Wednesday, October 5

9 busy people share best hacks for making the most of vacation time


Americans are notorious for not taking a break. The average US worker took less than 12 days of vacation in 2021 — six fewer than the global average — according to Expedia’s latest Vacation Deprivation study of 14,500 working adults across 16 countries.

Yet an overwhelming majority of workers say taking vacations makes them feel more patient and motivated when they’re back on the job.

With the summer travel season underway, CNBC Make It spoke with executives, VPs and senior leaders with impossibly busy schedules about how they hack their PTO, from scheduling it in advance, to logging off the grid, to what they include (and don’t include) in their out-of-office messages.

Here’s how to maximize your PTO like a corporate VIP.

Plan your vacations in January

Turns out, returning to work after the winter holidays is a great time to start planning your next vacation.

Kim Jones, PwC’s talent strategy and people experience leader, spends every January thinking about her travel plans for the rest of the year. She even keeps a spreadsheet and breaks up her PTO yearly into quarters.

You don’t have to put in your PTO requests right then and there, but it’s a good mental practice to pace yourself so you don’t end up with three weeks to use up in December.

Be intentional, otherwise “the next thing you know, it’s been four or five or six months and you haven’t taken a day off,” Jones says. “There’s always going to be stuff to do and we’re always busy.”

It can be a big morale boost, she adds: “Having a planned vacation really helps with your mindset as you’re going through those demanding times.”

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Have a pre- and post-vacation meeting

Don’t include your phone number in your OOO

Use Slack to disconnect from work

Slack is great for getting work done in a more flexible way, but it can also make it harder to disconnect. Rod Garcia, Slack’s senior director of engineering, has a few hacks for using the platform to improve your vacation.

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First, instead of a traditional OOO email, Garcia updates his status two weeks in advance with details about his upcoming vacation. This way, his note from him will appear anywhere his name from him pops up in channels and direct messages.

When messages come in right before his vacation time, he’ll set Slack to remind him to follow up on it when he’s back. And when he’s off the clock, Garcia will update his status icon, mark his return date and set a “do not disturb” schedule so he doesn’t get pinged on his phone.

Log off social media, while you’re at it

Don’t read the emails you get on vacation, even after you’re back

Taking a break from work is great, but returning to a full inbox isn’t.

This year, Desiree Pascual, chief people officer at Headspace Health, decided to save herself the trouble and convey in her OOO message: “I am currently on vacation, and I will not review any emails that come in while I’m away, including after I get back.”

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Instead, she expects anyone who really needs to get in touch will do so once she’s back.

Maintain boundaries when people interrupt your PTO

Keep your return date to yourself

Have a vacation accountability buddy


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