Why You Should Take PTO, Even While Working From Home

As work-life boundaries continue to blur, taking a break is more important than ever before.

G-Stock Studio / Shutterstock
G-Stock Studio / Shutterstock

Just because you are working from home, as so many of us are during the coronavirus pandemic, doesn’t mean you can’t take time off. In fact, setting aside time to unplug from work, if you are able, can be particularly beneficial now, given the unique stresses and challenges of these times

For many of us, PTO days are often associated with a vacation — time away from the office, and typically away from the home, to recharge. But now, with our homes doubling as our workplaces, and as we continue to social distance, traveling to a new destination simply isn’t in the cards. You might think that means taking a break isn’t an option — but think again.

If you do have paid time off, now may be a good time to take it. The shift to remote work has made work-life integration more difficult due to decreased boundaries between office and home — not to mention the additional stress and anxiety we’re experiencing due to the global pandemic. And after all, working longer days can lead to burnout and disengagement from our work. Taking time away from the “office” — whether that means logging off a few hours early, or embracing a full-blown “staycation” — can help us tune into ourselves, and afterward, tune into our work with greater motivation and focus. 

Research has shown time and time again that stepping away from our work helps us recharge. A 2018 American Psychological Association survey on work and well-being found that nearly 70% of workers experienced an increase in positive mood and energy after taking vacation time, and about 60% felt more productive. Simply taking breaks throughout the workday, or psychologically detaching from work tasks in the evening, have also been shown to boost employees’ mood, morale, and ability to meet work demands. “Organizations that understand their role in facilitating employee recovery, and that encourage their employees to leverage work breaks for the purpose of recharging and unwinding, will benefit from a workforce that is healthy, energized, and ready to work,” Charlotte Fritz, Ph.D., and her research team write in Organizational Dynamics

If you’re a manager navigating a team during this coronavirus crisis, taking some time off and scheduling breaks on your calendar can serve as a twofold leadership strategy: It will give you the opportunity to recharge, while also normalizing the practice among your direct reports. Take a look at these Microsteps that will help you lead by example and make moments of recovery, both long and short, a staple in your team’s remote work routine. 

In your next team meeting, tell your direct reports how you’re taking care of yourself

If you step away from your computer each afternoon for a walk or plan to take a day off to unplug and recharge, sharing this will normalize these important breaks, and open conversation for your direct reports to share what they’re doing to prioritize their own well-being. 

Take a few minutes today and choose an upcoming date to take PTO.

Taking time away from “the office” can boost your energy, mood, and productivity when you return. 

Identify a date within the next week when you can sign off early.

It’ll give you the opportunity to recharge, while also normalizing the practice among your reports.

Declare an end to the day, even if you haven’t completed your to-do list.

In any leadership position, it’s almost impossible to do all you could have done in any one day. Effectively prioritizing means being comfortable with incompletions and taking the time to recharge, so you’ll return to work the next day ready to seize opportunities. You’ll also set the example that it’s OK — and actually, encouraged — to set boundaries. 

Whenever a call ends early, or when you get up to use the restroom, take an extra two minutes for a stretch break. 

You can use that time productively by reinvigorating yourself with movement and taking a few moments to reset. 

Working From Home in the New Normal is a data-driven storytelling initiative from SAP and Thrive Global, bringing together insights powered by the Qualtrics Remote Work Pulse with actionable Microsteps and stories from Thrive to help you navigate working from home. Visit daily for the latest data and stories to help improve your focus, prioritization, and well-being.

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