• Unlimited PTO isn’t truly unlimited
  • Most organizations have informal limits for PTO
  • Enjoy your own PTO and ignore the BS
You’ve heard of these progressive start-up companies that offer crazy perks like free onsite daycare, free food and even free beer and wine after hours. It sure beats the lame free donuts at work that a lot of us get.

But there’s one work perk that rules them all.

Are you ready for this?

Unlimited vacation days.

No fucking way, right?!

Can you imagine disconnecting from work for a few months and still getting your normal salary?

That’d be incredible.

It’d be such a kick-ass work perk to be able to take extended vacations whenever you wanted. Just let your manager know that you’ll be out for the next few months.

You could take that trip overseas to that exotic tropical destination, explore all of Europe, head “down under” and check out Australia, venture deep into the Amazon, go on a wild safari or tour all of Asia.

The possibilities are endless when the traditional two-week limit is gone. It wouldn’t be a rushed affair. You could actually decompress and destress from work.

It sounds too good to be true, right?

Well, it kinda is.

Why Companies Offer Unlimited Vacation Days

Depending on what industry you work in, the demand for workers can vary.

In industries that are seasonal in nature, companies only need the labor for a short amount of time. So, the pay is higher than normal in-season but the work is not year-round. The demand is not consistent.

Companies that operate year-round in industries with razor-thin margins can barely stay competitive with the compensation they offer. And, in lower-skilled labor industries where there is ample labor, the compensation sucks.

On the other hand, in industries where margins are rich and the labor pool is tight, companies have the money to offer some crazy work perks to attract the talent they need.

It’s simple economics of labor supply and demand along with business margins.

This is why companies like Google, Apple and Facebook can offer some very attractive perks that supermarket chains can’t.

These tech giants have to offer crazy work perks to be able to attract and retain employees to keep their operations running. There’s a ton of critical grunt work that needs to be done.

The same can be said for well-funded start-ups too. These companies are desperate to build their team to get their business off the ground. And in order to do so, they use their investor funds to get the manpower they need.

At first, the perks were things like business casual every day, no more suit-n-tie bullshit. As other competitors did the same, there was no advantage.

So, companies had to up the stakes above each other to win the talent game.

This is how things like free onsite daycare, free food, free beer/wine, napping at work, remote options, flextime, etc. all emerged. It’s all meant to attract and retain talent.

And what’s more attractive to a worker than unlimited vacation, right?

It’s the ultimate benefit.

The other less-known hidden reason for offering unlimited PTO has to do with company financials.

In traditional vacation policies, depending upon state labor laws, some companies are required to pay out unused vacation days to employees. But, in an unlimited PTO format, there are no accumulated vacation days so the company doesn’t have to pay out for unused days.

Betcha didn’t know that.

Why Unlimited PTO Is A Bullshit Perk

Wouldn’t be nice to just go on a six-month vacation, come back all relaxed and work for a month and then head out on another six-month vacation?

It’s “unlimited PTO” right?

Well, the reality is that there are limits. It’s just not formalized or written down anywhere.

If you took a multi-month vacay and then came back and worked for only a few weeks and then left for a year-long sabbatical, you’d better be prepared for job loss ‘cause your ass is gonna get canned fast.

Companies that have unlimited PTO policies always have an unspoken rule or guideline on how many days or weeks you can take each year. At a minimum, it’s two weeks and in many cases, it’s three to fours weeks. And in some rare cases, it can be as high as six weeks.

The company culture and expectations really set the standard.

So, if your boss and your peers are all only taking two weeks each year, then there’s peer pressure to stay within those limits. Even though the vacay rules say that there’s no limit.

That’s where the bullshit factor lies.

The policy may be unlimited but what is actually followed is different.

So, if you were to break from the pack and take an additional week, your boss and other colleagues would take notice. And sadly, some would interpret that as a lack of dedication and commitment to your job and the company. Your personal brand would take a hit for sure.

This is especially the case for tech companies and well-funded startups where employees that put in long hours and never take vacation days are held in high regard. Putting in 60-80 hour weeks is a badge of honor but we all know that overworking is doesn’t work.

In these kinds of organizations, unlimited PTO is just a line item ornament on the perks list.

And unfortunately, some companies use the unlimited PTO as a tactic to attract talent and then once the person is hired and starts working, the unspoken limits are applied. It’s the classic bait-n-switch.

The more honest approach is being upfront and providing a generous vacation policy that’s clearly spelled out.

If the company wants to attract top talent and a generous vacation policy is one of the perks that they want to use to attract that person, then provide more days than what the current competitors offer. Pure and simple.

Company X offers two weeks of vacation for new employees?

Well, then up the ante and offer three weeks right off the bat for new hires.

This way there’s no guesswork or peer pressure. It’s all right there. Everyone knows how many weeks they are entitled to.

Unlimited Vacation PTO Ain’t All That

The vast majority of us don’t have the “unlimited PTO” perk that a very select few have.

And so, just like a lot of things in life where you want something you can’t or don’t have or where the grass seems greener on the other side, don’t get caught up in it. It’s not everything you think it is.

Remember, unlimited PTO is bullshit because it’s not truly unlimited. There are informal and unspoken limits to how many vacation days you can take.

Plus, if you have an asshole boss or maybe a bitch boss from hell that will never approve your PTO requests, then having unlimited PTO doesn’t mean shit.

And honestly, some but not all of the progressive companies that offer this kind of perk often times expect you to work long hours, evenings, weekends etc for this benefit.

It’s part of the deal. You gotta take the good with bad. So, don’t think that you’re losing out on this ‘cause you’re not.

You’re like most of us. We have limited vacation days. So, there’s one thing that you must do no matter what.

Always use your vacation days!

Some of us are good about using them - sometimes too good and we run out. While others end up losing out by not using them in time. Please don’t be in that latter group.

Look, you fucking bust your ass for the company. You earned these PTO days. They are yours. Use them for some well-deserved me-time. Hell, if you can give yourself a solo weekend getaway from all of life’s madness, that’d be the best.

It’s important to manage work stress for your sanity. You’ve gotta take care of yourself first so that you can take care of others.

Take a look at your calendar right now and make a long weekend for yourself this month.

You deserve it.

Feel Better,

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