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How much PTO should I take?

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Mid-Level Software Engineer at Taro Community8 months ago

I have unlimited PTO at my company, but I'm not sure how much I can/should reasonably take. Any advice on this? How much do you take?



  • 24
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    Entry-Level Software Engineer at Qualtrics
    8 months ago

    Hi, I hope you're well! Thanks for asking this question!

    It's great that you have the flexibility of unlimited PTO at your company, but I understand the dilemma you're facing right now. Deciding how much PTO to take can be a bit tricky with this type of policy.

    Here are some of the top considerations / actions to take when thinking about taking PTO.

    1. Understand your company culture: Don't follow this too strictly, but just looking at your company's norms and how often formally/informally people take time off, should help give you an idea.

    2. Plan PTO around your workload: I try to plan my PTO in advance for every quarter planning so that I don't take time off during critical times, and so that my manager also is aware. This will also help you out because you can realistically set expectations including the time off.

    3. Maintain Balance: Prioritize your mental heath. If you don't feel well, let your manager know and take some time off.

    4. Avoid Burnout: Don't hesitate to take time off when needed to prevent burnout. This hasn't happened to me yet, but I know several people who have fully revitalized by just taking a week or two off.

    PS: Please keep in mind that these are just my personal approaches, and they've served me well. I'm open to hearing other suggestions as I'd like to learn more about this topic!

  • 12
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    Engineer @ Robinhood
    8 months ago

    Generally there's an unspoken limit of 16 days, but how strictly unspoken limits are enforced are highly dependent on the company culture around PTO (e.g. if everyone else is taking 20 days off a year, you should too) and your current performance in the company (if you're at least meeting expectations, PTO is less scrutinized). Your manager and your teammates would likely have a pretty good pulse on this, so I'd look to ask them to guage more specifics.

  • 26
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    8 months ago

    "Unlimited" PTO is one of the biggest conundrums in the industry (and it's often a scam sadly to save the company money). There are 2 types of companies with this kind of PTO policy:

    1. Companies that (ironically) want to limit PTO - For them, unlimited PTO translates to "your manager can (and will) block most of your PTO requests". People in these companies tend to take a below market rate of PTO, which is 5-12 days per year (on top of holidays) in the US.
    2. Companies that are legitimately chill and flexible - For these companies, they understand that a standard 10-20 day PTO allowance may not be enough due to a person's personal circumstances. People in these companies tend to take an above market rate of PTO, which is 20-45 days (on top of holidays) in the US.

    Figure out which bucket your company falls into by observing the vibe, taking note of how much PTO your teammates take, and understanding the disposition of your manager.

    If your company is bucket #1, you should honestly probably leave.

    If your company is in bucket #2, just request whatever PTO you need, especially if you're feeling tinges of burnout. This will work better if your manager is good and you're a solid to high performer as Jonathan mentioned.

    Here's some other great discussions around work-life balance in general:

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    Senior Leadership @ Meta | Mentor | Coach | Tech Advisor
    2 months ago

    Having unlimited PTO sounds like a dream, but it often leaves employees unsure about how much time off is reasonable to take. Here are some tips to consider when deciding on the amount of PTO to take:

    1. Understand Company Culture: The first step is to understand the culture around taking time off in your company. Look at what others do, especially those at your level or in your team. If there's a general trend or an unwritten rule about the average days people take, aim for that as a baseline.

    2. Performance and Workload: Consider your workload and performance. If you're meeting or exceeding expectations and you manage your workload effectively, taking time off when needed shouldn't be an issue. Ensure your projects are in a good state or covered during your absence.

    3. Communication and Planning: Communicate with your manager or team about your PTO plans well in advance. Discussing your plans helps ensure that your time off doesn't disrupt the team's workflow and shows that you're proactive about maintaining productivity.

    4. Use It Strategically: Use PTO not just for vacations but also for personal development, rest, and mental health. Spreading your days off throughout the year can help prevent burnout.

    5. Look at Industry Standards: While "unlimited" suggests there's no upper limit, the average PTO in the U.S. (including sick and personal days) ranges from 2 to 4 weeks per year. Use this as a rough benchmark if you're unsure.

    Remember, the goal of unlimited PTO policies is to offer flexibility and promote a healthy work-life balance. It's important to use it in a way that benefits your health and well-being.

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    Senior Software Engineer at Upstart
    a day ago

    Ask your team and org-mates. Try to take less PTO than average within your org, while at the same time encouraging the org culture to informally adopt a healthy minimum time off policy.

    I encourage team leads to advocate for informal mandatory minimum time off in their org. This is one of the tactics I used at Upstart to improve our org culture! I encouraged 1 week per quarter in particular, although I'm not sure this is empirically optimal. It just felt like "a significant amount" and people bought in.

    Bonus points if you can get a Director+ to announce agreement at an all hands!