Using Your Time off (Even When People Might Be Judging You)

Posted on July 5, 2018

What I’m Reading: Radium Girls by Kate Moore

What I’m Watching: Moana (alone, for the 5th time)

What I’m Listening To: Drake’s new album “Scorpion

It’s the summer — not just that, it’s a holiday week. Honestly, I’d be interested to know how many people check out this edition of Morning Buzz. I bet it gets less viewership hits than normal. But guess what? I’m not offended. It’s July and it’s sunny outside. And, I stand strong in believing everyone should use every drop of their vacation and/or personal time.
The workplace can create a wonderful family (and a home away from home!) but it can also breed a culture that’s not necessarily good for mental health. One criticism I have in this vein, specifically, is that using all of your allotted annual time off can be office-culture frowned upon. This is not to say I’ve ever had a superior try to quell my time away from the office — rather, it has been day-to-day colleagues who offer more judgement and quips in my direction.
Maybe it’s because I’m relatively young(-ish), or perhaps because I like to make the most of my time off and regularly post images on social media, but I often catch flak when I return from time away from my all-too-familiar desk chair. “Do you even work here?” “Where were you this week?” “How much vacation time do you have?” The truth is, I’m a PTO employee hired post-Great Recession, so I actually have less time annually than many of my other co-workers. I don’t accrue a bank of time over many years; my PTO expires on my anniversary with the exception of one week I can roll forward every year. So, why wouldn’t I use my time off? Even if I’m not going somewhere exotic, I don’t miss important life events for my friends and family. Whether it’s traveling or making time for a wedding, birthday or graduation party, I am always squeezing every little bit out of my time away. I’m also on the cusp of parenthood, something I know will ultimately take me away from my physical desk from time-to-time.
But, even in using all of my time off, I make sure my work does not suffer. There is something to be said for working hard while you’re at work to justify your time away. I feel like (and I hope my boss would agree) that when I’m in the office, I’m working hard for my often recorded 8+ hours a day. I’m also always available via a quick phone call, text message or email. I never truly turn off, which is a whole ‘nother conversation. But alas, just because I’m away from my desk, doesn’t mean I’m completely tuned out. Additionally, I think it’s important to be thoughtful about your choice of dates for time off. If you have a huge deadline or a busy season in your role, it’s probably not best to zip away without cell service for a week.
When he was Vice President, Joe Biden wrote a memo to his staff that has stuck with me to this day. I have it printed and hanging in my office, and often reference it with the people who work in my office. As Joe said, family comes first:
To My Wonderful Staff,
I would like to take a moment and make something clear to everyone. I do not expect nor do I want any of you to miss or sacrifice important family obligations for work. Family obligations include but are not limited to family birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, any religious ceremonies such as first communions and bar mitzvahs, graduations and times of need such as an illness or loss in the family. This is very important to me. In fact, I will go so far as to say that if I find out you are working with me while missing important family responsibilities, it will disappoint me greatly. This has been an unwritten rule since my days in the Senate.
Thank you all for the hard work.
Ultimately the message here is this: I hope you all use your time off and don’t let guilt seep in. Go through the proper channels, get it approved by your boss, and soak up every moment of natural light, fresh air, new places or smiling family that you can. Work to live, not live to work.

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