Time off, I'll miss you...
March 2, 2016 2:10 PM   Subscribe

Have you made this move, from a relatively large amount of time off from work to a good deal less?

I've taken a job in a corporate environment after years in an academic one. I'm happy about it in every way except that there's not much Personal Time Off (in this case, 25 days, and that includes sick, personal, and vacation days.) I've had uncounted sick time, 21 days of vacation, plus the usual holidays. This is 15 of all three.

I am a person who is very restored by time away from work, even if I love the work.

This isn't enough to make me not want the job, but I'd like some guidance on making this transition.

Have you made this move, from a relatively large amount of time off from work to a good deal less? Was it important to you? How did you navigate it?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Yep, did this some years ago, from freelancing to old-growth corporate. The trade-off for the lost free time is how much more free your free time is; since my clients didn't care where I was, I used to spend four months a year working from a cottage near the beach on Cape Cod, which I can't do any more and miss badly. But when I do take one of my three annual weeks off, I am literally in the wind – my wife and I rent a sailboat and cruise the Caribbean – which I could never do when I was freelancing and had to be available at any time to handle emergencies.
posted by nicwolff at 2:25 PM on March 2, 2016 [4 favorites]

I went from five weeks of PTO plus 10 holidays plus an extra week off between XMas and New Years' (so 40 days per year total), to three weeks of PTO, 5 sick days, and 8 holidays (so 28 days per year total). I know 12 days doesn't seem like a lot of difference, but that's two weeks more time on a beach, plus a couple of days to just call in when it's snowing or whatever. It's been 2.5 years and I am still chafing and I'm not sure I'll get used to it ever! We get another week at five years. Augh. So I have had to make trade-offs. Instead of taking a whole week off at a time, I take extended weekends. If it's a holiday week, I might add two days on to it to give me five whole days in a row (counting weekend days).

On the other hand, this job has a lot of daily freedom: My boss is in another state. No one cares what time I start my day. No one cares where I am physically, so I do two days per week minimum at home. I can squeeze in doctor visits, quick errands, other appointments into a workday, so at least I'm not losing PTO time there. Usually I just put in a little time at the end of the day to make it up — which I can do from home.

I'd look for opportunities like that if I were you. Can you work from home sometimes? That might be enough to break up the week. Ask how long before you get more time off, also. I am counting down the days, myself.
posted by clone boulevard at 3:04 PM on March 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I made the transition initially from (well there was one year in between at an irrelevant job, but ignore that) an academic job to corporate (agency) job. To be honest, it is the one thing I could never handle, and will probably never go back to, but....just some thoughts on things I *wish* I would have thought about (and didn't until I observed what other coworkers did), and the one thing that made it doable for me for x months/year.
  • Some people negotiate acceptable terms before they take the job, and I've seen some people negotiate either 1) I will have an extra week of vacation per wee and/or 2) I would like to take the job, but I take a yearly vacation to X for 3 weeks, I'd be willing to have that one week unpaid, but can't take the job unless...
  • What made the job okay for me was ....1) I went for projects that I wanted because...sure, you'll work like a dog, but at least strategically pick projects that get you where you want to go next job wise or career wise, or whatever and 2) I had a limited time plan (I knew that my industry used freelancers, so I made sure to grab the experience necessary to get there, and ...sucked it up for that year or two. tl;dr Some corporate jobs can and do work you like a dog, but you can get some control by asking for what you want work wise, so it is a little more tolerable?
  • I've seen some pple (and in the past, done the same) push back and say - okay, I worked 2 weeks straight, I need time for myself, and usually, a supervisor okays it and lets you walk out the door for 2 days or whatever. But it can be a small way of reclaiming time if you need it.
To be honest, in the long run, it wasn't worth it to me (it wasn't just loss of time, but the uncontrolled way that time was used - weekends, evenings, being on call- but that goes outside the question, so I'll leave it at that.) It doesn't mean it will be the same in your industry necessarily.
posted by Wolfster at 3:20 PM on March 2, 2016

I went from working for myself to working at a small company where I get ten days of sick, vacation, and holidays* combined. There's a lot that I love about this job...but I'm also someone who needs time away for restoration, and it is the #1 reason I'm looking for a new job.

I cope with it by guarding my weekends fiercely, and getting incredibly bitter when I need to do work-related stuff (like picnics and parties) on weekends. And mostly daydreaming about the next job, which will have a non-crummy vacation package.

*yeah, not personal days, but actual holidays, like Christmas.
posted by okayokayigive at 3:57 PM on March 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I went from Europe to Hong Kong for this job-- that meant going from 7 weeks paid vacation (which I was expected to take) and unlimited sick days to 3 weeks plus 2 sick days per month (and that's the "European" package for HK). To be honest, if it hadn't involved a big relocation, I'm not sure I would have done it since I really miss my long vacation in the summer.

My tradeoff is Hong Kong and many more national holidays than I had in Europe. So I take more long weekends enjoying my new surroundings, and try to make my weekends feel more like rest time by being rigorous about not working in the weekend.
posted by frumiousb at 3:58 PM on March 2, 2016

I was laid off from my previous job that gave about 5 weeks total PTO. The job I took after that had zero. Not even holidays. We could take as many days off as we needed but if you weren't in the office you weren't getting paid.

I didn't take any long vacations during the 3 years I was there. I might give myself a 3-day weekend every once in a while but taking the pay cut did not always feel worth it. The idea of working holidays was annoying but working holidays without overtime pay was infuriating.

The lack of PTO ended up being the main reason I left the job even though I thought I could handle it. I could come to terms with sacrificing money for a personal day, but the days that I had to call in because I was sick just built up so much resentment in me.

Unless I was absolutely desperate I would never go back to that situation. PTO is important.
posted by simplethings at 4:46 PM on March 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

Everyone else is really lucky because they've got way more vacation that I have but I have to agree, the transition is rough. My first job out of college had 18 PTO days plus a really flexible schedule , where I was out of the office most of the time and could fit in appointmentsome and even end the day early if I wanted. However, I hated that job and left for a job with more growth but also less vacation time. Now I have 10 days plus 3 sick/personal days. I must say those five days makes a huge difference. I never have the time to visit all my family or really travel like I'd like to, which is important to me. Plus I'm one of those people who needs time off to recharge my batteries and I really miss that time more than ever. In fact one of the easiest ways to lure me from my current job would be more vacation time and I'd take it in a heartbeat.
posted by CosmicSeeker42 at 4:47 PM on March 2, 2016

Many years ago I went from 4 weeks vacation at a university to 1 week at a small business, so you have my sympathy! Now I have 20 days combined PTO plus holidays and man it’s just never enough. I actually plan this out every year now, as much as it goes against my nature, and here’s my strategy:

Right from the get go I deduct 5 days from the total and forget about them, saving them for sickness, family emergencies etc (if you have kids, health issues, older parents needing assistance you might want to up the number of days). If nothing comes up I end up having extra days to take off during end of year holiday season.

I also immediately deduct the actual vacation I plan to take, usually a week plus a day or two. After this point I have 8-9 days.

I waste as little PTO as possible on life maintenance, making appointments for doctor, dentist, car, hair on Saturdays or evenings, and if that isn’t possible schedule far enough in advance to get early morning or late afternoon appointments.

I reserve a few free days that I can take off for no reason (mental health!), but whenever I’m inclined to use one I do a count in my head to decide whether it’s worth it to use it now or better to save it (this technique has gotten me out of bed on more mornings than I can count).

No matter how the year plays out, I try to have some days off near the end, otherwise the desperation for time off kicks in just when the new PTO is earned and it’s easy to burn it up.

I sometimes work long days and for many years I was grateful/desperate for the overtime but now I’m fortunate to be able to usually choose time off instead.

Even with planning though, life tends to happen. I've had years where all of my PTO has been spent with family illness, death, and other unexpected or expected events. Still, starting the year with a bit of a plan in place really does help.
posted by cilla at 7:39 PM on March 2, 2016

I did this and I really hated it. I went from working from home to working 8-5 in an office. I would not do it again unless it was for a company I loved.
posted by Marinara at 10:52 AM on March 3, 2016

I moved from a UK public sector job with 30 days vacation + 8 holiday days to a state job in Oregon with 15 days vacation + 10 holiday days + 3 personal days. (Sick days were unlimited in the UK but are accrued in the US - not an issue for me currently so I don't factor that in). So basically I have 2 weeks less time off than I did before I moved to the US.

Would I have done this voluntarily? Hell no. I just feel lucky that I have a job with decent (for America) vacation days.

I'm still trying to adjust. 2 weeks less is a massive adjustment. I'd love to take a week off to head back to the UK and hang out with my friends who I haven't seen for 2 years. We want to make a trip to Australia so my husband gets to see my country (given flight times and jet lag, there is no point in going for less than 3 weeks). I'm used to taking a day here and there for long weekends for weddings / short trips / moving house. All of that is now constrained by limited vacation days. It's "either/or" rather than "and".

And yes, I appreciate that while I feel shortchanged, I'm still one of the lucky ones - I have way more vacation days than most Americans.

Would I have made the decision that you did? Probably not.

How to adapt? I don't know, I haven't managed to do that yet. Looking forward to the responses!
posted by finding.perdita at 3:35 AM on March 4, 2016

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