HCA's CEO had $152,308 in unused vacation time: He's not the only CEO stocking up

At the end of 2014, Nashville, Tenn.-based Hospital Corporation of America CEO R. Milton Johnson had accrued $152,308 of untouched paid time off. And according to Bloomberg, he is not the only executive who skips vacations.

Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods, has accumulated 2,703 hours or 338 days of PTO since he joined the company in 1991. Since 2010, Steven Mollenkopf, CEO of Qualcomm, has accrued at least $121,000 in vacation pay at the end of every year. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, was reimbursed $56,923 in 2014 for his unclaimed PTO, according to the report.

These examples show executives across all industries share an aversion to vacations. The responsibilities and daily tasks of a CEO are many, making some apprehensive about spending a day outside of the office. But other factors contribute to their unwillingness or inability to get away.

"With technology today, forget it — you're never off," said Jon Luther, former CEO of Dunkin' Brands Group, according to the report. While Mr. Luther said he did take vacations, he noted he would spend the mornings on work calls before taking time to relax.  

At the same time, Mr. Luther warns against skipping out on vacations altogether. "You've got to make sure that you step away from [work] on occasion to draw a deep breath and get your batteries recharged," he said, according to the report.

Vacations are also important for maintaining balance in one's personal life. "I've taken all of my vacation days for the last 35 years," Nancy Schlichting, CEO of Detroit-based Henry Ford Health System told Becker's Hospital Review. "Life is short — it's finite and time is the one resource that is equal to everyone. Having time for travel, family events and spending time with friends has been absolutely essential to keeping some balance in my life."

In addition to maintaining their own personal wellbeing, executives should be mindful of how their personal philosophies regarding PTO affect their employees. For one thing, if a leader never takes a day off, it might send a message to employees that they shouldn't either.

A second concern is raised when companies pay their employees back for unused PTO. For instance, Whole Foods employees can cash out their PTO at 75 percent of accrued value once a year or collect the full sum when they quit, according to Bloomberg.

"If your top guy walks away with a couple of hundred thousand dollars of unused paid time off, that probably sends a message to other people within the organization: 'That's what we should do,'" said Michael Molina, Vistage's chief human resource officer, according to the report.

Mr. Molina said executives inherently serve as their employees' role models, which is why he tries to use all of his allotted vacation time each year.

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