Making the Most of Your PTO Policy

Industry Resources
Make the Most of Your PTO

You may have noticed an uptick in your colleagues’ “out of office” messages as summer gets into full swing. While offering paid time off isn’t required by law in the United States, many companies offer some kind of vacation package that employees can take advantage of. However, there are some surprising statistics that indicate that just because American workers have access to PTO packages, doesn’t necessarily mean they are making the most of their available time off.

According to Forbes, the average American receives 11 days of paid vacation per year, but much of that time isn’t taken at all. A whopping 765 million vacation days go unused by American employees, and just over 52% of workers surveyed reported that when they do take time off, they wind up working anyway while out on PTO.

Why do employees feel the need to take less time off than they are entitled to, or work while they’re supposed to be resting or enjoying their vacation? According to a study by Pew Research, the most common reasons for not taking PTO include worrying about falling behind at work, feeling guilty for saddling co-workers with their responsibilities, or fear of losing their job. Thus, employees tend to keep working when they shouldn’t, potentially leading to burnout and performance problems that otherwise could have been avoided with some well-deserved R&R.

Why You Should Take Time Off

If you’ve been hesitant to utilize your PTO, you can rest assured that taking adequate time off from work is actually a good thing for your job performance. When you step away from the office and take time to recharge, it can stave off feelings of burnout and improve both your mental and physical health. Reducing stress can lower levels of cortisol in your body, preventing you from developing a whole host of stress-related health problems, including anxiety/depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, and issues with memory function and sleep. Keeping yourself healthy will ensure that you’re better prepared to tackle work challenges that come your way.

So, you’ve decided you need to put in a PTO request. But just the act of taking time off isn’t enough to really get the rest and relaxation you need. Fortunately, there are some simple strategies you can use to make the most of your time away from the office. Here’s our quick three-step guide to successfully disconnect so you can make the most of your PTO policy.


Before you clock out for your vacation, make sure your projects and responsibilities will be in a good place when you return. The last thing you want is to come back to the office after some time away and immediately spend a few days putting in overtime to catch up.           

If you have projects that can be wrapped up before you leave, focus on the tasks that will get those projects across the finish line. For responsibilities that can’t be completed before your time off, but can’t wait until you return, seek out co-workers who you can handle your tasks while you’re gone. Don’t feel guilty about asking for help; chances are your co-workers may also have vacations on the horizon and you can return the favor by taking on some of their tasks in exchange.

Finally, for anything that may come up while you’re away, designate a point-of-contact—such as your manager—to keep tabs on your communications for anything urgent. If it can wait until you return, your point-of-contact can set expectations with the customer, client, or co-worker, so you don’t have to worry about responding to emails while you’re taking time off.


With your in-office preparations complete and your vacation time underway, the next most important thing you can do to make the most of your PTO is to disconnect. In our 24-7 connected world, it can be incredibly tempting to check your emails or work chats when you’re supposed to be relaxing. In fact, most people give in to the temptation—a 2019 study found that 66% of respondents checked their email at least “sometimes” when on vacation, and 42% of respondents checked their email every day!       

If you find your fingers twitching with the urge to open your inbox when you shouldn’t, don’t give yourself the opportunity to be tempted. Turn off notifications for your work email when you’re out of the office or delete the email app entirely from your device. You can do the same thing with chat apps, like Slack or Microsoft Teams, if you find yourself checking in when you’re supposed to be relaxing. Set your status as “out of office” and make an autoreply to your incoming emails that you’re out of office and when you’ll be back to answer communications you may have missed. Try not to worry about missing anything; your point-of-contact should be able to manage urgent issues for you, and your inbox and chats will still be there when you return.

Make Time for Yourself

Finally, if deleting your apps and turning off notifications isn’t enough to keep your mind off work, filling your time off with rejuvenating activities should be. The key to maximizing your PTO is to spend your time doing things you enjoy, especially activities that fill your proverbial cup and leave you feeling refreshed and relaxed.

Take a family vacation, indulge in a hobby, or spend time exploring your own city. Meet up with friends or family that you don’t get to see often due to your work schedule. If a staycation is more your style, then sleep in, read a good book, or catch up on that TV show you’ve been meaning to watch. The possibilities for your time off are endless.             

The Perfect Work-Life Balance Begins Here

At LCS, we offer a generous PTO policy that we encourage our employees to take advantage of whenever they need it. Voted a Top Workplace in Cincinnati for 13 years and counting, we understand that happy employees are the secret to a successful company.

If you’re looking for a new position in an organization that values our employees’ work-life balance, look no further than LCS. To join us, check out our open positions and apply with us today.