Where Did Vacation Go?

By: Steph Schroeder

Feel like you've been working like a dog? Time for some R&R.

Feel like you’ve been working like a dog? Time for some R&R.

Are you dreaming of loading up the ol’ family truckster and heading to Wally World with the family? Summer is the time when most Americans take vacation, with July being the most popular month for to travel. Kids are out of school, the weather is warm, and the countless opportunities to experience summer fun proves irresistible. But can you take time off work?

Having trouble taking time off is not a first world problem; it’s exclusively an American one. Did you know that 40% of American workers will leave paid vacation time unused? That’s a whole lot of unrelieved stress and a whole lot of unbalance between work and life.

 If you’re one of those 40%, I urge you to reconsider. While the badge of hard work may pay off in the short term, studies show that productivity at work and quality of life both increase significantly with a little R&R from time to time.

June, July, and August are always busy travel months and so are late November and all of December. Those summer months are ripe with adventure and those late winter ones as well. This is because so many workers need to use up that paid time off before they lose it ( a common practice for many employers). If you’re considering a vacation/staycation or two, plan early! Your colleagues may all have the same idea.

Planning to take a break

To get away without the added worry of impacting your productivity and stress-level before you take off, know what projects you have lined up each quarter and where your workload will be most hefty during those assignments or endeavors. As  a busy professional myself, I know that things don’t always play out according to their initial projected timelines. However, take your best guess based on previous experience. If you’re new to an environment, check with the group leader about the best times to take a break. You may be in a setting in which several long weekends are better than a week here or there.

Find out if seniority plays a hand or if paid time off is simply on a first come first serve basis. Don’t wait until the last minute to request time off during those peak travel seasons. What is it they say? Proper Planning Prevents Poor Vacation? You get the point. If you’re more flexible with your vacation time, maybe take a week in the first quarter or early fall when travel and hotel rates are lower. If you have kids and you don’t want to pull them out of school for vacation, make sure you put your requests in early. You don’t get those moments back so take advantage while you can.

How to make requesting time off easy each year

Familiarize yourself with the company’s policy for taking time off: how to request, who to inform, etc. Find out how your direct supervisor handles requests. Check to see if there are any updates or changes to these policies and procedures

Mark an electronic calendar with firm dates of important dates for company events, projects, and meetings. If these same events occur year-over-year, you’ll be able to transfer them easily in the future. Add in timelines (if known) for work that you’re responsible for–larger projects only, not your day-to-day

Mark the same calendar with dates of personal important dates where time-off may be required. If using a “shared” calendar where other at your place of work have access to your calendar, you may wish to set these to “private” where the specific details for each date isn’t seen, only the time you’re not available

Make a personal contact policy to share with your supervisor and colleagues for how/if to communicate with you while you’re away. Many people opt for “emergency only” so they can truly take a break. Just make sure your policy is known, clear, & communicated–and adhere to it!

At the END of each year, collaborate with family/friends to determine vacation time for the forthcoming year. That way, you can get your requests in early and avoid an problems with getting your request off covered. (This is especially important if you supervise people and are expected to help cover their time away as well.)

When all is said and done, taking care of you is an important priority both for your happiness and your employer’s satisfaction with your performance. Get that vacation on the books! You earned it…