PTO(D): Paid Time Off (Debate)

I’m at the tail end of a vacation. As I sit here on my flight home, I’m dreading the first day back at work.


While the time off was a welcome reprieve, I realize there are a lot of emotions that occur when it comes to taking time off from work: 1) undeserving because you’re too new, have too much work to do, or no one else has taken vacation 2) anxiety that your colleagues realize they can handle your work and don’t really need you OR 3) even a feeling of greed that you want to bank as many days as possible for a big payout when you leave. . .for those that still have annual vacation day allocations and are continuing to chase the eternal carrot as discussed in a previous week’s blog.


In Silicon Valley, it’s becoming ever more rare to find companies that still have vacation day allocations. Many have learned that the vacation days end up as a liability on the books–lack of accurate tracking or user-friendly systems or lax tracking policies and enforcement tend to mean vacation days can stay on the books for some time.

The “unlimited vacation day” policies have been adopted by a lot of Silicon Valley start-ups. I’m still undecided as to whether these are a perk or a genius ploy. While you don’t want to have to count your hours of PTO accrued, without a defined policy I wonder whether employees feel they can take vacation at all. The statement, “vacation is good; we think you should take it,” is one I’ve literally heard as a start-up’s official vacation policy. I appreciate the simplicity, but it doesn’t give you the warm and fuzzy feeling that they’d like you to take time off.


There’s also the other side of the time-off equation–what other employees are thinking while you’re out. If it’s just one day, you’re definitely interviewing. If it’s two days, you’ve flown somewhere to interview. If it’s more than a couple of days, you’re actually taking vacation, but there may be some resentment about it. I’m not saying everyone speculates about others taking vacation days, but given the job-hopping that’s so common and been mentioned in fellow blogs, it’s not inappropriate to assume.

I’ve worked at both types of companies–those that have defined vacation policies and those that have “unlimited” policies. I’ve always made sure to take time off, but admittedly I run through the gamut of emotions mentioned above. I’ve seen companies where the “unlimited” time off goes completely unused and I’ve seen the defined vacation policies where no one tracks their days off. Both situations are frustrating.


Despite your vacation policy type, there are a few rules I like to follow when it comes to time off:

  • Long weekends can be just as good as 1 or 2-week trips. One long trip a year is always good, but don’t discount what a 3 or 4-day weekend can do for your motivation and mental psyche. . .even if your colleagues may think you’re interviewing.
  • If you are a people manager, set an example and take time off. If you show you value the time away from work, your employees will take time off and will likely be happier for it.
  • Don’t be an *sshole and take vacation right after you give notice. You will burn a bridge and that’s just bad etiquette. Period.

Any other unwritten rules on vacations? Opinions on which policy type is better? The grass is always greener for me–I currently have a defined vacation policy and wish I didn’t. The PTO math can be exhausting. I have just 6.5 days left for the rest of the year. Maybe a few more long weekends and a nice New Year’s? Or save up for a big trip in the Fall, but no extra holiday time off? (sigh)