Why You Should Ditch 'Well-Deserved PTO' From Your Vocabulary

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June 21, 2024 at 4:25AM UTC

Maybe your coworker’s praising your achievements after you scrambled to get things done before you left for vacation. Maybe a boss is congratulating a team on their hard work — especially those unexpected long, late hours. “Well-deserved paid time off” (PTO) is a common corporate term that seems well-meaning, but really can leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth before you take time off.

“Well-deserved PTO” may intend to tell your coworker that they’ve worked hard, effectively and made a difference in the office. Yet when you say “well-deserved PTO,” you’re also implying that time off needs to be deserved — when really, time off is an essential part of having a successful career and company. 

Why you should stop saying “well deserved PTO” — and what to say instead. 

1. You imply that time off needs to be earned.

Vacation isn’t just a benefit for employees; it’s essential for rest, balance and success at work. Not only do employees who take vacation improve their mental health and reduce their risk of burnout, but they’re also more likely to be productive when they return to work. According to the 2017 Project: Time Off report, employees who forfeit vacation days are 4% less likely to be promoted than their peers who utilize all their vacation days, and 6% less likely to receive a bonus. Time off is crucial to both individual and company wellbeing and success.

What to say instead

If you’re proud of a coworker for their work ethic, praise them for their achievements directly and the results of their work on the company. Focus on the specifics of what they’ve accomplished and congratulate them on a job well done — not a job deserving of a vacation.

2. You imply that you need to overwork before taking a vacation.

Ironically, vacations can make work stressful. We often feel like we have to overwork ourselves to get everything done so we can actually take time off. Even trying to set strong work-life boundaries can lead to chaotic, overwhelming days right before and after we take off. 

What to say instead

Instead of encouraging this norm, check in with this coworker and ask if there’s any way you can support them — before they actually leave for the vacation. Maybe it’s helping them with an OOO plan or offering to step in and complete a task while they’re away. And when it comes time for your vacation, they’ll be more likely to return the favor.

3. You make taking time off sound like an exception, not the norm.

If PTO is “well deserved,” it may imply that not everyone deserves it — and therefore not everyone should be taking it. Instead, taking vacation days (that are often given as paid days as a benefit to employees) should be not only allowed, but actively encouraged and supported.

What to say instead

Wish your coworker a restful vacation and be enthusiastic about them taking it. Ask them how they’re spending their vacation and how they plan to unwind. If you have any upcoming PTO plans, share them!

The term “well-deserved PTO” is well-meaning and can often come from a kind coworker who’s hoping to spotlight you for your achievements. However, PTO doesn’t need to be earned to be used. Taking PTO regularly is not only good for productivity, but also for mental health and avoiding burnout — allowing you to be healthier and better both in and outside of work.

What’s your no. 1 piece of PTO advice? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss'ers!

This article reflects the views of the author and not those of Fairygodboss.

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