Here’s a non-negotiable fact: We humans need rest from everything we do, including work. And while I strongly believe in taking short breaks during the workday, I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about actually using your paid time off. Gasp!
Of the employees in the U.S. who receive this benefit as part of their compensation package, over half don’t take full advantage of it, often leaving unused PTO on the table at the end of the year.
Because even though we know vacations are good for us, we’re often full of excuses as to why we rarely (or never) take one.
Well, good news: I’m here to put an end to the following excuses today.
1. You Feel Guilty Leaving
Let me tell you something about vacation guilt. Most of the time, it’s a wasted emotion. We’re meant to feel it when we actually do something wrong, like side-sweeping someone’s car and not telling them. (Yes, that’s wrong.)
Instead, we feel this way whenever we think about leaving the office.
Here’s the thing: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using those days. They’re yours. You have a right to them. In fact, by not using them, the average person donates $561 to their employer each year. That’s your money!
And that’s why feeling badly about taking them is like feeling badly about eating the fries that come with the burger you ordered. Eat those dang fries.
2. You’re Saving Them “Just in Case”
I used to hoard my PTO just in case I needed it all near the end of the year. After all, you never know when someone will invite you on an all expenses paid trip, you know?
I’ll let you in on a secret, though. I ended up never using them. Each time I moved onto my next job, I left almost all of them behind. Sure, I got paid out once. But the other times? They were just gone.
It makes sense to save them when you know of events you’ll need to use them for—holidays, weddings, binge watching the new season of Queer Eye. But if you have some left over, what are you saving those for?
So, get out your calendar and start scheduling out any unused (and unspoken for) days. Make a plan for them. And sure, if you want to save a few for peace of mind, I’ll allow it.
3. There’s Too Much Work
The truth: Either you have poor time management skills, or there’s an unreasonable amount of work on your plate.
Take a hard, objective look at yourself. Could it possibly the former? If yes, it’s time to get your act together and figure out how to be more productive. Not just for the sake of your vacation days, but also so you can be a badass employee.
If it’s the latter reason, though, then you need to have a conversation with your manager. Everyone in your company should be able to take time off without everything falling to pieces. If your team can’t do this, something’s wrong.
(And if you need help having that conversation, this article’s a good place to start.)
4. Vacation’s Too Expensive
I know—from transportation, to lodging, to meals, traveling can be expensive. But no one ever said you had to go away. You don’t have to buy flights, pay for a hotel, and spend $25 on every meal. There are ways to make vacation cheaper, like going to places where you can stay with friends or taking shorter day trips.
There’s also this lovely little thing called a staycation where you can sit on your front porch with a book all day. Or spend a ridiculous—but necessary—amount of time at Target. Or stay in your pajamas with your eyes glued to the TV (hint: This is where that Queer Eye marathon comes in).
There’s no rule that says your days off must be spent at an all-inclusive Caribbean resort. A break from work is a break from work, no matter where it is or what you’re doing.
And yes—you should be mindful about when you’re asking for time off. Requesting to be our for a week starting tomorrow isn’t very considerate, nor is taking time off smack dab in the middle of your department’s busy time. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take it at all.
So, go on. Figure out whatever it is you need to do to banish these excuses from your life and use those days. I feel fairly confident in saying that you won’t regret it. (But if you do, it isn’t my fault).
Doing anything fun with your PTO this year? Let me know on Twitter!
Photo of person working hard courtesy of Teresa Recena/EyeEm/Getty Images.
Abby is a writer, career coach, and health educator living in Portland, Maine. When she’s not trying to make the world a happier and healthier place, you can find her cuddling with her cats, hunting down the city's best coffee and grilled cheese, or dipping her toes in the Atlantic. Say hi on Twitter .More from this Author