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PTO – Worth It?

PTO (aka – vacation, time off, holidays)

Is It Worth the Cost?!

I realize that this question sounds like heresy to many, if not most of you. But I have had this conversation many, many times with many different people and it always ends up with some commentary about was the time off worth the pre and post-Hell that we deal with in order to pull off the time off.

The “pre-Hell” usually is about prepping clients and colleagues that you’ll be off and trying to get a ton of stuff done before you leave to minimize the disruption to the business while you’re out.

The “post-Hell” is sorting through the zillion emails that came in, responding to the ones that need a response (with the standard “sorry for the delay, was on PTO” disclaimer), filing the other ones, and doing your best to catch up on any work assigned while you were out.

Sure, it’s OK to be late on that work since you were out, but that work doesn’t go away because you were out and you still have your normal routine of work as well. So it’s like double work for a while really.

And yes, people understand you were on PTO when you respond late, but they still need a response – you can’t just ignore anything that came in while you were gone.


(Sidetrack = ON)

I love this article from 2017 about Daimler allowing an “autodelete” option while you are on PTO. The summary is this:  “If you email a Daimler employee who is on vacation, you will get a three-option response letting you know that your email will be deleted, that you have the option to email a colleague if it’s an emergency or you can email again once the employee has returned to work.”

Holy s**t I love this option but would likely be terminated if I did that. Not surprised this was in Germany – I don’t see if flying in the US.

Click HERE for that full article

(Sidetrack = OFF)


Let’s make this an easy math formula to keep things simple:

  • X amount of work before PTO (aka – pre-Hell)
  • Y amount of work after PTO (aka – post-Hell)
  • Z amount of benefit from PTO

What is comes down to is this:

Is Z > X + Y ??

Deep stuff there I realize and all of it is entirely subjective so impossible to measure, but that’s what it really comes down to. Are the benefits of time off worth the “cost” of taking that time off?

I would say sometimes yes, and sometimes no, but there are also a ton of variables, especially related to the benefit of the time off:

  • Were you really “off” while you were gone or still on calls and checking email
  • Just you taking time or family as well? Kids? Ages?
  • How long were you gone?
  • How well did you prepare (pre-Hell)?
  • How much support do you have at work (colleagues, manager, etc)?

I’ll be honest, I usually work a “little bit” while on PTO. Only responding to urgent things and keeping my inbox as clean as possible – trying to delegate where I can. I personally find I can do this early in the AM with little to no disruption to family plans and it makes the “post-Hell” much less painful. I’m sure some people think that’s insane, but that’s OK – you need to find the balance that works for you.

So what does your pre and post-Hell look like? Is PTO always worth it?