Last week I was sitting in my home office engulfed in my quarantined solitude. I’m not sure how long I just stared blankly at my fingers frozen on the keyboard.
I had a deadline looming, but I had nothing. My mind was blank. I was depressed and annoyed by the rain beating on the window. Again. Then my mind started ping-ponging around the loads of laundry piling up, parts of my body that ached, bills that had to be paid, dogs that needed attention, or the fact every room in the house needed a really good deep cleaning.
I pulled myself up from my uncomfortable remote-office chair for a change of scenery. I did some stretching, walked around my dusty house a bit, stared at the lush green of my well-watered lawn, gave the dogs a few pats on the head, and then decided to make some cookies. Getting the blood flowing through my body then adding a bit of sugar didn’t pull me up out of my funk.
It was 2 p.m. on a Tuesday. And I only knew the day because my phone told me so. Are anyone else’s days blurring together?
“You need a vacation,” my parents and friends have lovingly suggested. Sure I do, but have you heard of COVID-19?
To take PTO or to not take PTO, that is the question
The past two months have been busier than ever at Apex. As co-bearers of the burdens employers feel every day to care for their employees, Apex employees are consumed by the mission to be helpful. Whether we’re on the front lines of interacting daily with clients or not, everyone at Apex plays a vital role in helping our customers through this constantly changing situation that’s affecting the lives of people and livelihoods of businesses.
Now consider balancing work demands with the many personal and professional aspects of working remotely (home schooling, sharing office space with the spouse, feeling the utter lonesomeness of it all), and, “It’s a lot” is the best I can say to describe how I feel today.
So, is now really the right time to “take time off?” If I’m being honest, in many ways, it seems selfish.
Yet after some soul searching, the answer for me is, “yes.” I can’t help anyone to the best of my abilities unless I first help myself. It’s been a wearisome couple of months and there’s no time like the present to renew my focus on my own physical and mental health.
Ditch the guilt, embrace the time off
Why do so many of us feel guilty for taking time off, especially when work is extra busy? Certainly, COVID-19 has changed things for many companies and many employees. If you’re blessed like me, however, to have a generous amount of PTO available to you – and you’re not using it – here’s a dose of reality:
- Hard Truth No. 1: Your boss wants you to use your vacation time and actually prefers you do so. How much time is in your PTO bucket? If your company is similar to Apex, employees stop accruing time when they reach a pre-set cap and then start losing the time they’ve worked so hard to earn. Leaders know that happy employees equal happy customers, so take the time you need to be the best version of yourself possible.
- Hard Truth No. 2: Your coworkers just might appreciate you more; they’ll appreciate your refreshed demeanor when you return. We all can benefit from the renewed vigor a coworker feels after a break and their enthusiasm can be contagious. Additionally, in your absence, their individual levels of confidence and team bond might grow stronger as they work to tackle items outside their normal day-to-day responsibilities.
- Hard Truth No. 3: You’re not irreplaceable. None of us are. Now in the long term, we all bring unique skills and abilities to the table. I’d certainly like to think that replacing me with someone just like me is impossible. But with preparation and perhaps some proactive cross-training, your managers and coworkers can pick up any slack in the short term as you recharge and relax.
So, in a perfect non-coronavirus world, in my time off I’d feel the sun beating down on my face and the coolness of my feet dug snugly in the soft white sand of the Gulf of Mexico. Cocktails are in the cooler next to me and I have a book to pretend to read as I listen to the waves crashing on the beach.
Next week though, as I take the entire holiday week off for much needed rest and relaxation, I won’t be sipping a margarita on the beach. That day will come. For now, I’ll likely stay local. And I’ll also be setting a good example for my team in using my PTO, enjoying my friends and family from a safe distance and – most importantly – re-fueling my soul.
I deserve that vacation and I deserve the time off. So do you. Please enjoy your holiday weekend and take time to focus on your own physical and mental health needs.