The Importance of Taking PTO and Why 8 Days Off Is The Sweet Spot - woman holding camera and looking at beautiful western landscape

The Importance of Taking PTO and Why 8 Days Off Is The Sweet Spot

David Malmborg
May 25, 2022
October 9, 2022

Taking time off is something we all know we should do, but have trouble allowing ourselves to do so.

But taking time off isn't an option; it's a necessity.

We had an incredible conversation with Rille Buttars, Founder and CEO of Dónde and Amelia Wilcox, Founder and CEO of Nivati, about why taking time off is crucial, and how employers can help their people take meaningful time away from work.

How to Take Time Off That Refreshes

When employees return from their time off, they should feel refreshed and recharged. Buttars outlines four ways that employees can achieve this:

  1. Take the trip debt-free (the trip shouldn't be financial stressful)
  3. The trip is well planned
  5. The employee has true permission and empowerment from the employer to take the time off
  7. The trip is away from home

She explains it like this.

"PTO and time off that is most effective... comes down to a couple of things. It can't be stressful in terms of cost. It also needs to be well planned... if you don't have a plan, or if you have all these high expectations and don't know how to make them a reality, that adds to stress."

"It [vacation] needs to be away from home. When you're at home, you're in the noise of your life and so you aren't able to fully disconnect or expand your mind."

"You need to have the permission to go... more work on your plate because you took time off doesn't help," explains Buttars.

Employers have an opportunity to make meaningful PTO possible by helping employees achieve these four things, which help combat burnout.

"Existing solutions to employee burnout assume that problems stem from the work experience itself and miss the bigger picture," said Buttars. "The hustle culture to stay plugged in and continually push harder without rest and vacation is taking a toll. We all need a break, and better time off could mean better time on."

Trips vs. Travel vs. Vacations

Ideal time off looks a little different for everyone. That's why it's important to keep in mind the difference between trips, travel, and vacations, so you know which is best for you and your people.

  • Travel: Buttars describes travel as "going far away to have an immersive cultural experience." This can include traveling abroad to a place you've never been before.
  • Trips: This includes sightseeing and doing touristy things, but not necessarily having an immersive cultural experience.
  • Vacations: What we typically think of when we think of time off, vacations include lounging around and relaxing.

Keep in mind that your PTO should help you recharge. Employees should choose the travel goal that works best for them so when they come back to the office, they feel recharged.

Ideally, travel should increase empathy and connection, as well as help the employee recharge properly.

Managers can start the conversation on taking time off by walking through these three types of travel and asking employees which type of PTO they plan to take next.

The Manager's Role

PTO usage may be at an all-time low.

Employees are fearful of 1) how taking time off will change how they are perceived by their manager and 2) the amount of work they will face when they get home.

Managers need to proactively explain to employees that they are expected to take time off and that it is encouraged. Buttars explains that most managers believe this, but they don't communicate it.

Managers also need to ensure that teams have the right systems in place so when someone takes a vacation, their workload is properly covered.

Buttars calls this "permission and empowerment." Employees need permission to take time off, and empowerment to do so.

"Those that take time off have better likelihood of being promoted... and getting higher salaries"

In the book The Happiness Advantage, research shows that when the brain can think positively, productivity improves by 31%, sales increase by 37%, and creativity and revenues can triple.

To be truly engaged at work, your brain needs periodic breaks to gain a fresh perspective and energy.

Managers need to have an ongoing conversation with employees about taking time off and offer how you can help them make their trip possible. Dónde is a great tool that can help.

"It's similar to mental health... you have to keep saying the same things over and over again, and encouraging people to take care of themselves," says Amelia Wilcox, Nivati Founder and CEO.

Thoughts on Unlimited PTO

Many employees want unlimited PTO, but we determined it is not the best solution.

While unlimited PTO is intended to remove restrictions, it can lead to questioning about how much time off is appropriate, and may even lead to guilt when employees take time off for this reason.

Some employees take less time off when under an unlimited PTO policy versus PTO policies that allow a certain number of PTO days. Employees appreciate it when companies give employees a set amount of time they can take off.

"The research shows that all you need is consecutive 8 days of vacation to have the impact of a good vacation. So what we say to companies is just allow your employees to take one good 8-day vacation each year."

Buttars says, even better, to take off from a Thursday to Thursday. That way, employees can ease back into work when they return.

This blog post was inspired by a live stream event with Dónde and Nivati. You can watch the recording below. Follow us on Linkedin to stay in the loop on future live stream events.


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David Malmborg
David Malmborg