Unlimited PTO posted on 01 April 2024

Happy Easter! As this is a day off today in the Netherlands, I thought I would talk about time off and especially unlimited PTO (Personal Time Off)

Time off is mandated in many countries around the world, but not in the US (even California doesn’t!). In the software engineering world, most companies provide similar PTO policies (between 3 to 6 weeks based on tenure) to stay competitive in the job market. With that being said many startups and some well established companies in the US provide unlimited PTO!

Unlimited PTO is however a double edge sword.

On one hand, the benefits are obvious:

  • You can take as much time as you want as long as your manager approves it –in practice it means that you have to be as productive as your peers and be in good standing.
  • You can take more time off during your first year – you don’t need to accrue time off like you would if you had for example 4 weeks per year.

There are however a lot of caveats with such PTO policy:

  • Many employees with unlimited PTO don’t take 4 weeks though – many just take 2 weeks a year! This is mostly because of peer pressure and poor work life balance. If you are considering joining a company with unlimited PTO, you should ask how much time off people take on average – this is a good signal for work life balance that you can factor when deciding to join or not the company.
  • You don’t accrue any time off, this means that the day you leave the company, you won’t get paid for the PTO accrued. If you save them, you can probably get an extra month of salary.

If you work in a company with unlimited PTO and want to take time off but struggle because of peer pressure, (fake) deadlines and what not – the best way to take a reasonable amount of time off per year is to plan it. You don’t need to have extravagant plans like travels, but just set your time off a few months in advance. This gives enough time for your peers/managers to plan around your absence and the pressure should be lessened (since project deadlines won’t be there yet).

What’s your take on unlimited PTO? Would you rather have 4 weeks of PTO or unlimited?

LinkedIn post