25-year-old Londoner with 8 weeks of PTO: I ‘love my job but I wouldn’t sacrifice anything for it’

The holiday season can come with a heavy dose of stress in the workplace.

A majority, 61%, of people say they’re negatively affected during the holidays: 44% say they’re more stressed than usual, and 17% report a decline in their overall wellbeing, according to a Monster survey of 612 U.S. workers in November.


That may be unsurprising in the U.S., which has a culture of overwork and zero national laws that guarantee paid vacation time. The average American gets 10 vacation days per year after one year of service, which are all federal holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Workers in many rich countries, particularly in Europe, meanwhile, are known to take vacations for months at a time, thanks to laws and a prevailing culture that prioritizes paid time off.

That includes Jane Naumova, 25, who lives in London and works in advertising. UK workers are entitled to 28 paid vacation days each year. Naumova’s employer offers even more: one mental health day for each quarter, birthdays off, a day off for every year working for the company, and a break around the winter holidays. That’s roughly two months, or 8 weeks, of business days off per year.

‘A healthy relationship with work’

Her company’s stance is critical to Naumova’s relatively low stress level during the end-of-year rush.

Many clients spend the bulk of their marketing budgets between Black Friday and the New Year. Even so, Naumova says her company completely shuts down from December 22 to January 3, and she’s taking off the prior week, too.

Honestly, work isn’t my top priority right now,” she says. “My main focus is on my mental health. I do love my job, but I wouldn’t sacrifice anything for it.”

Her boss doesn’t hold it against her: Naumova’s employer is proactive in promoting a “healthy relationship with work, especially for us Gen Z people,” she says.

“Lately, I’ve been dealing with some anxiety for personal reasons,” she says, “so I just went to my boss, asked for some time off for mental health, support on a few projects, and decided to skip going to the office until the end of the year.”

Her company has a three days in-office policy, but Naumova will return to that schedule in January. That’s generous by U.S. standards, where just 17% of workers say they’re getting more remote work flexibility during the holiday season, according to Monster.

Her colleagues encourage each other to fully unplug during their scheduled time away, too, which helps, she says. It’s a well-communicated expectation that everyone should actually get to enjoy and decompress on holidays.

How she gets ready for her time off

By now, Naumova has her time-off prep down to a science: In the weeks leading up to her break, she creates handover materials, meets with her team to discuss the plan, and splits up tasks among colleagues.

To get in good shape for her time away this winter and still meet her year-end deadlines, Naumova is putting in some longer days. But for her team, that kind of extra effort usually means starting 30 minutes earlier or staying late an extra 15 minutes every now and then.

“Nobody is overworking for hours,” she says. “And even if there is an emergency, we have clear instructions from the management to get this time back.”

Overall, Naumova says her company’s support of time off make her a better, more well-rested employee who is more likely to stick around.

“The main thing to remember is that you are getting paid for this time off, as it’s already included in your salary,” she says. “It’s not something you should be working toward or feel awkward when asking for it.”

That said, she knows not every company has the same culture, she says, “so I consider myself lucky.”

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That said, she knows not every company has the same culture, she says, “so I consider myself lucky.”

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