When your daily schedule consists of hitting the gym, working full time, taking night classes, and making time for your boyfriend, I bet you didn’t know that more than 4 in 10 Americans leave an average of 3.2 days of PTO (Paid Time Off) unused each year. Though that time is built into your salary, many Americans see what they believe are valid reasons to let those days go by the wayside. Whether it’s an intimidating boss, a rigid company culture, or the belief that no work will get done without your presence, the countless explanations for over-working assure that that much-needed relaxation time goes untouched. According to Project Time Off, an organization dedicated to the encouragement of taking your time as an essential to maintaining familial bonds and mental health, we’re rocketing toward an “overwhelmed America.”
While your days on leave are not to be abused, there are practical ways to request and take time off while appearing responsible and dedicated.
Plan out Your Year
Planning your days will ensure that you don’t use all of your days in one shot if you don’t want to. You’ll be able to calculate what you’ll be missing and when. That way, you won’t be hit with any unwelcome surprises when you’re ready to take that vacation with your family come summertime. Another helpful tip is to use rollover vacation days if you can (if your company offers them).
You could also take a tip from my dad and create a short-lived pattern for yourself. For instance, during the summer, Papa White takes Fridays off more frequently to spend time with our fabulous fam. Though it might only be five days total, that’s five three-day weekends that he can spend with my sister and me while we’re home from school.
Though this may not exactly be a vacation, many people feel uncomfortable asking for days off to observe religious holidays for the same reasons as those asking for a vacation. You are legally entitled to that time off, even if you’re just going home early. A policy of openness and honesty in asking for days of for religious holidays is the best way to fly and is often the only policy you’ll need. However, if you aren’t getting the time or treatment that is appropriate, speak with HR to try to correct the situation.
As Always, Communicate
Even if you’re just sending a quick email, short notes and updates can make the difference between a responsible employee, and ex-employee. To keep an unapproachable boss in the loop, Forbes suggests sending a reminder to your boss a week or two before your departure.
You might be tempted to avoid all work while on vacation, but cutting off communication entirely could really make a mess. It’s important to set expectations for communication before packing up, such as letting your boss know you can only answer emails within a pre-established time block. Do keep in mind that time-sensitive messages are always important to answer, so be sure not to neglect those.
Always Bring the Conversation back to the Company
“Even if it means setting aside a few minutes every morning and evening for a little work” (Forbes), a little time to show that you are not entirely detached can speak volumes to your character. Getting that small amount of work done within the time you set for yourself is a great way to keep your professional team moving without always having your cell at the dinner table. When approaching your boss, be sure to ask if the days you’re considering “work for the team.”
In a cutthroat professional culture in most industries, vacation days are certainly underestimated. President of JP Nissen Co., Latham Pali, told Fortune that an employee actually died in the office as the result of not taking enough time off to recover from an illness. Growing percentages of Americans are so stressed out striving to be the perfect employee, perfect parent, perfect woman, etc., that they’re neglecting their own health and personal lives in the process. We all have to make a living, but you can’t make a living unless you’re alive.
How have you balanced your time off in your work life?