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Even in the most positive and thriving working environments, most people will vouch for a time-off period to reset and unwind. It is often challenging to ask for your hard earned days off in our current competitive work culture. Regardless, it is essential to do so to maintain wellness, physical and mental health, boost creativity, reenergize, reset, and ultimately to avoid burnout. 

Despite the potentially awkward experience of going out on a limb to ask for temporary freedom from work responsibilities, it is not seen as slacking. Your time off request could be more difficult to process depending on your role in the workplace, and whether (or not) your company has enough personnel to carry on without you in the interim.

Nonetheless, it is your personal liberty that is affirmed in each and every company policy. Therefore, it is essential and pivotal that you learn to effectively advocate for yourself in this endeavor. 

Studies have shown that in efforts to avoid this uncomfortable question, guilt, and to remain seemingly competitive 1 in 3 workers do not utilize their hard earned paid time off.

According to a study held by the Assessment of Paid Time Off in the United States, a whopping forty percent of workers did not take their hard-earned time off in the past year. The lack of reimbursement of paid time-off is a terrible idea that hinders productivity and hurts the economy at large. 

Some companies often necessitate a specific formal preliminary measure in order for their employees to mandate a time off request. It helps to be informed about the company policy in efforts abide by it to ultimately reap an approval. This article will help you properly request, set, and create vacation plans in eight easy steps.

1. Review the company policy and employee handbook

Susan Lucas, a CEO, advises that a great place to etch a travel plan is to first and foremost comprehend the company procedure for time off requests. This entails perusing your employee handbook and company policy to derive the details pertaining to the necessary formal request procedure.

This goes above and beyond merely the vacation days, but also when they do apply to you and what to do as a fresh employee. It also helps to ask your colleagues. The value of understanding the formal and informal rules will serve you to etch together a truly undeniable request.

Prior to planning your vacation days, it is important to know how many off-days you are allowed to take from work. It is key to inquire about and outline your paid vacation time, such as hours, days, or weeks that you are entitled to, prior to making a request for vacation days.

It is helpful to guarantee eligibility before ever requesting it. If you have previously used up all of your vacation time, you could possibly get approved for unpaid time. 

It is frowned upon if new workers do not wait out their probation period before making this kind of request. However if you shared your travel plans during the negotiation period of your employment offer, you’re likely to take that previously ordained vacation unpaid.

That said, job experts strongly advise against any days off during your first few months on the job. Excessive days off very early on affects how others perceive your work ethic. It is always best to prove yourself before you head on an adventure. 

For more information in regards to the vacation policy pertained to your workplace, read your employee handbook, contact the manager, or inquire with a Human Resources representative about it. 

2. Optimize on flexibility 

If your time off request is not necessarily urgent, consider skimming through the team’s calendar to ensure there is no conflicting event or project that will be hindered by your absence. Showing consideration and selecting a time frame where work is less eventful will propel your chances of reaping approval. 

Ms. Augustine, a job search expert advises against scheduling a vacation in a period with prominent projects, deadlines or events. Ms. Augustine suggests delaying your vacation until you can finish preparing and meeting each of your career based goals for the select projects at hand. 

Your supervisor will appreciate it if your time off request is not in the middle of a major project, training, or when plenty of your team is already taking time off as a part of your compensation package. If you are unsure, it is better to ask your supervisor to outline the best times for travel plans

Something along the lines of, “I would like to take [desired date] off if it will not serve as an inconvenience to anyone.” would be great. You can discuss this in-person but, it is always advisable to send an email confirmation. 

3. Offer a considerable notice period 

It is essential to revise the details embedded in your company policy, the acceptable notice period for your time off request. The longer your time off request, the longer your notice needs the time to get approved. Some supervisors require about a month in advance, while others merely require a week or two. 

It is important to understand that whether or not your vacation is approved, your supervisor is responding in good faith. However the mere fact that your boss could decline your request should serve as enough motivation to inquire about your desired vacation time as early as possible.

Your boss is likely to affirm your vacation days if you could effectively convince him or her that your absence will not result in hindrance to the business.

Offering a significant notice period emphasizes the fact that you respect your workplace, in contrast merely giving short notice isn’t going to serve you in the situation at hand or in the long run. The latter could affect the relationship you have with your supervisor. 

In a case of an unexpected life event, such as the death of a loved one or a family emergency would be handled differently. In these cases, your supervisor will predominantly do their best to be flexible to assist you.

4. Consider optimal timing for your time off request

Timing is pivotal. Regardless of whether you choose to communicate this in person or virtually, it is optimal to approach your supervisor with your request during a time that is appropriate.

You will know it is a good time to approach your manager with this topic at any peaceful window in their office. Depending on the workload and personality of your supervisor, this could be first thing in the morning or at the end of a workday. 

At all costs, avoid asking for time off during an emergent situation at work or during a demanding time. This will make you appear to be seemingly tonedeaf because in these kinds of situations your supervisor will need all the help he or she could get. Thus, he or she will not be able to spare you. Instead, optimize on the times that you know your boss is most receptive.  

If for some reason you absolutely must inquire about taking some time off during a time that pertains in a conflicting time, be sure to offer a valid explanation in detail as to why you need to do so.

It is absolutely essential that in order to make your inquiry considerable, you ensure that your work is managed and all caught up. If possible, it would serve you to schedule it after the completion of your project (or event). 

A simple way to bring the idea up to your supervisor is to say something along the lines of, 

“I have X vacation days, and I would really like to use them the week of December 10. Is that feasible, and does it work for the team?” 

5. Tone down the entitlement for your vacation time

At any point, be sure to inquire about your hard-earned days off rather than demand something in a matter of fact manner. Even if you are, in fact, entitled to the allotted number of days, it is considered good mannerisms to ask about instead of tell.

Regardless of the tone that you choose to go about, you will require your supervisor’s approval. Therefore, channeling this will prominently increase your chances of getting approval.

An example of this is, 

I am considering utilizing my vacation days. I would like to take my family on a trip. Is the week of June __ be an applicable time?”

A good way to do so is possibly asking your supervisor if the time you were inquiring about is applicable in the first place. It is advisable to give your supervisor a few date options to select. Outline that you took the time to peruse your team schedule and that you found that this was the best time for your vacation days. Clarify that your absence will not serve as a hindrance because you will be reachable and there to support your colleagues when needed. 

However, it comes without saying that you need to make sure that your work is not lagging behind, or in any way unfinished. That would deplete your chances of any kind of approval.

6. Share some details

An effective way to convince your supervisor to approve your pending time off request inquiry is to share compelling details, such as a family reunion, or mental health days.

Although it is not a prerequisite that you share your reasoning in efforts to apt an approval, it could give you leverage if your reason is, in fact, compelling. It would increase your chances if you offer the space for them to reach you in case of an emergency, and telling your boss that you are open to that.

7. Sick time 

If you feel your health is deteriorating or you feel the need for a general checkup, most companies allow the utilization of sick time for health appointments, such as dentists, checkups, etcetera. Even though this is generally allowed, opt for giving your boss a window to substitute you for the time being. 

A good example of this is: 

“My doctor could pencil me in for an appointment at 2 PM on Thursday. Would it be okay to leave early and use half a sick day?”

8. Consider the tactic or methodology for your time-off request 

It is important to identify the optimal method to go about your time off request. Some companies necessitate a written statement via email, whereas an in person request could suffice in another workplace. Other companies may even have an option of a virtual platform whereas you could even log your requests.

Depending on your workplace, the tactics vary. If your workplace is casual, you could email your supervisor your request. If your workplace is professional, you should schedule a meeting to briefly discuss your request. 

In efforts to write a compelling and professional email, you are suggested with some steps to follow:

i) Write a brief subject line

Write a brief subject line that includes the general gist inquired about as well as the requested dates, such as “Alex PTO Request January 9-19, 2021.”

ii) Outline your purpose

After a warm greeting, write a sentence with the general purpose of the message you are relaying. Avoid formulating a request. Instead, it is more effective to ask for permission since either way you require the approval of your supervisor.

iii) Include your desired dates

Within the first couple of sentences, embed your desired dates and the compelling reason for your request. Include the holistic gist of how many hours, days, or weeks this PTO request entails. This will help your employer update your information.  

iv) Clarify your preparatory measures 

Indicate the ways that you are preparing for your paid time off. This should include the tasks you are working on completing before your desired trip, the work you could potentially delegate to others, as well as how you could support your temporary fill in for your absence.

v) Indicate your availability in the interim 

In your closing statement, emphasize that during your potential vacation period you will be readily available for further information, urgent questions, and immediate troubleshooting. 

A few examples of the time-off request email are as follows:

Dear [insert your supervisor’s name],

I am writing to you to request some time off starting [the desired start date of your potential vacation] because [state your reason for this vacation]. I am open to further discussing details in person if you would like.

I thoroughly perused my team’s schedule and ensured that my team does not have any prominent presentations or deadlines during this time period. Is it okay if I utilize my vacation time for [once again, state your reason]? 

Thank you for your time and support.

Kind regards,

[Insert name]

Here is another example:

Dear [insert your supervisor’s name],

I perused my available paid time off days and would appreciate some time on [the desired start date of your potential vacation] for [indicate your reason for this vacation]. I have also proactively checked my team’s calendar, as well as my current projects. I will wrap up [specific project] project before my departure. I can affirm that my work is current and up-to-date. 

I will be ready to work with [select co-worker] to ensure that any urgent tasks are covered during my absence. I will be available by email for further information.

I am more than happy to discuss this further with you. 

Thank you for your time and support.

Kind regards,

[Insert name]

Plan for success

So, you (finally) got your hard-earned vacation time approved. Hurray for you! Before you start packing, it is nonnegotiable that you set some things straight before you head out. This will minimize or remove any potential difficulties that could be imposed upon your colleagues, or clients. 

Inform your team and clientele

In order to avoid unnecessarily burdening your colleagues, be sure that they are informed of your upcoming absence. If you have an important client or stakeholders who are depending on you, ensure that they are well aware of your absence and offer a substitute colleague that they could resort to temporarily.

Get ahead

You’re going to need to work a little harder for the time being. Focus and jot down a wholesome list of all the things you need to complete before your set in vacation mode, along with anything that needs to be done when you return. Share this information with your supervisor to ensure that you are both on the same page.

Exert your utmost effort to ensure that your list has been holistically accomplished. Even if it means a couple of extra hours every day or skipped lunch periods, it will be worth it when you do officially clock out, even out your tan lines, and guiltlessly sip margaritas on the shore. 

Find a temporary substitute i.e. your BFF at work

If your boss affirms this, ask an esteemed colleague to help pick up your slack, and offer to return the favor when the time comes. Make sure that your trusted colleague has all the necessary information he or she needs to support you in this endeavor.

You may also need to walk them through or train them in regards to how to carry out your responsibilities. Be willing to do so. It will save you from drowning in a pile of paperwork when you do return. It is important to know that you can trust your temporary fill in so that you do not spend your vacation period worried about just how much work you will be needing to make up when you come back. 

Make a full proof plan

Before you officially head out of the office, factor in a foolproof plan for your absence. It helps to create a written plan or manual with details in respect to your immediate responsibilities. It should consist of prioritized to do list, information, deadlines, tips, templates, and troubleshooting ideas.

It should also include your contact information in emergent cases. A copy of your to do list in order of priority should be with your supervisor to support them in their effort to maneuver and delegate your workload. 

Do your absolute best to ensure that your boss does not receive complaints due to your absence, this could undermine your word and affirmations the next time around. Not worth it.

Discuss accessibility 

Communicate with your boss just how disconnected you could be during this period, as well as what he or she will require you to continually do, such as keeping up with emails, calls, etc. While opting for proactivity, be sure to set some boundaries. An example of this is offering to check phone and emails once a day or a couple of times a week. 

Set your out of office automatic message 

Before heading out, set a prompt on your work email that would indicate that you are not in office pertaining information on when you will return and who to contact in the interim. 

Express gratitude 

In the United States, employers do not actually have to provide their employees with paid or unpaid time off other than for illness or family related reasons. Thus, it is considered a privilege, benefit and perk that is not in any way mandated by law. Therefore, thank your supervisor for being accommodating and granting you some time off. It is also imperative to thank those who picked up your slack while you were away.

Planning a vacation does not need to be a hassle. A little consideration, planning, and tact really does go a long way. These practices will ensure that your supervisor and colleague miss your presence rather than loathe you.

Say goodbye 

While you are focused on your upcoming relaxation period, consider good mannerisms. It is pivotal to share information to your clientele and colleagues about your travel plans, the time frame, and offer information on your temporary fill in.

You’ve worked especially hard on building rapport with your team, and clientele. You do not want to let all this hard work go to waste by making them feel disregarded or ignored. 

Say your goodbyes, and possibly grab a few souvenirs to gift them when you return. 

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Patricia Alfonso

Patricia Alfonso is an educator and researcher who earned her master's degree in guidance and counseling from Ateneo de Manila. She specializes in developing school counseling programs for schools.

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