Photo courtesy of Toa Heftiba
It might be time to hit “do not disturb” on your phone. If you have paid time off, you’ll want to use it wisely. PTO covers everything from personal days to sick days and vacation days—and no, they’re not all the same.
Vacation days are either specified upfront or accrued over time; oftentimes, the longer you’re at a company, the more vacation days you’ll receive. Sick days tend to be given by employers but are not required by law. They’re to be used when you’re dealing with the flu, having surgery, or at a doctor’s appointment. Personal days, in contrast, are meant for personal reasons—family emergencies, side-hustle projects, self-care, or big moves.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 43 percent of civilian workers (non-private industry and non-government) had access to paid personal leave in 2017. You should have PTO, but even if you don’t, you still might need to take a personal day to avoid burnout, which 23 percent of employees say they experience often or always according to a Gallup study.
There are so many benefits to taking time off from work. Here are six reasons why you should schedule a personal day as soon as possible:
1. Get some rest and recuperation
Burning the candle at both ends will burn you out. Chronic workplace stress is a serious problem that thousands of Americans are facing. Slowing down isn’t just a benefit to your work; it’s necessary for your overall mental health. If you take a personal day, make the most of the time. Read a book, sleep in, go for a long walk, take a yoga class, catch up on your favorite TV show, and/or meet a friend for coffee. Whatever you do, don’t check your email.
2. Take care of personal responsibilities
Been meaning to get your oil changed? Are you behind on paying your bills, calling the credit company, or finishing your taxes? Taking a personal day to deal with the responsibilities of life can be a game-changer, especially if you’ve been working long hours and longer weeks. Maybe you need to go to the bank, buy a new bed, or run an errand. Being available between 9 and 5 is a luxury that is worth taking advantage of.
3. Realign your goals
It’s important to step back every so often to consider where you are, where you want to be, and how you plan to get there. Using a personal day to refocus on you is always a good idea. Personal goals can range from buying a house to becoming VP of development. You can journal, create a vision board, make a list. Whatever you do, make the most of the time away from work. This is especially important for entrepreneurs and business owners who, because they work long hours, are at risk of depression and burnout.
4. Look for inspiration
It’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day and get lost in the monotony of work. If you’re feeling bored, uninspired, unmotivated, or mentally tapped out, it’s time for a personal day. Sciences has proven that slowing down can actually make you more creative, and scheduling regular time off can increase your happiness at work and make you more productive. Letting your mind wander and breaking from routine gives you the freedom to reconnect with the world, yourself, and your creative mindset, which benefits you and your employer.
5. Get your energy back
Workplace stress can impact your stress levels, your mood, your sleep, and yes, your energy. If you’re feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and in serious need of a break, take a personal day. Pull out your new cookbook and actually cook for yourself. Take a nap. Sign up for an exercise class. Head to the museum and get lost in art. When you exert energy, you get energy back.
6. Prioritize self-care
When’s the last time you enjoyed a spa day? Self-care can be physically and mentally beneficial. Taking a long, luxurious bath, getting a massage, meditating, or going to a therapist are just a few ideas. Here are more. Although self-care should be incorporated into your everyday routine, it’s something we easily neglect when we’re completing projects, fighting deadlines, and stressing about work expectations.
According to Harvard Business Review, SimpliFlying, a global aviation strategy firm, made its employees take time off by enforcing one week off every seven weeks, and if employees signed onto Slack, sent an email, or engaged with work, they were punished financially. After 12 weeks, creativity went up 33 percent, happiness levels rose 25 percent, and productivity increased 13 percent.
You’re given personal days for a reason and taking them can make you a better employee. Imagine that.