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Take PTO, break down the stigma

Peter Messana's headshoot
By Peter Messana - CEO

Paid time off is way underrated and that is why I’m a huge proponent of employees taking their share of paid time off (PTO). At Searchspring, we have an open PTO policy, such policies can often cause less vacation taken as it is undefined. To combat this, we report to the company the amount of vacation used versus what we would like. We would like that everyone takes at least 3 weeks off a year so we report out the total expected versus the total actually used. This is one of many accountability reports we do quarterly and report out to the company.

The reason for our accountability reporting of PTO is to break down the stigma of taking time off and promote its usage. Often, employees say they don’t take as much time off because they have too much to do and feel guilty. The thinking is that if we show we are underutilizing, then guilt should not be a reason someone doesn’t take off, as you should want to help to get the company to the goal.

To lead by example, I signaled to the company just that by a very subtle, probably unnoticed by many, gesture last week. On Fridays I send out a weekly update but this past Friday I was on vacation and sent the following update to the company: “Weekly update – there is no update, I am on PTO”. I wanted to send a clear signal that when on PTO, things can be skipped.

Taking time off is a great way to recharge your mind and to reduce stress. It is also just fun to get away from work and either take a vacation somewhere fun or to just relax at home. I take a minimum of three weeks off each year, although some of those are half vacations where I might still be connected but I still feel relaxed. I also take times where I am much more disconnected and the last four days were one of those times. 

As I returned from vacation today, I had a much clearer mind and also some ideas of things I wanted to change. The time away is much like an analogy I recently heard. Staring at a painting up close, you see blobs of paint, and as you step back and look at it you see the painting. Work is just like this, if you are too close you will start to fail to see the real goal and you need to step back and that is what time away allows you to do. So, take more time off, you will feel better and be a better employee.