Desk Departure

Desk Departure Tip: Become a Policy Expert

Desk Departure: How to travel the world with a full time job

Welcome to The World Incorporated’s Desk Departure series! Monthly tips to show you that it IS possible to travel the world with a full time job. Throughout this series, you’ll learn:

How to travel the world without sacrificing your career.
How to travel more with a full time job.
How to maximize your vacation days.
How travel can advance your career.
How to depart from your desk so you don’t waste your paid time off.

Desk Departure Tip: Become a Policy Expert

Do you remember your first day at work? You were probably given a tome of paperwork sprinkled with “X” to place your signature. And every signature verified that “yes, I understand my responsibilities as an employee.”  

You may have sifted through the headings to get a general idea of the contents or just simply added your John Hancock with the promise of “I’ll read this in depth later.”

Guess what?

Later has arrived.

You’ll need one thing to complete this month’s exercise: your employee handbook or personnel manual.


You have one simple task: read and understand your company’s paid time off policy.

[start chanting with me: PTO! PTO! PTO!]

I’ll admit —prior to reading through my employee handbook/personnel manual, I felt slightly hopeless, as though it would be impossible for me to travel the world with a full time job. I felt limited, confined to “10 days.” And in a way, I was. But when I read the policies in depth, I understood new ways that I could take advantage of my company’s paid time off policy.

Here’s what happened when decided to read mine.

I only understood my paid time off as it was communicated to me during my hiring and onboarding process. In my mind, I would accrue 10 vacation days and 3 personal days over the course of the year. My company had specific holidays off. Sick time was accrued in small increments each pay period. Simple, right?

Not quite.

My folly for not reading my personnel manual became my holiday bane when I savvily saved my three personal days for the time between the Christmas and New Year holidays. Eleven days off by only using 3 days of PTO? Genius.

And when my request was rejected, I stared, agape at my computer.

“Personal days are not to be used adjacent to paid holidays, per the personnel manual.”

That was the explanation. And that immediately prompted me to thoroughly read my company’s paid time off policies to become the unofficial vacation day expert.

Friends, there’s a lot of useful information in that employee handbook. Information that could transform the way you use your valuable vacation days. Information that could save you from PTO woes (that would make a great hashtag, #PTOwoes).


Beyond the “personal days adjacent to paid holidays” stipulation, here are some other things I learned.

In addition to 10 paid vacation days, employees could also request 10 unpaid vacation days with manager approval.

Lesson: So essentially, I have the ability to take more time off than I had originally anticipated. This is fantastic news, if my budget can swing it.

If an employee resigns and gives proper 2 week notice, vacation days are paid out. Sick days and personal days are not.

Lesson: This was great information as I begin to anticipate a career change. I used my personal days instead of vacation days when I realized that I’d be resigning from this company.

There’s a maximum amount of vacation days that can be accrued.

Lesson: This means that if I max out my vacation days, I’ll no longer accrue vacation, essentially losing out on time I earned. Lesson: don’t max out that vacation plan – start planning that trip.

If an employee uses 10 vacation days in a row, he/she will not accrue vacation time in that period.

Lesson: if I can swing it, don’t take a 10 day vacation or I’ll miss out on accruing more vacation and sick time.

All sorts of vacation day rules and policies, packed into one simple document. Reading your personnel manual will give you an edge when planning and maximizing your vacation days. Hopefully these desk departure tips will help you learn how to travel the world with a full time job.

What will you learn when you read your employee handbook or personnel manual? How will this new information change the way you plan your vacation days and travels? Would love to hear what you learn in the comments below!

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