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How to Take PTO During the Holidays Without Feeling Guilty

Updated: Aug 26, 2023

With the holiday season just around the corner, you may be experiencing higher stress levels than usual. Not only is there planning, shopping, and cooking to do, but there's also the logistics of trying to take time off from work.

Some employees experience guilt about taking their rightfully-earned PTO, while others simply dread the messages they know will pile up in their inboxes during their vacation. Today, we're going to explore how to take time off guilt-free around the holidays — and make sure that you're actually able to enjoy the break.

Be As Proactive As Possible

One way to decrease your PTO stress is to communicate to your employees, clients, and co-workers far in advance about how much vacation time you'll be taking around the holidays. Communication is key. Send an all-day calendar reminder of your vacation to everyone affected by your absence (subordinates, co-workers, etc), giving them a chance to reach out or ask questions before you unplug.

Planning your vacation in advance also allows you ample time to pass off any work that needs to get done while you're out. You may feel like the only way to ensure that something gets done 100% to your satisfaction is to do it yourself. However, the most effective leaders are able to delegate tasks. Not only does it allow you to take a much-deserved break, but it also provides your team with an opportunity to build their skills.

The pros of being proactive also apply to your life outside of work! Book that holiday travel train or flight far in advance so you know exactly when you'll need to leave work and when you'll be back.

Be Clear in Your OOO (Out of Office) Email

Many people don't use OOO messages unless they're going away for a week or longer. Even if you're only going to be away for a day or two, OOO messages let people know that there might be a delay in your response. It cuts back on the likelihood of people sending follow-up emails before you've even seen their first message.

If you're someone who receives a deluge of emails on a daily basis that you don't really need to read (maybe you're on a department-wide distribution list, for example), let people know in your away message that they should wait until you're back to send you important emails. This will allow you to delete emails that pile up while you're away without worrying that you might miss something important.

It's also a good idea to set clear expectations of how available you'll be while on vacation in the OOO email. If you'll be totally unreachable, say so. If co-workers can call you in the event of an emergency, note that. If you have someone who people can reach out to in your absence, mention that as well.

Set Boundaries for Yourself and Stick to Them

You may not be able to get everything on your to-do list done before you log off for your holiday vacation. The reality is that work never ends, but there are decent stopping points. Set a clear stopping point for yourself and then hold yourself to it! Allow yourself to relax as the year winds down. Remember, work will still be there when you return from vacation.

If you're a manager or supervisor and you struggle with delegating, now is a good time to practice that skill. Entrust an employee with a project and do your best to put it out of your hands and enjoy your break.

What to Do If Taking Holiday PTO Feels Impossible

If using your PTO feels impossible, there should be a good reason. Did you not give enough notice? Is your peer also out that week or at a work conference? Is your team in the middle of a busy period?

The reality is that there might never be a "perfect" time to take a vacation — that doesn't mean you shouldn't take one. We all need and deserve breaks.

Connect with your team or consider discussing ideas and options with an HR professional if you run into challenges using your much-deserved vacation time.

Remember, the best way to use your PTO is to be proactive and communicative. That applies to all roles in the company!

Final Thoughts

Learning how to take time off without guilt or stress can be challenging. If you struggle with setting healthy boundaries with work or if you think you might be experiencing burnout, consider scheduling a free breakthrough call with me today.

As a burnout coach, I help people live up to their highest potential without compromising their mental health or values. 'Tis the season to invest in your most valuable asset — yourself! Book a consultation call with me to start enjoying PTO without guilt or overwhelm.



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