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"For Years, I Took My Paid Time Off All Wrong" — This Expert Is Showing People The Best Ways To Use Their Vacation Days

"One common perception is that PTO needs to be earned, deserved, and sacrificed when it should be seen as a preventative, beneficial 'vitamin' we take regularly."

Selena Rezvani is a self-advocacy expert, speaker, and author who recently caught the attention of nearly 2 million people after she made this video about paid time off (PTO):

In her viral TikTok, she says, "Regularly take your PTO. There's no medal you receive for not using it. By taking it regularly, you train your manager to see it as this consistent, natural occurrence — not some freakishly odd, rare event. When you do notify them about PTO, keep it simple. Don't justify it, like my kids need to go to the eye doctor or I'm helping my mom clean out her doll collection. ... Doing that sets this precedent that you'll share your whereabouts every time you use PTO."

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"Take your PTO even though the response may not be great. Just because you expect some resistance or pushback doesn't mean you shouldn't take time off. I tell people it's never a great time and it's always a great time to take PTO. Don't wait for ideal conditions. Do it anyway," she concludes.

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Her TikTok was eye-opening for a lot of people:

@selenarezvani / tiktok.com

And many users started sharing suggestions for how companies can better implement and encourage people to take PTO:

@selenarezvani / tiktok.com

Like removing the need for manager approval:

One person said PTO should be an automatic approval. should not be approved by a manager. some companies are doing this
@selenarezvani / tiktok.com

All around, people had lots of great suggestions:

Another good tip is always take time off for your birthday if it falls on a workday! i have done this for almost 10 years now never looked back
@selenarezvani / tiktok.com

BuzzFeed spoke to Selena to get more insight. "I released a book called Pushback — encouraging professionals to stop settling for 'less than optimal' work conditions and to seize those everyday moments to stand up for themselves. That book took off — winning an award, becoming a bestseller, and it’s still the most popular topic I speak on today!"

Selena Rezvani

"It’s my passion to speak around the world at places like Microsoft, The World Bank, Pfizer, and more — encouraging professionals to carve out work paths on their terms. I also work with leaders to create cultures that encourage employees’ self-advocacy. Part of this work was born from professionals — particularly women — asking me how to get more 'fluent' negotiating for everyday things that matter like good assignments, more realistic deadlines, promotions, even paid time off," she added.

When we asked Selena why she thinks taking PTO is so important, she said, "No one else will set boundaries for you. No one else will value your time — or mental and physical health — like you can. We see real benefits of taking time off in the quality of our work and ideas, the vigor we bring to our personal and professional lives, and our resilience for the not-so-great times."

As for the people who feel it is necessary to save up their PTO for unexpected events, Selena explained, "As a mom to 9-year-old twins, I can especially empathize with wanting to save time for sick kids and other stressful things that come up. And there are some people who simply don’t have the privilege to just ask for time off. One common perception is that PTO in the US needs to be earned, deserved, and sacrificed when it should be seen as a preventative, beneficial 'vitamin' we take regularly."

Selena Rezvani

"Dedication and hard work are things to be proud of, but studies show when we take time off regularly, we have better health, stamina, and engagement at work. Not just that, but we actually perform better and work harder! My advice to people is to start using PTO like that preventative vitamin."

"Some people argue there’s a literal payoff to cashing out your PTO when you leave a job, but by the time taxes are taken out and by running the risk of being burned out, I’d argue that PTO would have been better spent being taken throughout the year," she said.

@selenarezvani / tiktok.com

"Plus, only about half of the 50 states have statutes that actually require companies to pay out employees' unused PTO when the employment relationship ends," she added.

When it comes to companies that offer little to no vacation pay, Selena said they ultimately end up paying the price. "Unpaid time off is a bad idea for companies because it can encourage employees to come in sick if the company doesn't have a PTO policy in place, and stress levels are higher for these individuals."

@selenarezvani / tiktok.com

"Plus, if you’re a company that lacks PTO, you’ll suffer in finding talent: PTO is the second most important 'perk' to employees after health insurance."

"Leaders need to stop vacation-shaming and incentivizing people to have 'perfect attendance.' (There are actually workplaces that give out perfect attendance awards and others that give payouts or financial incentives to those who don’t use their PTO at the end of a period.) It’s not conducive to normal human rhythms to work like a robot. As empowered adults, people can and should be able to judge for themselves when they need time off (and of course to make an effort to help operations run smoothly while they’re gone)."

@selenarezvani / tiktok.com

Selena also wants people to realize they are under no obligation to share WHY they are taking PTO. "Look, if you want to share with your boss why you’re taking off, by all means, do it. The issue is, for plenty of people, there are times when they don’t want to share why. Like what if you need a very personal medical procedure done? Or you want to spend the day laying on your couch eating a bag of chips? You don’t owe people explanations. And if there’s already a precedent in place that you’ll share your reason every time, it can be awkward for an employee to try to set a boundary."

@selenarezvani / tiktok.com

When it comes to advice Selena has for leaders, she said, "Bend over backward to show you respect your employees' time off and when they inform you they’ll be out, say something like, 'Got it, enjoy.' Don’t interrogate them. If you’re an employee, don’t give a long justification about what you’re doing on PTO — they’re called personal days for a reason!"

Selena Rezvani

"‘PTO guilt’ is real. But remember it’s a benefit you secured, and you should no sooner give it back to your employer than you would give back your paycheck."

OK, now go take some PTO!!!

NBC

You can see more topics Selena covers on her website, TikTok, and Instagram — so be sure to follow her there!