Tuesday, February 09, 2010

2/9/2010 PTO

Nowadays many companies mix "sick time" and "vacation time," and mine is just like this. It all gets lumped up into "PTO" (personal time off) time -- great if you're healthy and would rather spend sick time vacationing, but lousy if you (or your family) gets sick a lot. On the whole, we're on the healthy side, so at first glance, it's a win.

Another new phenomenon is the concept of "forced PTO." Companies shut down and force you to take the shutdown time as PTO. Around Christmastime, that doesn't matter that much for many people, though as a single person I hated it. I liked working around Christmastime and using my vacation time when I wanted to (like when it was warmer and airports were less crowded).

But now, companies, including mine, have two forced shutdowns a year. This means 10 days of your vacation or sick time, you must take around Christmastime, and now, July 4th also. When you're a new employee, that means that half your vacation/sick/PTO/whatever schedule is decided for you.

As it happens, I'll likely be taking time off around Christmas and July 4th anyway. But what if I wanted to take it another time? What if something were going on with the rest of the family that made that time not ideal? I hate that. It sounds very "entitled" -- after all, I have a relatively cushy job as an engineer, with a lot of autonomy and physical comfort. Still, it's hard not to lament the old days when companies fell all over you to keep you happy. Two forced shutdowns a year never happened during the dot-com boom.

Katrina had a horrible coughing fit last night, and then a slight temperature this afternoon at preschool, causing them to call Dave out of work (they don't have my work number yet). She can't go to school tomorrow, but I have my first important conference call, and I have a lot of PTO planned for grandparents visit this weekend, then a ski/snow trip in March. And, apparently, very little PTO that I can decide for myself when to use. If I have to stay home with a sick child, that's a precious PTO day. Dave's company is far more generous -- only one shutdown a year, and separate vacation/sick time. Still, he's still the primary family breadwinner, and he can't absorb all the time off for sick children. It will be a careful calculus every time anyone has so much as a sniffle around here.

Fortunately, despite a slightly runny nose, Katrina was running around happily and normally tonight. I was very relieved. Working-mom guilt kicks in hard when your toddler is sick and you can't go home...well you can but there's no need because Dad's there....you still miss her. As I drove (straight!) home after work, I looked forward to getting home and finding everyone there, as Dave had picked up the boys. That's SO much nicer than picking everyone up and walking in the door with them!

So I'm going to work tomorrow, and Dave will stay home with Katrina, except for the doctor's trip that is. Minor temperature and runny nose aren't enough for that, but the accompanying hives bug me. I'll be anxious to get back home to her tomorrow.


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