Taking a break is good for most people. It can help prevent burnout.
People vary greatly in their ability to take vacation due to income, work and family requirements.
People vary even more in what they consider to be a good vacation. Some people like a lot of activity. Some people like lying around. Some people honestly don't like taking time off work. All of these are OK as long you do what works for you.
People in the United States get, on average, significantly less vacation time than their European counterparts.
Some companies have unlimited vacation policies, but unless the culture is unusually positive, these policies are generally harmful in that they require all vacation to be justified in some way.
In other words, there is no way to make a meaningful universal statement about vacation.
- large vacation time was scheduled around projects. The SPM gave large priority to devs over the business. Thus priorities were reduced to meet resources for that sprint (SCRUM).
- We had a flexible work schedule so if you needed to be home because the guy fixing your water heater is coming at 3, we made that possible. The philosophy was that as long as you were meeting your targets, everything was peachy.
- We had one guy who would occassionally go on two/three day breaks and not tell anyone - including the SPM. As a team, we just left him alone and if he can't finish his task, oh well, we didn't bail him out.
- Ironically, most of us took fewer vacation days with unlimited PTO. You have the outliers who will gladly abuse it, but prior to my departure, I took a total of four weeks (20 days) of total vacation time. Most companies give that anyways.
Simply put, as long as we gave a long enough notice and put things into the engineering calendar, no one gave a crap. A lot of our unlimited PTO success boils down to prioritizing resources and expectations with the business. This company is around 300 people, so not a small company by all means. We just ensured that we all gave appropriate notice. For me, my formula was 1 month advanced notice for every week I wanted to take, so three weeks off meant three months ahead.
My experience is that American companies hate the idea that their employees might prefer to do anything at all other than to make more money for the company than it costs to pay out their benefits and wages. This is not a theoretical hate, but an actual, almost tangible hate. They are completely furious that their inefficient meat-robots continually whine about needing to eat, sleep, and eliminate wastes. Never mind wanting to actually leave the workplace.
US companies emphatically do not offer 4 weeks PTO to new hires. You would be lucky to get that after 5 years of continuous employment with the same company. Your mileage, of course, may vary, especially if you are in a particularly labor-friendly job market. My personal experience, however, is that I have never been able to take a vacation longer than 9 continuous days, and those were often constrained by weekends and paid holidays, resulting in 4 days spent from PTO, and 5 days from weekends and holidays.
I would be willing to put up with some of the negative aspects of having a union, if it could manage even as much as stopping my non-paycheck benefits from eroding a tiny bit every year. I have had enough.
Except this bit:
Taking a break is good for most people.
Now you can enjoy your vacation while pissing off your fellow contributors at the same time!
Personally, I like my company's policy of giving periodic sabbaticals, in addition to vacation.
We did put in for vacation, but if we came back early, or extended it a few days (with reasonable notice), it probably would not ever go into the system.
If we were out of the office a day unexpectedly due to illness or family thing, that was almost never put into the system.
If we wanted to take a vacation longer than the number of days we had available, that was just allowed.
From 1997 until 2009 I worked for an enormous (at one time, 'Fortune 1') company. From 2009 until now, I've worked for a pair of mature tech companies in the SF Bay Area.
In my personal experience, it all came down to the nature of the teams you were on, and the managers.
I'm from Brazil and got curious about the "unlimited vacation", how it works?
With all that said, unlimited vacation is not that bad in a good workplace with an understanding employer and team. I work hard, and I don't feel guilty about taking time off. What's annoying is when employers hire you with the lure of "unlimited vacation" and actually plan on turning you down if you try to go above a normal amount of PTO. In that case, it's all to their advantage.
When it comes down to it, be skeptical anytime an employer says things like "unlimited vacation" or "flexible hours." Unlimited vacation can mean that they just don't have official vacation days (and can deny you time off), and flexible hours can mean hours only flex one way: up. What people often don't see is that while the 40/hr work week and standard 2 - 4 weeks of vacation seem archaic and even oppressive, having time limits can also protect you as an employee. Remove those limits, and you just have to hope your employer continues to promote healthy work habits.
That said I have only taken a few weeks of vacation in the last few years for some reason. I should take advantage of it more.
The U.S. is the only advanced economy without a vacation floor. (To join the EU, 20 days is the lower limit.) Three weeks is typical for an average job (but some companies are sleazy and pool sick time and vacation under "PTO") and two for a crap job.
It's surprising how reliably you can predict the quality of a company and job based on vacation allotment. Four weeks: solid, professional, you'll be treated as an adult. Three: average, mediocre. Two: dysfunctional, run the fuck away. Subtract one week if they use that pooled bullshit ("PTO") where sick leave is deducted from vacation. It's a horrible policy, because it means people come into work sick and everyone gets sick more often, but not only is it (shockingly) legal in the US to deduct sick days from vacation, it's not all that rare.
Generally, the assumption is that you should get one week off per decade (e.g. 2-3 weeks in your 20s, 3-4 in your 30s, 4-5 in your 40s) and that, if you have less than that, you're probably too old for the job you're in (you should be further along). That's not a legal requirement. It's just the cultural expectation. If you're 50 and you're still on two weeks, you haven't succeeded at life.
(It's different for consultants, who get no "paid" vacation but charge a higher daily rate. They can generally take off when they want, and can make more than most salaried people working 100 days/year. If you can pull it off, that seems to be the way to go after 40.)
Some startups have undefined vacation policies. This can be really good (if there's a positive culture) or really terrible (if it devolves into a race-to-the-bottom dynamic). It depends. (The one company, with more than 50 people, that I worked at with "unlimited" vacation was terrible. That's not casual, of course, and it's just one data point.) Better is to set a guideline (4 weeks minimum) but allow exceptions.
In software, the more talented people (until they can become independent) solve this by working "from home" and doing a bit of working travel. Free of office distractions and interruptions, you can actually accomplish more in a 3-hour "day" than most people get done in their 8-10. The downside of WFH is that you're still expected to be available during the full 8 hours, and if people get the sense that you're getting your work done in three, then they ask why you didn't ask for more work.
A much better solution is vacation days and unlimited sick days, as well as generous work-from-home opportunities for days when you're under the weather but not too sick to work.
People who do not make such choices rarely get sick for more than the odd few of days a year. Why should they subsidize poor choices? Not being sick a lot is a reasonable and sensible professional expectation.
The alternative to to accrue leave.
Where I work, we have vacation/sick/personal leave. There are different rules for each, and vacation time accrues and you get paid upon separation.
2. It gives people an incentive to come into the office sick. The result is that half the office is ill (but showing up!) all winter. It's pretty disgusting.
If you're trying to build a polar vortex of disease, then implement a pooled PTO system. If you're trying to build a company, then don't. It's that simple. What are you trying to build?
Here's how I would set it up:
* Three weeks minimum vacation. (Investment banks have mandatory vacation and it's not a bad policy.) In tech, that wouldn't be a hard-and-set rule, but taking little vacation should be the choice that needs to be justified. Five weeks paid, anything beyond that is unpaid leave which can be taken without stigma.
* Don't come in if you're sick. It happens to all of us. If you're going to lose more than 10 days per year to health issues, talk to HR about accommodation and we'll try to make something work. If it's less than 10 days (e.g. colds and flus and stomach bugs) then just stay home.
* Don't worry about emergent personal issues. Let people know where you're going, then go. Come to work when you're ready to concentrate on work, not when you have nonsense hanging over your head.
Best way to discover what's optimal for you in such personal matters is trial-and-error. It's your life - experiment and find what makes you feel good. :)
Both of those things, plus many more, require daily or weekly effort. If you're out of the office, something will go amiss and you'll get caught.
While it's not mandatory to take that leave, it's a very good excuse for why you want to take several days off.
See more here: http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/leave-adm...
It's harder to cover up fraudulent trading if you're not there.
Actually, I'm just wrapping up a ~4 month vacation after a grueling year of creating a product, launching it, and failing. I was so cynical about programming by the time it failed and felt like I lost the spark. It was just a boring means to an end and everyday I had new ends to meet.
I finally feel good about programming again and I think I'm actually better than ever. You really see the forest from the trees after being away from it for awhile. I recommend a long break to anyone who is currently feeling like programming has lost its magic. It hasn't -- it's still a wonderful means to express your creativity.
I knew I'd need time to "heal" after that experience. It took a month and a half but I'm finally starting to feel interested in coding again. I'm really glad I took that time (and that I was lucky enough to have the means and an understanding SO).
Immediately, I began looking for work but I knew I needed to heal from the experience. I have a job now but there are times it crosses my mind that maybe I should have taken more of a hiatus. But I had enough money in my savings for only five months. I like my new job but there are times I get so tired, next year I might just take a month off and get some rest.
I haven't figured out what direction I want to go this time. If I want to be more contractor-ish I might go for mobile again, but if I'm honest with myself I prefer working on web apps. Just getting tired of the recruiters and company culture that seem inextricably connected with working on them.
What do you think were the contributors what you say is your failure?
* gotten cancer
* gone through surgery and chemotherapy
* beaten cancer
* watched my stepfather die of cancer
* wrote and self-published a book
* gotten married earlier than planned
* moved across the country
* watched my mother-in-law die of cancer (why we got married early)
* bought a house
* gotten married again on our original date
In that time I have been away from work for quite a bit of time but I have taken exactly three real days of "vacation", when we went on a short honeymoon after the big wedding.
I need a break, preferably multiple consecutive months, but we don't have the cash to make it through. And so I continue.
You seem to have a lot of resilience, so using more of your income to buy more time should be an easy feat for you. Especially with the life perspective I am sure you gained from going through all that.
Whatever you do, good luck.
(A financial reason is that the company doesn't want unused vacation accruing on their books, because it represents a liability that in some circumstances can be cashed out. A non-financial reason is that having a high % of employees who don't take a proper summer holiday can lead to quality-of-workplace statistics that look poor.)
Three and a half years ago I had 5 days of PTO per year. Admittedly it was a crappy job, but even so.
Now I have 22 days' PTO, plus 12 annual holidays. I make more money and pay less in rent, too.
Cost is all relative, I guess. Pay is lower than SF, but I also am paying less than half of what I would for my apartment. Given that I was spending a lot of money to take what vacation I could in Europe anyway I actually save a good deal on vacation budget this way too.
I find I have to be careful in conversations because I sometimes gasp at how cheap places are, perhaps insensitively. I guess I just got used to apartments always being $2000+. Of course, it still stings that a "cheap" pint is €5 (I remember two dollar beer night in college not so many years ago!)
I'm not sure what $500 per month you refer to, but I'm guessing transportation costs. I have generally preferred living in places that didn't require owning a car, and find it makes a huge difference. I was in Berkeley for a while, and Santa Monica after that. Note that in Santa Monica I found it necessary to share a car with the gf; You can get around SM fine with a bicycle but LA remains a desolate suburban hellscape.
Also, while it is certainly possible to live in SF without a car, it's even easier in Dublin, which saves money as well.
And again, I'm just a sucker for Europe. I was spending $2 grand a year on plane tickets to get over here, and now it's an €80 (or so) flight away.
1270USD is about 950 euro; at a pinch, you can still get a city centre 1 bed for that, though a bit over 1000 would be more common. I'm also a bit suspicious of its restaurant costs; they seem high for Dublin, and its telecoms costs, while reasonable a few years ago, are now too high.
Email me at email@example.com. I am not a US citizen though, I just work here on a visa. However, the whole process of Permanent residency is so long and slavish.
One of the things I've learned that I found most shocking? That changing things up makes a huge difference in my productivity -- and it becomes more and more difficult to do.
I think the term "vacation" is a bit loaded here. Sure, go to the beach. Travel. But there's a deeper truth here: you need to regularly make yourself work, relax, and play in different atmospheres. It's very good for you. So go work at a coffee shop. Work in a city park. Take a week and live in a cabin without electricity. Take your development team and go out to the parking garage and work using cafeteria tables and metal chairs. Whatever. Purposely vary the conditions and surroundings of your life. This is not an optimization problem; you are not trying to find the perfect place. Instead, it's diversity: people are very prone to getting in intellectual ruts. It's difficult to see this when you're in one. Mixing up environments is a proven way to identify this.
An interesting follow up that just occurred to me: there was a surge in PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) through hikers back during the dot-com bust. The theory was that lots of unattached moderately wealthy suddenly jobless young people took advantage of the situation. Since it does take something like 6 months and about $7k (USD), it's something that I've never done and feel like maybe I missed my opportunity when I was laid off. The younger and less attached you are, the better, so just consider that the next time you are between jobs. Of course, there's also other super long trails (AT, PNT, GET, etc) to take your pick from.
Looking forward to the break and coming back with a clear head!
Sometimes, a change of scenery can be very fulfilling.
What are the ways people currently budget for vacations?
Personally the way I do it now is I actually have a separate checking account that is used _specifically_ for vacations, _end of list_. Every time i do a consulting gig, I break it down the money like this:
33% - into business checking account for taxes
the remaining 66% is broken down to:
25% - another business checking account for expenses
25% - into a personal savings account
25% - into the vacation checking account
25% - to paying off debt (CC, mortgage, whatever)
Then there are phases in a startup, where you need insane creativity. These phases are for instance after you've found product/market fit, say you got to 10,000 users with your product, however, now you need to figure out how to get to 100,000.
In these times it's not worth at all pushing 18h days, it's much better being a balanced human being who goes out with friends, does their exercise and eats well, because all you need at that point is ideas and creativity.
Take two weeks. You'll be amazed how much better you feel week 2.
Anyone know of any sites that list nice affordable family vacations within driving distance of x ?
Besides, the weather's novahot at the moment and it's quite hard to work when you're being boiled alive.
Contact info in sig. (I'm based in SF)
I used to work for a company where most of us had between 24 and 28 free days / year and it was pretty normal to see people having 40 or more days left, counting the current and the previous year...