Another pandemic-hampered year is almost officially in the books, and we’ve all had to adjust our work and personal schedules accordingly. Throughout all of this, many people have failed to notice a beloved commodity of employment slowly starting to build as the days, weeks, and months passed: Paid time off (PTO). The days that we cherish and try to place as strategically as possible on our calendar have in a way gone overlooked. What’s the point of tapping into your unused vacation days if there isn’t much to do or if your employer allows you to work from anywhere?
Wrong. If you’re fortunate enough to have PTO days, then use them. For one thing, there’s a good chance your company policy won’t let you roll unused days over into the next fiscal year. And if they do, it’s definitely not going to be all of those days you’ve amassed. Secondly, time off from work is a necessity for all professionals. The ability to take a step back from your everyday responsibilities is healthy for your mental and physical states. Not taking advantage of these opportunities to remove yourself from your work is a misdeed against yourself. Lastly, you’ve earned the days. Use them because they are there to be used! Read also: How To Avoid Burnout While Working From Home
Now, back to the “I can’t think of anything to do” problem. It’s only a problem if you want it to be. There are certainly a few ways you can safely enjoy your unused vacation days. And if you can’t think of any off the top of your head, here’s five that should get you started:
Unplugged: featuring You
You can say you’ll unplug from your work number and e-mail when you’re on vacation. But can you really do that if you’re home? Yes, you can and you should. Take a PTO day where you remove yourself from all sorts of contact. To ensure you can relax, give your boss and coworkers a heads up and finish all tasks that require your immediate attention before the big day. If you want to go even further, put your cell phone on silent, turn off the TV, and just rid yourself of the sensory overload of today’s world. You’ll appreciate how quiet it can be.
Get on up
You might not be able (or comfortable enough) to get on a flight, but you sure can get up off the couch and venture outside. Before the thick of winter is upon us, get out and be active. Use your days off to go for bike rides, check out some hiking trails, or even have an adventure around your neighborhood that you normally wouldn’t take. The key is to be as far away from anything that would be considered work and do anything and everything that would be considered PTO.
Explore for eats
Local businesses, especially those in the food industry, have had an uphill battle throughout the pandemic. That’s why it’s important to support these eateries any way we can and what better way than a food tour of your neighborhood and beyond. Whether you walk, run, bike, or drive, set up a journey for yourself to satisfy cravings and expand your palate. Is there a favorite spot you love for bagels? Great! Breakfast is settled. Missing that sushi you used to have every other week? Walk on over for lunch. What about that restaurant you’ve been wanting to try? Make a reservation and pass on by. Doing things like this and being creative with your unused vacation days is fun. Not to mention, it’s simpler than actually deciding what to get off a menu. (Advice: get it all. Treat yourself!)
Rekindle and recreate
PTO goes hand in hand with friendships and vacations. The lack of interaction with your buddies early on might have taken a toll, but safer avenues have arisen in the last few months that allow us to see and enjoy each other’s company. With the weather permitting, coordinate with friends and plan a day off where you all hang and partake in fun activities. Go on a hike together, explore your neighborhood, or do the food tour! To each their own, but do it together! And if you can’t get over the vacation you were supposed to take, recreate it. Decorate your home. Dress the part. Eat the way you would’ve. Now, don’t go overboard and fill your entire living room up with sand because you want your Caribbean staycation to be authentic. Just go far enough that you’ll forget about work for the day and truly enjoy your PTO as best as possible.
Home for the holidays
One of the biggest concerns throughout the pandemic is the effect it has on those with preexisting conditions as well as the elderly population. Families have gone months or even a year without seeing their parents and grandparents because of concerns about spreading the virus or any variants. With holidays on the horizon and the need for the normalcy of the annual gatherings at an all-time high, maybe it’s best to hold off and save some of the days you have so that you can spend the time with your family safely. First and foremost, get a jumpstart and make sure your days don’t conflict with any of your coworkers by putting them in ASAP. Once you coordinate with your family so that it’s feasible, quarantine appropriately beforehand and, once the holidays roll around, venture on home to spend it with the family. If there’s any reason to have a stockpile of unused vacation days, this is as good as it gets.
Read also: Have Extra Vacation Days? 4 Ways To Manage A Time Off Request