Have you ever had a big event coming up, maybe a wedding or a specific holiday, and you were so excited for it. But then you felt a wave of anxiety when you submitted your request for time off, and you were wracked with such guilt that you could only semi-enjoy the occasion? You aren’t the only one. Far from it, in fact,  this study revealed that over 50 percent of Americans never use their paid-time off (PTO). When broken down further that is over 700 million unused vacation days annually. That means over 50 percent of the working class in our country are not giving themselves permission to attend social gatherings, celebrate religious days or holidays or even to simply rest and recharge. There are many different reasons why someone would choose not to take advantage of the PTO they’re granted by their employer. In this article, we’re going to specifically focus on those who avoid or procrastinate requesting time off due to guilt.

Identifying the root of your guilt

It’s important to identify the source of your guilt so that you can discern if the guilt you’re feeling is truly warranted. It may be the result of what psychologists call irrational fears, meaning, they aren’t actually based in reality. Here in the U.S., “hustle culture” is very much the norm; consistently accruing long hours of overtime and taking little-to-no time off. Being a workaholic, hitting burnout, experiencing chronic work-related stress and anxiety is fairly standard in our society — and surviving on unhealthy amounts of coffee, sugar and fast food is all too popular. Since these habits are so deeply ingrained in our work culture, many people experience being shamed by their coworkers, or worse, their boss, for taking a vacation. Even for simply choosing to use some of their PTO “for no reason” except to take time away from the office and rest. Some people might feel as if they’re abandoning their responsibilities or their team if they take advantage of their PTO. Others worry that they’ll be replaced or work will pile up in countless unmanageable ways. If you feel anxious or a sense of guilt when requesting time off, it’s important to recognize where that guilt is coming from so you’ll know exactly how to challenge it.

Strategies for overcoming guilt

Vacation days, sick days, family leave days, they’re all given to you by your employer because you’re meant to use them. Everyone, at some point deserves time off.  In certain fields and work environments it’s very common for people to feel guilty for taking a few days to even a couple weeks off of work. Arguably, it’s even more important for them to do so. Regardless of your career field, employment level or role, you deserve and need time off. Here are our top four strategies to eliminate guilt when requesting time off:

1. Realize that PTO is not a favor

Some people feel guilty for taking time off because they think doing so will make the boss think they’re not a dedicated worker or fulfilling their duties. PTO is not, however, a favor you humbly ask and that you’ll have to make up to your supervisor later on. PTO is part of your work contract, it’s a part of your salary, and it’s going to exist whether you use it or not. So use it!

2. Understand everyone needs a break

Even your boss takes a vacation at some point. Taking time off is necessary for optimal functionality and productivity as it will allow you to rest, relax, and recharge.

3. Set up an auto-responder email

Nothing ruins a good vacation like checking your work email. Instead of torturing yourself by allowing that new email “ding” to remain unchecked, set up an auto-responder email that will not only mute incoming emails, but save you the trouble of worrying about responding.

4. Give notice in advance

Being sure to give your supervisor plenty of time in advance about your PTO can help them ensure the office remains balanced after you leave. Instead of feeling badly that you might be causing the deterioration of the workplace, you can relax on your time off, knowing you did everything within your responsibility to promote stability. For the sake of your own mental and physical health, it’s important to take advantage of your PTO and truly detach from work so that you can genuinely rest, relax, and enjoy your time off.

Contact us for additional support

Here at Mazzitti & Sullivan, we’re here to help make sure you feel completely valid and confident in requesting PTO, even if it’s simply to rest for a few days.  It’s time you give yourself permission to enjoy the PTO you’ve worked so hard to earn. To get started today, give us a call at 800-543-5080.
CONTACT US