PTO, Covid, & Extreme Burnout
Over the course of the past four months people have rescheduled weddings, canceled trips, delayed visiting family. The world has shuddered to a halt and is only now starting to regain any semblance of momentum – and whatever progress we’ve made is constantly under threat of a new lockdown.
To ask for PTO at such a time risks sounding selfish, out of touch, might even undermine your job security. After all you can’t let your manager believe you are dispensable.
Yet the question remains – how long can we all continue to function under such extreme pressure, locked in our houses with our kids and our home lives, without a break?
The new age of extreme burnout
There are a few factors at play here. First, the increase in daily decisions, obligations, and the general state of uncertainty. The BBC has labeled this cluster of new stressors as “decision fatigue,” referring to the choices that were once automatic but have now become complex and arduous. Do I have my mask? Will my kids go back to school? How am I to take care of my parents? How often must I be on webcam?
Second, a monumental increase in workload and virtual meetings is further cutting into what little time was usually reserved for decompression. This discomforting trend is clearly borne out in the data; these past few months California workers have been more likely to work through their lunch break and/or log hours after 11PM. And Tech workers – now in higher demand than ever before – are especially feeling the crunch as their workload grows to meet new demands.
So how do you have the PTO conversation, when it feels so ill-timed?
You have the leverage
The last thing your manager wants is to lose an A-player in today’s market. We’re seeing (mostly tech) companies offering inordinate amounts of money – think DOUBLING a person’s salary – to get their people to remain loyal. These managers are scared of being left to pick up the pieces, hire remotely, and onboard someone they’ve never met. It’s a panic-inducing prospect.
Giving you vacation so that you remain happy and loyal is a lot cheaper than hiring and onboarding a new person from scratch, and your manager knows this.
Should you ask for PTO?
Yes! Probably. It depends.
If your company has been seriously impacted by Covid and layoffs are all but imminent – don’t ask for time off. Instead, get ahead of the curve by considering your options and, potentially, starting to search for new opportunities. Check LinkedIn, reach out to a recruiter, or ask around amongst friends.
Now if your company is functioning at relatively the same level – or maybe has increased production to meet new needs – you should have no qualms about asking for your PTO. Yet asking with kindness and sensitivity has never been more important, especially since your superior, their superior, and the entire staff may be similarly struggling to keep up with the pace of change in today’s environment.
Show empathy and be flexible when asking. If you get pushback, remind your manager that you want to function at full capacity and this is a necessary step to do so, especially now that professional boundaries have all but been erased.
And if your manager still won’t work with you to find a solution – consider other options (yes, you have career options even in this climate). We’re here to help.