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Use It Or Lose It: A Gentle Reminder To Take Time Off

Updated: Mar 10, 2021

Sixteen. Sixteen hours is my total number of Paid Time Off (PTO) hours taken to date.

My company's vacation policy is open (or unlimited) vacation. The purpose of an open vacation policy is you have unlimited vacation time to focus on producing great results without overworking employees.

It is an incredible perk and one of my attractions to the company. However, I had trouble navigating this perk when trying to figure out how often to use it. Although I worked longer hours this year, I still found myself feeling guilty when planning to take time off during a pandemic.

It was not until last week that I realized my guilt, hesitation, and confusion resulted in me limiting my personal vacation days and significantly impacted my relationship with self-care and vacation time.

If you canceled your PTO or vacation due to the travel restrictions to work instead, this is your reminder to take your time off. After all, vacation days are earned, and part of your employee benefits package.

Importance of Taking A Vacation, Even If You're Just Relaxing At Home

Whether you spend your time at home or 1,000 miles away, the most essential part of your vacation is that you are truly taking time off from work.

Burnout - feeling overwhelmed, emotionally drained, or unable to meet constant demands - impacts over 66% of workers. For a week or even a few hours, taking time off from your job can be restorative and help you address the symptoms of burnout head-on. Time off will help keep you balanced and improve your productivity. In addition to providing an opportunity to relax and recharge, it allows you to focus on personal to-do items and to spend quality time with friends and family.

You do not need a trip to Fiji or a grand vacation to take advantage of your vacation time. If you are feeling stressed or burned out, do not hesitate to take time off. Time off is an investment in your self-care and career. We are unable to do our best work and be our best selves when we are overworked.

Importance of Taking A Vacation During A Pandemic

When we started working from home due to Covid, we could not have predicted how long the pandemic and its travel restrictions would last the full year. If you have been working since March with few or no days off, you need to take a break.

As working hours increase, days become indistinguishable from one another, and it becomes more challenging to separate work and personal time - taking time off from work is more important now during a pandemic,

Due to state regulations (or personal preferences). we have been unable to go to the movies, attend a sporting event, or see friends and family. This combined with the pandemic has us all are feeling more anxious and overwhelmed than usual.

If you can take time off during the pandemic, take advantage! Vacationing during the pandemic is a matter of self-care. Time away from work can offer a much needed mental break and help you relieve stress directly related to working from home or other lifestyle changes due to the pandemic.

Managers, Encourage Your Team to Take Time Off

Without understanding my company's culture or acceptable vacation time during these unprecedented times, I found myself limiting the amount of time I took off. This is distinctly different from my time at my previous companies, where I would plan out my vacation for the full year based on the maximum vacation time allowed.

To prevent employees from taking off too little time throughout the year, companies should require that employees take a certain amount of PTO (to be tracked by the individual) annually, including at least five consecutive business days. This helps enforce employees to take time off throughout the year, and proactively introduces acceptable vacation times for open vacation policies.

Additionally, when working from home, managers should encourage all employees to use vacation time to rest and focus on family time and self-care. This will help redefine vacation time to support good mental health rather than just recreation or travel.


Since realizing I only took 16 hours of leave to date, I've taken an additional 48 hours.

I also created a personal time-off system to track my PTO to maximize my vacation time, balance my self-care, ensure I won't neglect to take time off again.

Not taking time off can cause you to lose more than just vacation time. I won't risk myself again.

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