less urgent.

  73. Bill Chris and Sean*

    I know AAM does lots of updates in December but I had no idea she took the whole month off – that is awesome and I’m jealous (not that OP1 can probably do that)

    1. Person from the Resume*


      Now she does work ahead because she posts the normal ~5 Q&A on workdays in December and just completes all of December’s by the end of November. So you may have to do a bit of prep work before, but you then get to enjoy the glorious time off.

  74. Dust Bunny*

    LW1: You actually sound like you need the PTO!

    Superficially you sound like you’re overestimating what PTO is supposed to do for you. No, taking time off doesn’t magically make all the bugaboos in your home life disappear, and it would be massively overstepping of your workplace to try to address that. If you feel held hostage to your partner’s schedule, address that (clarification of what you can do that won’t bother them, better sound insulation in their bedroom, white noise machine, whatever). If you need to hire an in-home dogsitter for a few days to get a breather, do that. But your job can’t (and shouldn’t, since your home life is none of their business) do those things for you.

    But I suspect that a lot of these are excuses rather than reasons. If your work isn’t properly handled while you’re gone, that is something that should be brought up to your supervisor. If it has and nothing has changed, then . . . that’s how it is. You turn on your out-of-office replies that direct clients to contact someone else, and you go home and take a nap.

  75. Katrine Fonsmark*

    I will never understand that attitude toward PTO – I would never leave even ONE DAY unused. It’s part of my compensation! Why would I leave that money on the table when it’s mine??? I’m taking next week off because why not? Thursday and Friday are holidays, so I took M-W to get a whole week off. I’m not doing anything exciting but I’m NOT WORKING.

  76. toolegittoresign*

    LW1 — Burnout sufferer here. Take the PTO. Give yourself permission to not care so much about your job and give yourself permission to do nothing. Give yourself permission to ask for help. If your partner won’t step up, turn to friends and family. Barring that — I have found the fee for getting my groceries delivered so I have one less thing on my list is well worth it. Or the weeks where the additional cost to have my laundry picked up and dropped off washed and folded is worth it for the time I get back. It’s not lazy or wasteful or stupid.

    And this part: “maybe it’s her reassuring you that you don’t need to care if people complain”
    You don’t need to care. If someone makes it your problem, you can say “I was encouraged to take PTO. I took it. People didn’t see my OOO message and so this happened. This is not my fault.”
    But more so, you need to let yourself disconnect emotionally from it. I went way too long caring so much about my work that it was toxic. Letting go is a gift you can only give yourself.

  77. tab*

    Black eye… Many years ago, before shoulder belts were required on seat belts, I had an accident that involved my head hitting the steering wheel. It gave me an impressive black eye! I just wore sun glasses to work to hide it. It did come in handy at the time. I worked part time in the complaint department at Sears, and if I was talking to a very angry customer (very common), I would take off my glasses and say, “Please don’t hit me!” It would cause a gasp, pause, followed by laughter when I explained it was an automobile accident, and I would be happy to help them… Good times…

  78. Prorata*

    LW1: For the longest time, I seldom took PTO. “Too much to be done”, “Work’s too important”, “I’ve got better things to do than take a vacation”…thought nothing of working 60-80 hour weeks.

    “If I don’t do the work, they’ll find someone else who will.”

    18 years ago yesterday, at 40 years of age, I had a heart attack.

    Four coronary artery grafts later, a stroke during/after surgery, a month in hospital/stroke rehab, another month with family, and I was able to go back to work, with leadership making clear if I was still in the office at 6pm, they would call Security to walk me out for the day.

    They never had to call Security.

    Take some time off – take a day, or better, several and try to relax. Play with your dog, go to the library, read a book, whatever. Just get the “bleep” away from work!!

    As for Out Of Office, can you set up email to forward to another staff member, and does your role have a backup that can handle a day or three?

    1. Goldenrod*

      “18 years ago yesterday, at 40 years of age, I had a heart attack.”

      Whoa, this is very powerful.

      1. Prorata*

        Got my attention!!

        Got me to actually exercise a bit, quit eating like an 18 year old, stop working crazy hours for the hell of it, and see the doctor on a regular basis.

        Also had a number of people where I worked book doctor appointments for the Annual Physical they had put off for X years.

  79. Aggretsuko*

    I agree with LW 1 that taking a day off or a week off doesn’t really refresh and rejuvenate you for work, and in jobs like a call center, only puts you farther behind, especially when nobody else can or will pick up your slack. If you’re at that level of stress and burnout, I’m not sure anything can refresh and rejuvenate you short of just plain leaving.

    However, you might as well use a stray day here and there, even if you don’t take a full on trip for a week. If they have to pay you out for your vacation if you leave (I admit not using vacation until I hit my limit did give me a really fat last paycheck), it might be financially worth it, but otherwise at some point you are working for free once you hit the accumulation limit.

    Also, um, I ended up on a mandatory break for six months after burning out.

  80. Sympathetic face*

    LW2 I am so sorry! Something very similar happened to me last year. I tripped and faceplanted on the sidewalk. I had to get stitches in my lip, I broke a tooth, and scraped up the side of my face. In short, I looked like a horror show. I didn’t want to leave my house because I worried my neighbors would think I was a domestic abuse victim (a. I’m just a klutz b. my husband is the gentlest man alive and doesn’t deserve that kind of suspicion).

    I just took a bit of time off camera. Lucky (?) for me, it was really the scrapes that were the issue, and those healed quickly. I wore a mask on camera to cover the lip and tooth.

  81. Addison DeWitt*

    “You can’t see me? Weird. How about now? Still nothing? Huh. Oh well, if you can hear me I guess that will have to do.”

  82. Alexis Moira Rose*

    To OP for #1— I feel you. I used to have a job where taking PTO felt exhausting because I would come back with more to do. It’s extremely demoralizing.

    This is a sign that you need more support at work, or that the workload is not manageable! If you ask your supervisor for support with this and it’s not effective, maybe it’s time to start looking for a better job where the employer has actually adequately staffed the organization so things don’t fall apart if one person takes their PTO.

  83. Adéla*

    PTO LW: Allison’s suggestions about making sure your boss helps set your PTO up to succeed are awesome. But I also can’t help but wonder from your letter if you’re doing ok, if you’ve had a physical health & depression screening recently? Maybe I’m reading into it too much but I get the vibe that maybe you aren’t experiencing joy or pleasure in your life, if a day off feels the same as work. If it’s possible for you to get that checked out, or think about what things you would enjoy, it might help.

    Also, running the household/caring for the dog etc are shared work in a partnership. My boyfriend is a night shift nurse and he does things like manage the plumber first thing before his shift, or plan our meals at the 24 hour grocery store on the way home from work. If a guy working ER nights with raging ADHD can pick up groceries on the way home, it’s doable for many people. I hope your partner is supporting you & the household work.

  84. Lisa*

    LW3, please don’t automatically attribute your friend’s attitude/behavior to their neurodivergence. His is an unfortunately common attitude among people who are neurotypical but have an overdeveloped ego. It doesn’t change the advice, but assuming everything about someone’s personality is directly related to ND (and especially, excusing it for that reason) isn’t helpful.

    1. LW3*

      Oh, no, I absolutely see a separation between the two, and I apologize if my letter implied anything different. I added in the medical information just in case it affected the advice.

      It’s clear to me that their behavior is rooted in extreme panic about their current and very stressful situation, because they don’t usually react to challenges this way.

  85. tabloidtained*

    LW#1: When I was going through a rough time in my personal life, work was my “safe” zone. I wanted time off from work, but my personal life didn’t allow for rest, and so it felt pointless. I wasn’t recharging, I was just collecting another type of stress and then taking it to work. It was almost easier to be at work and get regular breaks from my life, rather than the other way around. At least I could be sure my work was getting done.

    So, from that perspective, I would say this is an inherent life problem and I hope things look up for you soon.

    1. atalanta0jess*

      I agree with this. It’s a tough situation to be in.

      I also think OP 1 is putting too much pressure on that PTO. I do this all the time as a parent. I’m never going to be recharged, so why even bother?! If it doesn’t leave me feeling better for weeks, screw it!

      But the truth is that even if it only helps during the 1 hour that you are relaxing…it’s still good for you. It still helps maintain that little kernel of self that can get so crushed down in the grind of work and home. It helps you stay you. Maybe it’s just an extra hour of sleep, or a meal that you enjoy that usually takes too long to cook. 30 seconds with your eyes closed in the sunshine. It doesn’t really matter…a tiny bit of leisure is better for you than none. Don’t let your job steal that time.

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      If missing work equals more stress, and staying at home equals more stress (or at best is a neutral), I can understand why the LW doesn’t want to take PTO. A lot of the advice here is coming from the privileged place of being able to afford, engage, and enjoy in leisure activities.

      I hope the LW can work with the manager to at least lower the stress from missing work, and take that piece out of the equation.

  86. Silicon Valley Girl*

    #1 – PTO is part of the payment for your job. Take it! Look at how much you’re paid per day & multiply that by the number of PTO days you get a year — that’s how much money you’re NOT taking from the company when you don’t take PTO. As Allison says, you’re working for free for your company when you don’t take PTO, but you’re also not taking all of your salary & benefits. So don’t give your employer back extra money!

    Note that in some states, employers are required to pay out unused PTO when a person leaves a job, but I wouldn’t count on that bec. there may be annual limits & such. Use it or lose it.

  87. anonymouse*

    LW1, I got to the end of your letter and thought “No, you definitely have inherent problems with your life/job!” Your boss won’t arrange things so that you can take a vacation without coming back to a disaster area, your home situation doesn’t allow you to relax during the day…etc. Life doesn’t *have* to be that way. Some of those things you can’t completely fix (caring for an old dog is stressful no matter how you handle it) but some of those can change. Lots of people had suggestions here, I hope they make you see that you don’t have to be stuck in this situation.

  88. Daisy-dog*

    I have a staycation planned for later this year and I am stoked! I have recently learned about the concept of “Artist’s Dates” (from The Artist’s Way book – still undecided if I’ll actually follow the plan in the book). I’ve decided to have a week of Artist’s Dates. I will also sprinkle in some trips to coffee shops and lots of reading.

  89. Neurospicy*

    Your partner can help. Nothing will die or explode.

    Look, I’m neurospicy and on a different sleep and work schedule to my partner (something about delayed sleep phases, in my own time zone it’s genuinely difficult for me to wake up before 8:30 am, I have been to Hawaii and it was so nice for my sleep schedule to match up with what other people see as normal due to the time difference).

    I’m not able to do everything that’s considered normal for an adult, on my own. But, I decided to eat less processed foods for my health, and to clean more regularly.

    As an actually disabled person, I’m still capable of remote work, cleaning things a few times a week, doing 90% of the errands, preparing the majority of my meals, doing my own laundry, and exercising.

    There’s a system. I designate certain days and times to do things, or at least “on X day, do Y, then Z.” I shop during less busy times. I cut down my need to make decisions by eating the same breakfast and lunch on weekdays. I wear headphones.

    I can’t manage family finances and might need something like a conservator or life advisor if I wasn’t married. But my spouse can trust that no huge mistakes will be made, I will work, I won’t blow up the house, and the animals will be OK if they have to leave for up to a week. Can the partner even do this?

    I found ways to handle things, so my partner doesn’t feel they’re doing everything. Is PTO OP’s partner seriously disabled? An adult should be able to run their own errands and participate meaningfully in the household. If I can, he can.

    1. Bananapantsfeelings*

      I’m also disabled and neurospicy, and groceries are just delivered to my house – my partner or I log into a phone app and groceries just show up. In my low energy / high pain times, we eat simple non-cooked meals like sandwiches or ham-cheese-pickle rolls. (My partner isn’t much of a cook, but also isn’t fussy about food.)

      I don’t have all the spoons I wish for – right now I’m resting after an interpersonal interaction – but there are solutions that can be found for many things.

      When I really resist finding solutions, it’s because deep down I know what needs to change and I’m scared of that change.

      But most every time I’ve resisted a necessary change and it’s happened anyway – usually in a much harder way than if I had just dealt with it head on – it’s turned out to have been what I needed in the end.

  90. merida*

    OP1/LW1 – I am incredibly heartbroken for you. You are worth a life better than what you described. You sound so unkind to yourself. Maybe from all of the comments and Alison’s response you can realize that only you can become your biggest advocate. I hope you begin to start putting your own wellbeing first. Talking to your boss about workload is a good start, and perhaps talking to your partner about more support and looking into therapy would be useful too. You don’t have to do this on your own. You are not an island.

    My best friend could have written this letter last year. She also worked a customer service job and had the same thoughts around days off. It was incredibly difficult to watch her physical and mental health decline while she burned out and continued to put more and more into a job that overworked her so badly. She was drowning but refused for so long to reach out for a life preserver. She’s out of that job now and beginning to heal the mindsets that kept her there for so long. She’s much healthier and happier! It just took her so many years to realize that she didn’t have to live like that.

    So many people have said here that if you don’t take a break, your body/mind will decide to take a break for you without your consent. It’s true. Ask us how we know… If that sounds ominous and serious it’s because it is.

    I can only hope this is a wake up call for you. You deserve so much better.

  91. GetYourMojoBack*

    Sounds like the PTO OP may have some depression issues – I would suggest seeking therapy and finding out why you couldn’t find anything joyful to do by yourself as well as how to handle the day-to-day issues you deal with. Work should never be a respite for real life.
    I have 24/7 caregiver responsibilities, yet I’ll still find time to go to a park or the mall (which is some great people watching) have an ice cream- take a drive or just do nothing watching TV to recharge. I suggest you try to take the time to do the same. Good luck

  92. Heather*

    LW should take PTO and meet a friend for lunch, go for a drive, sit I. The park with the dog, visit a. With pro g town or museum, or just veg on the couch for a few days. Some people use PtO for home projects that make them feel better like cleaning out the garage or painting a bedroom to make home feel better.
    The most interesting thing I note is that the LW seems like nothing is going to get better and may need to talk to someone (friend, therapist, clergy) because there is no joy in the letter. Just stress.

  93. Former Retail Lifer*

    OP#1: In my last position, it was too stressful to take a whole week off. There was too much of my job that couldn’t be covered that I dreaded coming back. I would take a bunch of Friday-Monday blocks off and that helped. It was four days in a row but I only missed two actual work days.

    I have trouble spending money on vacations (I could probably afford it, I just can’t JUSTIFY it in my head), but I love taking days off to sleep late, binge watch TV, clean out my closet, take myself out to lunch, and do stuff that I can’t usually find time to do. PTO can be boring. I prefer it that way!

  94. llamasandteapots*

    LW #2, I have a hobby where I get bruised a lot in areas that sometimes correspond with DV injuries, and I highly recommend getting a tube of arnica gel. It won’t magically fix your bruise, but it will decrease the time it takes for it to dissipate to make it less noticeable faster.

  95. NotARealManager*


    I have lots of thoughts, but will leave you simply with reflecting two of your statements back to you and inviting you to examine how they conflict with each other:

    “I don’t see the point [in taking PTO]”
    “I don’t think it’s [the pointlessness of taking PTO] an inherent problem with my life/job”

    Something’s off.

  96. Lui1845*

    For #1. I sometimes didn’t have time for several days off consecutively, so I would take half days and just got to a bookstore, stop for something to eat and get home at about the regular time. Or take of a Monday or Friday and make a three day weekend. I love staycations and these were mini versions. Very refreshing for me.

    For #2. Humor! “Before I turn on the camera, I wanted you to know I was run over a few days ago by a tank disguised as a VERY friendly dog. No teasing please, as it hurts to laugh!”

    For #3. Your outgoing message could state, “I am in a meeting and will be available to return your after XX o’clock. If this is an emergency, please call XXX-XXXX.” Your boss needs to designate a person or manned phone that is always covered for those times.

  97. Paul Z*

    There’s a trick when dealing with an office where taking PTO just means that you’ll have twice as much work when you get back. This is the trick: don’t take a one-week vacation. Always take two full weeks off. Three weeks if you can swing it. If you’re only away for one week, your cow-orkers can say to themselves “Oh, it’s fine, Paul will be back next week to deal with that, we can ignore it until then,” even if it’s something they’re perfectly capable of handling. But if it’s two or three weeks, even the most determined cow-orkers will realize that they need to actually deal with things themselves instead of waiting for you to come back.

    If the rest of your team is really that incapable of functioning without you, that’s the first problem. Get that fixed, pronto.

    1. Goldenrod*

      “This is the trick: don’t take a one-week vacation. Always take two full weeks off. Three weeks if you can swing it.”

      YES, I’ve discovered this as well, for exactly the reasons you state. Take a long enough vacation that it just CAN’T wait until you return.

    2. JustTheWayItIs*

      Nope. I was out on short term disability for two months and came back to two months of work picked up for me. I took 2.5 weeks off when my company switched from set time off to unlimited time off to use up some of what was going away and I came back to 2.5 weeks of backlog. This only works if the timing is such that something will collapse if you’re gone, and in that case it won’t get approved (obviously medical emergencies are a different issue).

      1. Dawn*

        I think this more a case of “this only works if your job and coworkers aren’t utterly horrible” because leaving two months of work for someone who was on disability is not something good people do.

  98. AC36*

    LW #1 – I’m sure the response is overwhelming – BUT, I agree with everything Allison, as well as many of the readers, have said.

    I think Step 1 is to reframe your mindset about PTO. As Allison said, you are essentially working for free by not using the ‘benefits’ of the job and at some point, the hours will likely cap/not accumulate anymore – and then you’re really working for free. Even if you aren’t going on vacation, try to find something to do on a staycation – Find a hobby, catch up on shows/movies, go for a drive to a local beach or park, take a week or a few days to do things around the house you’re behind on, etc. etc. As someone else said, if you take 2 weeks, perhaps coworkers will do the work that can’t wait, and you’ll have less of a mess when you get back.

    Speak with your boss and discuss those concerns about work being a mess when you come back. Are other co-workers slacking and not doing what they should be? Something needs to change.

    I hope you’re able to find joy and relaxation outside of work.

  99. el l*

    If home is that exhausting – work is not your problem. Something in your personal life can be made easier if you just look for it. I don’t know which move that is for you – but in my experience there always is one, and if in doubt the crux is going to be a difficult conversation with your partner. In fact, I’ll bet money your solution will involve the line, “Honey, it’s time for you to do half the vet visits and grocery runs.”

    Reminded me in spirit of the letter from a few weeks ago from the woman who was contemplating leaving her good and reasonable-hours job because of exhaustion. Except she had a toddler not sleeping through the night. And a husband who was maybe doing 10% of the household chores. And a side hustle. And more factors. No kidding life was exhausting with those. Quitting wouldn’t solve those. So address those.

  100. Safely Retired*

    Long before Zoom (or cell phones) my father-in-law fell while teaching his grand-daughter to ice skate, resulting in a huge bandage on his head. He told everyone his wife hit him with a frying pan. (But he said it with a smile.)

  101. nnn*

    #1: I think you might be expecting too much of time off.

    No it won’t make all your issues go away. But not working is easier than working. Fulfilling all your many obligations without having to work is easier than fulfilling all your many obligations and also having to work.

    So take the occasional long weekend, or take a week or two, and just spend that time having life be easier. Even if it just means napping during a portion of the hours you’d normally be working.

  102. Not that fish*

    LW3 … Alison is spot on.
    Employers will google and find this stuff (unless she has really good settings, but I assume she doesn’t or this is a moot point).
    What employer will want her, no matter how brilliant or fabulously talented or niche specialist she might be, if she’s slagging off on everyone on social media.

    These days of cancel culture means your employees are risking your company reputation if you aren’t careful… and a ‘not yet employee’ going all canine about things isn’t going to impress anyone. It’s a mark against them for sure.

    I employ people, and I check social media profiles, you can tell a lot about people from SM – not just the swearing and carrying on about employers stuff, but the party photos where they are all so drunk they can’t stand up and don’t realise there’s a bong in the background (not generally an issue … but if I am employing for a high risk role and all your photos are you stoned, drunk and behaving recklessly and there is zero other side to you… I’m going to remember this if you make the interview list). Social media gives us a tiny insight into the curated, edited version of who you think you are personally… and tells me how you handle conflict, disappointment, joy and momentous occasions. Or that you are discrete, private, information responsible. If your SM is full of sprays about people, infighting, politically aggressive slogans or racist/homophobic/ist stuff I’m not going to bother to interview you. Yes you can have political views, and problem people who cause mayhem in your SM, but how YOU handle it tells me how you’ll handle conflict in our workplaces.

    1. Junior Assistant Peon*

      I always resisted the temptation to stalk the social media of my interviewees. Too much chance of running afoul of discrimination law if I discover that a candidate is pregnant, disabled, a different race than they appear, LGBT, etc. If I see something like this on a candidate’s Facebook, I can’t unsee it.

      1. Observer*

        Too much chance of running afoul of discrimination law if I discover that a candidate is pregnant, disabled, a different race than they appear, LGBT, etc

        It’s a tricky balance. I like what some companies do – they have someone who is NOT the hiring manager do the search and then have them come back with *relevant* results, defined so to positively exclude those categories, but to cover stuff that are relevant such as:

        Very high percentage of posts about how terrible their (former) employer is. Bonus points for narratives that indicate that it really was not an employer problem.

        Lots of posts about what looks like sensitive employer information

        Slurs, clearly bigoted statements.

        Lots of posts with information / pictures that indicate possibly illegal activity and / or other problematic behavior. (eg Acting like a stereotypical Frat-Bro brat may not be illegal, but that’s not someone I want working for me.)

  103. Amy*

    LW1: I had a ton of leave to burn off during the pandemic, and the rest of my department often took off on Fridays, so I took off like 8 Wednesdays in a row to sleep late and loaf around the house (not like I could go anywhere anyway). It was AWESOME. I was still out of the office, but Wednesday was low stakes because we were usually fully staffed otherwise, and I had the rest of the week to deal with any backlog before the weekend. Friday can be tough because it might be a few days before the person hears back, but very little is so urgent that getting an answer on Thursday instead of Wednesday is a problem.

    I recommend picking a day of the week and trying to take a few of them off in a row, even if you don’t go anywhere. Wednesday is in the middle so it really breaks up the week, but any typically slow day will work. Maybe your week starts slow? Or Thursday is a dead zone? Obviously speak to your boss as well about the issues that have been popping up, but picking a low impact day and making it a routine might help with your coworkers as well. They might just assume you just don’t work that day (ever) and develop some backup options to avoid having to wait, which is all to the good long term.

  104. Kristin*

    LW 2, both of my kids gave me black eyes during their toddler years (what can I say, 18-24 month olds think that head-butting their moms is HILARIOUS), and I found the best thing to do was to mention it openly, like “can you BELIEVE that the baby did this to me?”

    People are justifiably concerned when they see a woman with a black eye. I didn’t want my coworkers and peers to think I was in some kind of domestic abuse situation when it was really something I was going to be able to tease my kids about at their weddings! Just tell people that your dog tripped you, this is a thing that happens.

  105. Farmersdaughter*

    At my company PTO was determined by seniority and the number of hours worked. Since I had been there almost 25 years, I was getting over 6 weeks of PTO a year. We could only carry over 40 hours into the new year. I started taking Thursdays and Fridays off. This way I worked 3 days, was off 4 days. On Monday holidays I was off 5 days! This worked really well for me.

Comments are closed.