The Formula to Get More Time Off Using Your Vacation Days
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The Formula to Get More Time Off Using Your Vacation Days

Piggybacking on public holidays to create longer breaks, taking off Mondays are among the tricks

Wed, Jan 3, 2024 8:33amGrey Clock 4 min

It is barely past New Year’s Day. If you’ve taken the day off, congratulations: You have aced your first test of vacation-day math.

We get only so many days of paid time off a year. And that is if you’re lucky—one in five U.S. private-sector workers gets no PTO, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Without a strategy, you can have a generous number of vacation days and still feel like you never truly got away from it all.

Think of the times you took a mini-break from work only to feel stressed before and afterward. The average American worker with five years at the company gets 15 paid days of vacation in a year, BLS data show. That leaves little room for bad planning if you want a serious break or two, plus some long weekends and the occasional personal day.

Maxim No. 1: A vacation day equals more than a day of vacation when you attach it to a public holiday or two. Taking the day after New Year’s this year snags you a four-day weekend at the start of 2024. Timed just right between federal holidays and weekends, 15 days of PTO can turn into nearly 50 days of extended break time this year. (That is, if your co-workers don’t beat you to claiming those dates.)

Another guiding principle—Fridays off are overrated, and not just because they are peak traveling days. For a long weekend or a random personal day, there is evidence to suggest a Monday and Wednesday can be more satisfying. But more on that later.

A weeklong vacation vs. long weekends

First, some science: To really recharge, you need at least one weeklong vacation, bracketed between two weekends, research suggests.

In one study of more than 50 people who took vacations for an average two weeks, participants’ well-being levels didn’t peak until their eighth day off. A 2023 study of more than 300 vacationers found people who took between eight and 14 days off reported greater and longer positive effects once they returned to work, such as better sleep, than those who took shorter breaks.

One to two weeks off, in fact, appeared to have longer-lasting benefits than lengthier vacations. After a while, “you creep back to old habits,” says Ty Ferguson, a research associate at the University of South Australia in Adelaide who co-wrote the study. His own recent getaway—several days down the coast—went bust when his three children, ages five and under, came down with a bug. Then it was time to return.

“I should take more of my own advice,” he says.

One reason taking a week-plus vacation is important is that is enough time to actually reduce workloads. Network-equipment giant Cisco recently conducted a deep data dive on employees’ work habits and well-being, examining more than three years’ of metrics such as virtual meetings, badge-ins, PTO and engagement surveys. When workers took a day or two off, the number of meetings they had in the month didn’t change much—they just packed in more work before and after their time off.

Meeting loads dropped sharply for workers who took at least five consecutive days off. The fewer the meetings, the greater tendency to report healthier routines and better stress-coping abilities, Cisco found.

“I always believed in the long weekend because it can be so hard to take a week off,” says Cisco’s chief people officer, Kelly Jones. “I was wrong.”

Maximising public holidays

To get the most out of your finite days off, consider Gail Martino’s PTO hack for 2024. “I’m a leisure laggard,” says the senior project manager in New Haven, Conn., of her habit of waiting to take vacation time until things get slower. (Hint: That is never.) Then there is a scramble to use it or lose it toward the end of the year, with the days she does take off feeling not terribly satisfying.

“You wonder, why am I so tired?” she says.

In recent years, she’s become a bird watcher and wants to take a couple of birding trips along the Eastern Seaboard in 2024. “I spend a week in the woods, among trees and nature, and that is an incredible break,” she says. “Now I want to chart out the entire year.”

Scanning the 2024 calendar, she devised a spreadsheet of dates bridging public holidays and weekends with a theoretical 15 vacation days and four personal days. (Working at Unilever for 18 years, she got about a week more PTO than that in 2023.) The result was 50 days of extended breaks, including 9-day stretches in July and over Christmas:

A little tweaking can wring nearly the same number of extended break days with just 15 vacation days and no personal days—that is, if you get a full slate of federal holidays off and don’t have to trade off with co-workers:

The case for Mondays and Wednesdays off

Want to take a three-day weekend that isn’t attached to a federal holiday? Take Monday off instead of Friday, suggests Jim Burch, a 38-year-old software engineer in Phoenix and an avid hiker. Taking Fridays off often results in cramming five days of work into four, he points out.

“I’d get so stressed out on the Thursday before,” says Burch, who at his current job, has more autonomy over his schedule than in earlier jobs.

Delaying gratification until Monday means your co-workers have no choice but to start the workweek without you. Back Tuesday, you can quickly catch up on whatever emails or developments you missed, he says.

Then there is the unexpected pleasure of a Wednesday off. “It is like a midweek weekend,” says Rachel Blenkhorn, a social-media production manager for a real-estate investment trust who lives in Warren, Mich. It is long enough to relax or take care of appointments yet short enough to get back in the work groove on Thursday, she says.

There is science as to why, says Dawna Ballard, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and an expert in chronemics, the study of time as it relates to communication.

“Everyone has a different chronotype,” or their own biologically driven pace, she says. A break after two days’ work gives you a second chance in the week to return to your internal rhythm. Psychologically, it also creates a bit of “slack” in the workweek, alleviating the stress that comes from feeling like there is too little time to get everything done.

However you plot your vacation days in 2024, don’t leave any on the table. They aren’t just good for you, there is evidence they are good for your career.

An Ernst & Young study of its employees showed every extra 10 hours of vacation was linked to an 8% improvement in year-end performance reviews. Another study found people who took more than 10 vacation days a year were more likely to get a raise or bonus than those who took fewer days.

Now that is a formula anyone can get behind.


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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Luxury watch collectors showed ongoing strong demand for Patek Philippe, growing interest in modern watches and a preference for larger case sizes and leather straps at the June watch sales in New York, according to an analysis of the major auctions.

Independent and neo-vintage categories, meanwhile, experienced declines in total sales and average prices, said the report from  EveryWatch, a global online platform for watch information. Overall, the New York auctions achieved total sales of US$52.27 million, a 9.87% increase from the previous year, on the sale of 470 lots, reflecting a 37% increase in volume. Unsold rates ticked down a few points to 5.31%, according to the platform’s analysis.

EveryWatch gathered data from official auction results for sales held in New York from June 5 to 10 at Christie’s, Phillips, and Sotheby’s. Limited to watch sales exclusively, each auction’s data was reviewed and compiled for several categories, including total lots, sales and sold rates, highest prices achieved, performance against estimates, sales trends in case materials and sizes as well as dial colors, and more. The resulting analysis provides a detailed overview of market trends and performance.

The Charles Frodsham Pocket watch sold at Phillips for $433,400.

“We still see a strong thirst for rare, interesting, and exceptional watches, modern and vintage alike, despite a little slow down in the market overall,” says Paul Altieri, founder and CEO of the California-based pre-owned online watch dealer, in an email. “The results show that there is still a lot of money floating around out there in the economy looking for quality assets.”

Patek Philippe came out on top with more than US$17.68 million on the sale of 122 lots. It also claimed the top lot: Sylvester Stallone’s Patek Philippe GrandMaster Chime 6300G-010, still in the sealed factory packaging, which sold at Sotheby’s for US$5.4 million, much to the dismay of the brand’s president, Thierry Stern . The London-based industry news website WatchPro estimates the flip made the actor as much as US$2 million in just a few years.

At Christie’s, the top lot was a Richard Mille Limited Edition RM56-02 AO Tourbillon Sapphire
Richard Mille

“As we have seen before and again in the recent Sotheby’s sale, provenance can really drive prices higher than market value with regards to the Sylvester Stallone Panerai watches and his standard Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1a offered,” Altieri says.

Patek Philippe claimed half of the top 10 lots, while Rolex and Richard Mille claimed two each, and Philippe Dufour claimed the No. 3 slot with a 1999 Duality, which sold at Phillips for about US$2.1 million.

“In-line with EveryWatch’s observation of the market’s strong preference for strap watches, the top lot of our auction was a Philippe Dufour Duality,” says Paul Boutros, Phillips’ deputy chairman and head of watches, Americas, in an email. “The only known example with two dials and hand sets, and presented on a leather strap, it achieved a result of over US$2 million—well above its high estimate of US$1.6 million.”

In all, four watches surpassed the US$1 million mark, down from seven in 2023. At Christie’s, the top lot was a Richard Mille Limited Edition RM56-02 AO Tourbillon Sapphire, the most expensive watch sold at Christie’s in New York. That sale also saw a Richard Mille Limited Edition RM52-01 CA-FQ Tourbillon Skull Model go for US$1.26 million to an online buyer.

Rolex expert Altieri was surprised one of the brand’s timepieces did not crack the US$1 million threshold but notes that a rare Rolex Daytona 6239 in yellow gold with a “Paul Newman John Player Special” dial came close at US$952,500 in the Phillips sale.

The Crown did rank second in terms of brand clout, achieving sales of US$8.95 million with 110 lots. However, both Patek Philippe and Rolex experienced a sales decline by 8.55% and 2.46%, respectively. The independent brand Richard Mille, with US$6.71 million in sales, marked a 912% increase from the previous year with 15 lots, up from 5 lots in 2023.

The results underscored recent reports of prices falling on the secondary market for specific coveted models from Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet. The summary points out that five top models produced high sales but with a fall in average prices.

The Rolex Daytona topped the list with 42 appearances, averaging US$132,053, a 41% average price decrease. Patek Philippe’s Nautilus, with two of the top five watches, made 26 appearances with an average price of US$111,198, a 26% average price decrease. Patek Philippe’s Perpetual Calendar followed with 23 appearances and a US$231,877 average price, signifying a fall of 43%, and Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak had 22 appearances and an average price of US$105,673, a 10% decrease. The Rolex Day Date is the only watch in the top five that tracks an increase in average price, which at US$72,459 clocked a 92% increase over last year.

In terms of categories, modern watches (2005 and newer) led the market with US$30 million in total sales from 226 lots, representing a 53.54% increase in sales and a 3.78% increase in average sales price over 2023. Vintage watches (pre-1985) logged a modest 6.22% increase in total sales and an 89.89% increase in total lots to 169.

However, the average price was down across vintage, independent, and neo-vintage (1990-2005) watches. Independent brands saw sales fall 24.10% to US$8.47 million and average prices falling 42.17%, while neo-vintage watches experienced the largest decline in sales and lots, with total sales falling 44.7% to US$8.25 million, and average sales price falling 35.73% to US$111,000.


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

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