PTO: the neglected stress reliever

Are you looking for a healthier work-life balance? When you feel stress building up from your job and hampering your performance, it may be time to take a break. Many companies offer paid time off from work — also known as PTO — and you can use it to escape demands and enjoy your favorite activities unfettered. 

Taking a vacation from the workplace to spend time with your family and friends, travel, pursue hobbies or just relax can help you unplug from the daily grind and refresh your outlook on life. 

Why PTO matters to your well-being

Instead of worrying about deadlines, you can let your mind and body release stress during PTO. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean taking a trip out of town. Almost a quarter of employees said their longest time away from work in the previous year was a staycation. Instead of having to plan a trip, make reservations, travel and pay expenses, you can recharge in familiar surroundings. Although you may now be working from home due to COVID-19 precautions, you can still use PTO days to restore balance.

Companies adapt to PTO needs

Seeing PTO as a plus for productivity, companies are encouraging their employees to use it. Forty-two percent of companies have made, or are planning to make, changes to their PTO policy to increase flexibility, according to a Willis Towers Watson survey in April. 

Companies are requiring employees to take PTO to avoid buildup of accrued days. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some are even allowing employees to donate PTO days to coworkers.

The pull of the workplace

Even though you’ve earned it, you may not be taking advantage of PTO. While 76% of workers in privately owned companies receive paid time off, many leave unused PTO on the table, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

A 2019 survey of American workers revealed that more than half of workers with PTO don’t use all of it, and 768 million days of PTO go unused each year. And even among workers who use their PTO, 60% say they still do some work on their days off, according to Inc. magazine.

How stress affects oral health

Work stress affects you not only mentally but physically as well. Symptoms can even show up in your mouth. Stress can lower your resistance to infections and has been linked to these oral health problems:

• Canker and cold sores

• Teeth clenching and grinding

• Gum disease 

• Burning mouth syndrome


When you’re under stress, you can also develop unhealthy habits that can affect your teeth, such as:

Nail biting, which can cause broken and misaligned teeth along with splintered tooth enamel

Neglecting oral hygiene, like skipping brushing sessions

Snacking on not-so-healthy foods and drinks that are hard on your teeth





Using PTO for a valuable checkup

To prevent these conditions, you can use PTO to maintain good oral health. Take time to visit your dentist, which can be done safely during the current pandemic. Your checkup may include a cleaning and an exam, which can reveal oral and overall health issues early, when they’re easier and less expensive to treat. With this peace of mind, you can enjoy your time away from the workplace.

Each year, plan to use your PTO to maintain your life balance. No matter how you spend your days, you’ve earned the time to fully relax and recharge. 

The PTO enhancer

The American Psychological Association's 2018 Work and Well-Being Survey revealed that among workers returning from PTO:
68% said their mood was more positive
58% indicated they were more productive
57% reported feeling less stress