Why you should take Friday off

Paid time off — PTO — always seemed like a dastardly idea, given that it seems designed to make taking a break from work come straight out of the wallet. In each check, a few dollars are set aside for PTO and when you take time off, the money is deducted from the accumulated pot of cash.

According to one recent survey, 52 percent of companies reported offering this type of plan. “Among those with a PTO plan, only 19 percent offered a cash-out option, and only 15 percent offered a donation program, wherein employees donate PTO to a general pool that can then be used by other workers,” the survey said.

Only 1 percent provided their employees with unlimited PTO.

In Toronto, CNBC reports, after the provincial government stopped allowing school employees to save unused sick time, teacher absences spiked 22 percent over the previous year.

It says with PTO, “you may be less likely to take a day off when you are a little under the weather.” That could boost your productivity, but sicken your co-workers.

All of this, of course, involves choice and therein lies the problem. We feel guilty about rewarding ourselves with time off, thanks to the cursed culture in which we live.

Derek Larson, who teaches history and environmental studies at the College of St. Benedict / St. John’s University, writes in the St. Cloud Times this week:

What’s wrong in the United States isn’t the workers, who are clearly working more hours than their peers in other wealthy countries. It isn’t necessarily the employers, who compete in a race to the bottom to provide the fewest benefits possible while still retaining workers and maintaining productivity.

What is wrong in the U.S. is that our culture is sick. We define who we are by our jobs.

We would all do well to remember that taking a break now and then is part of being human, even if our leaders refuse to recognize that fact. It’s time for a renewed debate about work-life balance in the United States.

We should call on Congress to begin that discussion — right after they return from vacation.

NewsCut will be off tomorrow, but back on Friday. It’s hard to erase a culture.

  • MrE85

    Consider it done. See you Monday.

  • I took Friday off from work but I’ll still make sure to check in for News Cut.

  • MN123

    A friend’s employer closed the office for Friday, but she must use her own PTO fund if she wishes to be paid for that day.
    There is very little work being done this week, as so many people have taken the entire week off….Friday is not a holiday at my office, but it might as well be for the number of people who will be in the office that day.So, either way, the employer is paying for nothing much being able to be accomplished. Just like Congress.

  • BJ

    New job. No time off. No one else in office, not sure how much work will actually get done.

  • Noelle

    I am fortunate to work at a company that *starts* its employees with 20 days of PTO. Four weeks of vacation. And because of our client, who operates during several national holidays that the rest of the company normally gets off or a half day, we usually get 4ish additional days on top of that. Between what I carried over from last year and what I earned for this year – I had nearly seven weeks. They discontinued the carryover policy (which I’m sure will have a similar effect to the Toronto school case), but even with that I refuse to complain.

    I will be working tomorrow to back up my team, but rest assured I’m taking over a week off in a couple of weeks. I’m extremely lucky to have a team and a supervisor that recognizes the importance of a good work-life balance, in addition to getting so much PTO. (It’s pretty great when you tell them you took a half day off to go to a Twins day game and their response is ‘good for you!’)

    • I think people who get stiffed are part time workers who work 8 hour days. They have to spend down PTO just for the holiday itself. They don’t get a choice since their workplace is locked tight.

  • Kassie

    I was talking with friends yesterday about time off. I don’t have PTO, but distinct vacation, sick and holidays. All together I get 51 days off a year, but never take all my sick time. I do use the majority of my vacation time, but won’t be taking Friday off. I like working when the office is quiet and someone has to be here, right?

    • We used to be allowed to carry over and bank 8 weeks of regular vacation time. That’s a lot of money the company has to carry on a balance sheet (I think BART in San Francisco has 69 years of PTO to carry forward). We can carry 6 now and I keep it maxed out and rarely take a vacation. Since accumulated vacation is added to any severance upon a layoff, it becomes additional unemployment insurance.

      Yay, America!

      • Kassie

        We have to drop below 270 hours of vacation balance once in a fiscal year. This keeps people from accumulating too much. Sick time can only be cashed out to a certain amount upon leaving, and it has to go into a Health Savings fund.

        We have really great benefits, but they amount to what is called “golden handcuffs.” I could never leave here and get nearly the benefits I get, but I could make $20k-$40k more. While money is great, vacation time is worth so much more to me. Even more importantly, I am proud of the work I do and how it effects Minnesotans. Maybe that’s the real golden handcuffs of my job.

    • Tom K

      51 days off is incredible. That’s 1 day off per week, every week! Is that a business or government entity?

      I work at a big corporation with very generous PTO and get 23 days plus 6 holidays and thought I was lucky. No PTO carryover is allowed

      • Kassie

        I’m at the State of Minnesota with 12 years of service. I get 26 days of vacation, 14 sick days and 11 holidays.

        • BJ

          2.5 months off a year! Wow.

          • That’s only an unusual deal if you tkae all your sick days. Can you take sick days as vacation days or do you actually have to pretend to be sick? I get 14 sick days but rarely take them. I’m sick today, for example. So I’m at home. Working. Like I said, the problem ain’t that people aren’t putting in enough hours. I can give you a laundry list of people with banked hours who took those work hours away from kids birthays, vacations with families, anniversaries, time with loved ones. We’re conditioned to be this stupid and have such whacked out priorities. And the constant fear of being laid off only reinforces the behavior, despite the insistence of the HR world that “we want you to take a break.” And THEY may want. But bosses want to see fannies in cubicles and product coming out of them.

          • But, for the record, I did have a performance review goal one year of “take more time off.” that was the best boss I ever had. Naturally he got promoted right out of my work life. :*)

          • Kassie

            We can only take sick time when sick. Or I guess pretending to be sick. Except because we do have a very good vacation policy there is no need for most people to pretend to be sick since they have the vacation to cover.

            We also don’t have to worry about being laid off for using too much vacation. Layoffs are based on seniority. That’s what’s in our union contract. You can be fired if you use too much sick time and don’t have FMLA protection or are using it when you aren’t actually sick. But that comes with a multi-step discipline process that must be followed. (Warning, written expectation, 1 day without pay, etc.) Most people use their vacations around here. I’ve never been told that my career won’t advance or I should worry about my job for taking my earned vacation. I use a lot of my vacation, I was down to 0.75 hours in the bank recently, and have gotten only glowing employee performance reviews and a recent promotion.

      • You are lucky.

  • joetron2030

    I think I get 3 weeks of vacation and 4 weeks of PTO (all based on years 15+ years of service). It might be a bit more than that. I can carry over 80 hours of PTO. Vacation time is “use it or lose it” for each year. I don’t know for sure because I rarely take much time off except for the slow time between Xmas and New Years.

    But, even when I’m off, I am still basically on since I’m the IT dept. for a small software company.