A very interesting phenomenon happens this time of year in the corporate world, as people try to use up their “carryover” vacation time – time that they weren’t able to use in the previous year when it was allocated. Most of us get a set allotment of Paid Time Off (“PTO”) each year, and it usually must cover any reason that a person needs to take off, such as vacation, illness, parent-teacher conferences, etc. In some cases, employers allow unused vacation time to be “carried over” into the next year, and it usually needs to be used by a certain date or it is forfeited. In my company, that “use it or lose it” date is March 15.
Kathy & I tend to think of carryover PTO in the same way we think about leftover wine or saving for our kids’ inheritance. “Why would we do that?” 😉 We use every day our employers give us and would gladly take more if we could, whether paid or unpaid. And we never have any trouble using it. The trouble comes when we have to strategize over how to get our travel done in the time we’re allotted. We’re always coming up short!
The “phenomenon” I spoke of is that all those people who couldn’t figure out how to use their PTO time during last year are suddenly inspired to use it all up in the first few months of this year. We’ve got people taking off Fridays and Mondays in January, February and part of March, and a few of them actually manage to take whole weeks off. In some cases these are the same people who managed to be off for two whole weeks at the end of the year just to get their carryover “down” to the amount that they could actually carry over. I’ve offered to help people with travel planning but for some reason no one ever takes me up on it! 🙂
The downside for me is that I often end up being asked to cover for the people who are off. And since managers are generally among the people who are impacted, the usual limits on the number of people who can be off at any one time are largely waived. And we’re generally busier this time of year than we are in other parts of the year, so there is more work to do then there is, say, over the Christmas holiday. But for the most part I don’t mind, because I always feel like I’ve gotten the most out of my time when I’ve taken it. And I certainly wouldn’t want to be off over the Christmas & New Year holidays – it’s a lousy time to travel, you can’t go anywhere because everyone who is off work is out shopping, and then I wouldn’t have that time to use when I want it!
Now I don’t intend to make fun of or condemn people for this. In a number of cases there are good reasons and it is completely justified, as in they have to save days for child care, their personal situations (money, health, caring for another, etc.) require that they hold back time or other reasons. The sad thing is that a lot of people don’t actually manage to do anything with their time off. They just do whatever it is they usually do on a weekend, they just do it longer. Maybe I just don’t get it, but like with a lot of things I just like my way better. And as long as other peoples’ way works for them, it’s nothing for me to get worked up over. But I do admit to a certain amount of smug satisfaction when I sit at my desk in March and think about all the fun things I’m going to do with my own PTO. And I have plenty of work to do so the time goes faster!