Why You Should Take Your PTO Before the End of the Year

Despite what people may say about Millennials, we actually have a pretty bad problem with work- that is, with being workaholics. Don’t believe me? Hands up if you haven’t used all your vacation days this year. Chances are, you’re sitting on a few unused days of paid time off (PTO)- that won’t roll over.

why you should use your PTO days

Let me recap real quick. You have paid. time. off. Someone wants to PAY YOU to spend time doing whatever is important to YOU outside of work. It is a gift and privilege of epic proportions, yet many, many people don’t use all their allocated time off. So what’s going on here?

Millennials have a tendency to be work martyrs, meaning they will sacrifice their personal life in the name of being the most valuable and irreplaceable employees for their company. When it comes to millennial women, the issue gets even more thorny. The concept of ‘burn out’ isn’t just a phrase- it’s a very real problem that happens to many millennial women. Why? We have a hard time saying no to work that is ‘always on’- and a hard time saying YES to ourselves.

As the end of the year approaches, think about how valuable your PTO is and consider using it before it’s gone. And no, you don’t need to have ‘plans’ or anywhere to go. A vacation day spent reading the book that’s been on your nightstand for weeks, learning to cook that recipe you bookmarked forever ago, giving your body or mind what it needs, or giving back is just as important as days spent out of town.

Here’s why it’s so important to use PTO.

Vacation is yours to use — not “take.”

Hear me out. This may not sound like a “reason” to use your PTO, but it is an incredibly important word choice. Serious time and calculations went into determining the vacation days you are given; it’s a part of your job agreement, just as much as your salary and benefits are. Would you turn down a bonus or negotiate your salary down in the name of being more valuable to a company? Of course not. Not only does that not make sense, it demonstrates what you think your time and presence are worth and diminishes it. You’re not ‘taking’ PTO. You’re using what you have earned.

It promotes healthy values and personal boundaries.

It’s easy to romanticize being the non-stop and in-demand hustler. But not only is that not healthy, it’s not empathetic to you or your co-workers. When you use your vacation days, you promote a healthier work environment, and put others at ease around you to do the same. The result? A more supportive environment of happier, healthier people.

Thinking this all sounds nice, but idealistic, or even naive? Think again.

Project Time Off reports employees who forfeit their vacation time are less likely to be promoted or receive a raise. When we are out of the office, we rest and come back recharged. You focus on what matters- your priorities, goals, relationships, and interests. Being in tune with all those help you to be a better co-worker, employee, and supervisor much more than months of work without any break.

Convinced and ready to spend your PTO? Good. Here’s how to do it.

Find out what you’re working with and make a plan. Check how many days you have remaining, and evaluate your workload and responsibilities through the end of the year to make a game plan. Is it easier to use a weekday here and there then a whole week? Find what works best for you and your team.

Craft your request for specific days off. Write a polished email in which you politely  request specific days off for vacation. Briefly acknowledge any important projects that may be on your supervisor’s mind, noting you will have a plan to make sure everything is taken care of either before your departure, or that you have a plan for coverage with your team while you are gone.

Make your game plan. Review your projects and anticipate what will be necessary for you to do, or who you need to bring in to keep items sailing while you are gone. Send a reference email to your team with the status of items before your absence, and create your automatic out-of-office reply.

Most importantly: when you’re off, you’re off. Saying you are going on vacation but are available by email does two things: 1) it undermines you and your time, and 2) feeds the culture of vacation shaming. Touch base on key projects before you leave, leave an action plan while you’re gone, set up a professional but firm out-of-office, and be truly out of office when you’re out of the office.


Shake any feeling of guilt for using your vacation days and remember they’re not a luxury- they are a necessity that benefits who you are in and out of the office. Go get ‘em!



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About Laura Carrillo

Laura is writer covering topics that inspire women to be the happiest, most alive versions of themselves. After unexpectedly finding her love of fitness through strength training, Laura’s always after the satisfaction of one more rep. A native Chicagoan, Laura loves exploring Chicago’s neighborhoods by foot or bike, and she considers the best days to be those that start with a sweaty workout and end curled up with a good book. You can find her work at lauracarrillowriter.com