how to get employees to take vacation — and why you should

When’s the last time you pushed an employee to take a vacation and meant it?

Too often, managers cringe when they see employees will be out on vacation for a week – who will cover their work, what will get delayed as a result, and what about that important meeting scheduled while they’re gone? But if you really care about building a strong team, you should be actively encouraging employees to book real vacations –not just a day or two here and there, but at least a solid week away, ideally a couple of times a year.

At Intuit QuickBase’s Fast Track blog today, I talk about how to do it and why it matters. You can read it here.

{ 125 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Not the Droid You are Looking for

    I wish I’d had this two jobs ago. I had an employee that I could never get to take vacation (or a sick day). She would routinely lose weeks at the end of the year, or scramble and try to take the month of December off. After that fiasco, I sat down with her and tried to plan out opportunities for her to take time off. Unfortunately, it was a mental block for her…it was like she was too afraid to let go of her work for a week.

    Reply
    1. RidingNerdy

      In my world, the fear of giving up one’s work for a week is a major red flag (but we are at high risk for embezzlement, etc.).

      Reply
      1. De Minimis

        I’ve seen it also happen in environments where no one cross-trains and a long vacation means you’ll come back to a ton of work that will put you behind for quite a while…

        Reply
        1. Jake

          Bingo. That is why the last 2 days of any vacation I take are wrought with anxiety. I know I’m coming back to 80 hour weeks for at least 3 weeks just to catch up.

          Reply
        2. Not the Droid You are Looking for

          Nothing to embezzle and the team she was on all basically did the same thing, just for different clients. Though, with her seniority she did handle more specialty clients.

          I think it was a bit of a combination of her life being 100% work and feeling like no one else could handle her projects as well as she could (even though she trained most of the other people on the team). She had also been passed up for promotion in the past, so I think it was fear of the higher-ups thinking other people could handle her workload.

          Reply
        3. Ad Astra

          Yep. Traveling can be a nightmare in these types of jobs because you’re too busy/tired to keep up with your email on vacation, so you end up working extra as soon as you get back to work.

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          1. Ife

            Or refuse to keep up with email because you’re, you know… on vacation…

            Agreed though, the email mountain is the worst, but I just can’t compel myself to check it when I’m out of the office, and fortunately my role doesn’t require that.

            Reply
    2. Seal

      I inherited one of these – drove me nuts. This guy was an extreme creature of habit and hated change; I think he never took time off in part because he couldn’t fathom a change in his routine. He also took some sort of perverse pride in never missing a day of work. He didn’t like me because I had been brought in to overhaul what had been an under-performing unit. So whenever I took a day off or had to be out of the office for a meeting or conference, he always made some snarky comment about my attendance. Ironically enough, his refusal to accept change lead to his being let go.

      Reply
      1. Not the Droid You are Looking for

        Yes, the pride in not missing a day thing drove me nuts.

        I finally had to go to HR to get permission to send her home when she clearly had the flu.

        Reply
      2. MissDisplaced

        Ugh! One of those, who “take pride” in coming in sick and never taking vacation. They just love the martyr complex. Unfortunately, they haven’t realized that all of us employees are replaceable.

        Reply
  2. Apollo Warbucks

    This is such an anathema to me employees shouldn’t need to be encouraged to take leave, it’s part of their compensation and by definition that gives them the right to use it. I don’t think I’ve ever lost more than a few hours of PTO total since I’ve started working.

    Reply
    1. Retail Lifer

      There’s always some excuse why we can’t take it. Someone else already took that week off (there are some people here that have been here for many years and have a ton of vacation time and certain people can’t overlap time off). We have an event/deadline/meeting/thing that we need to be here for. We’re short-staffed and there’s no one to cover. It’s a busy season so those dates are blacked out.

      This will be the first year that I’ve ever, in my entire working career, used up all of my time off. That’s only because I don’t get sick time and I’ve had a sickly year so I’ve had to waste vacation days when sick or at doctor’s appointments.

      Reply
      1. Jennifer

        Hah, yeah. I really have only about maybe a few weeks per year during which it doesn’t completely inconvenience everyone horribly if I’m gone. Because we are always goddamned short-staffed and drowning.

        I was on vacation last week and I swear it’s actually worse to have been gone for a week because then you end up with double stress having to make up all of the time. Plus there’s something about being gone for a week that makes me feel like I’m now losing my built-up immunity to iocane powder. I’m having a harder time tolerating the shit I have to eat because I had a week of no shit to eat.

        Reply
      1. baseballfan

        Mine too. I’ve never lost one hour of vacation.

        And I spent years in Big 4 accounting, where people routinely lose vacation and, worse, wear it as a badge of honor. (“I’m so busy! So much work, no time to take off!”). While it is true that everyone is busy all the time in that world, I refused to let it affect my use of vacation. Now, it took some planning. With 5 weeks a year, you can’t just leave it all until the end. I routinely took 2-3 days at a time, which was a nice break and I got them more frequently.

        Reply
        1. Jennifer

          My mom works in accounting and they’re pretty much only allowed to take time off from July-December, because they definitely aren’t allowed off from January-April and then they got mad at everyone using vacation time in May and June because of the end of the fiscal year.

          Reply
    2. workisthebest

      I don’t think it should be paid time off in the compensation package. If you want to take time off and away from work you shouldn’t be getting paid for it.

      Reply
  3. YandO

    I have 7 vacation days for the year. Which is two more than they offered originally.

    I cry at this article.

    Reply
    1. jpnadia

      Agreed. Step One of this article should be “give your employees enough PTO to take a break”. I have 10 days and need the occasional short week, so taking a whole week only happens when the holidays line up correctly.

      I would also feel better about taking joined-up vacation if we had a formal sick-leave policy, rather than leaving us at the discretion of our managers.

      Reply
    2. Golden Yeti

      Yes! (As per Alison’s article, #4, #4, #4!)

      If someone is out sick or needs to leave early for a personal matter, there’s always open speculation and suspicion (as soon as the employee is safely gone, of course) as to whether they’re “really” sick or why their young child isn’t okay to be left alone for an hour.

      Vacation isn’t much better. It’s technically 2 weeks (required by law), but you earn 1 day after every month worked, so you can’t take 2 paid weeks off until almost the end of the year. Plus, our office closes over the holidays, and any non-holiday days are deducted from vacation days, so right off the top, you must plan to skim off 3-4 days, which leaves you around 6 paid days for the whole year (realistically toward the end of the year) in which to be sick, have appointments, or take a rest.

      People are going to get sick. People are going to have appointments. People are going to feel burned out. Life happens. Employers should use all feasible means to make allowance for that. It would go a long way in earning employees’ respect.

      Reply
        1. PlainJane

          My employer does the same. The campus closes from just before Christmas to after New Years. We have to either use vacation time for the non-holiday weekdays (3-4 each year) or take them unpaid.

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        2. Kyrielle

          My $OldJob did that too – like PlainJane’s – and if you had 40+ hours banked, you had to use the vacation time and take them paid; in that case, unpaid wasn’t an option.

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        3. Apollo Warbucks

          It can happen in the UK too, the company can reserve 3 or 4 days of your holiday that you must take when the office is shut between Christmas and New Years. But out of 20 – 25 days holiday it’s not that bad

          Reply
        4. Anonsie

          Yep, mine does this as well. Any holiday we’re closed is a vacation day, so you don’t end up with much left over.

          Reply
      1. S

        That holiday break rule is awful (personally, I’d rather just take the days unpaid than have them taking back my PTO like that). I’m so sorry. :(

        Reply
      2. Golden Yeti

        Our setup is just like PlainJane’s. I could take them unpaid, but I can’t afford to have a few hundred dollars docked from my December paycheck (not many could). Plus, only certain managers have keys, so even if I wanted to come in and work, I physically couldn’t.

        So, the situation ends up being coming to work sick, and never taking more than one day off at a time, pretty much, just to make allowance for Christmas and emergencies.

        Reply
        1. Stranger than fiction

          I always thought if a company chooses to shut down with no option for you to come in, they can’t dock your pay??

          Reply
      3. Hlyssande

        Why they can’t leave their kid alone for an hour? Because they’re going to get arrested and their kid taken away, like just happened recently when an 11 year old played basketball outside for an hour and half when his parents were stuck in traffic.

        Anyone who asks that question is a jerk.

        Reply
        1. Clever Name

          This. We’re starting to let our 8 year old learn to stay home by himself, starting off in very short increments. Like under an hour. When I left the house, I told him he couldn’t answer the door, or go out front or even out back, because I just knew some nosy nelly neighbor would see him outside and then see my car arrive to an empty garage and then call the cops on us for “child neglect”.

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        2. Anonsie

          That’s nuts, where I grew up you could leave kids 10 and older unattended at home. My parents sure as heck did. When I was 11 a police officer even stopped by because there had been a crime committed nearby and he wanted to ask if we’d seen or heard anything that night. He asked how old I was, what grade I was in, when my parents were coming back and why they were gone… I think a few things about if I needed anything, I remember he seemed to try to suss out if I was in any kind of danger or not being cared for in some other ways, but after a few minutes he seemed satisfied that I was ok and left and that was it.

          Reply
    3. Ad Astra

      I get five for the year but I have to accrue them, so it’ll be a few months before I even have one vacation day, and a calendar year before I’ve accrued 5. It’m so mad at myself for not negotiating something more reasonable.

      Reply
  4. Elizabeth West

    I worked on my last trip, partially because I didn’t want to go in the hole on PTO, and partially because it was month-end and two extended trips in six months was a bit hard on my team. It made for some long days because I worked in the evening (GMT) to make sure I would be online at the same time they were. But I let everyone know what days I would not be available (the day of the Titanic Live concert, for example, and shortly before I got back, so I could play tourist in the East End and enjoy the bank holiday). It all went very well. :)

    This is the first time I’ve had a job where I could do that. Most companies in the US don’t grant much vacation time. We got two weeks every January at Exjob (no rollover), and after food service and part-time office work with no vacation at all, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I much prefer my current company’s way of pay period accrual. They allow a set amount of rollover at fiscal year end, too–if you don’t take the time over that, you lose it, so that’s a good incentive for people to take it! And they don’t make a fuss if you actually do. :) At Exjob, I had to plan trips around holidays to make the most of my limited paid time, and coverage was a problem sometimes.

    Reply
    1. S

      I’ve been lucky… I’ve worked only at places so far that had generous vacation policies, an optional 9/80 work schedule for when you want those extra two days a month, and our management encourages full use of vacation time. I shudder to think about if/when it’s time to look for a new job and the vacation policies aren’t nearly as lax.

      Reply
  5. Adjunct Gal

    Ye gods, it’s been so many years since I had paid time off. Being an adjunct, I get plenty of time off in between spring and fall, but no pay. You wouldn’t have to tell me twice to take a vacation, though!

    Reply
    1. Cordelia Naismith

      Same here — the time off is the main thing I miss about teaching and adjuncting. I’m swamped right now and thinking longingly of the days of yore when I had summers off.

      Reply
  6. JB (not in Houston)

    “2. Most of the time when people aren’t taking time off, it’s not because they don’t want to but because their workload is so high that they don’t know how to make it happen.”

    This is the case at my office. Those of us with lots of vacation time are frequently told that we need to use our time, but we are also given a hard time about deadlines. “We don’t want you to burn out! And we can’t afford to pay your for your time when you leave! So take your vacation–but also, you have to move your work as fast as we think you should!” Why would I ever take vacation when at least 2/3 of my conversation with my boss are about how fast I can get stuff done?

    Reply
  7. The Other Dawn

    When I first arrived here it was hard to get team members to take vacation, mainly because it was a two-person department, newly expanded to five people including myself; they’d been working like dogs for months on end and didn’t know how to switch out of crisis mode. And they were so used to having only themselves to depend on to get things done. But things are much better now. I think they just needed to see that they now have other people to pick up the workload and had to get used to the idea that there’s someone they can depend on other than themselves. They now know it’s OK to take time off and do so regularly. Although, I have one person who keeps apologizing for having to have some minor surgery, which requires about a week off, during a time when we’re working on a project, having an audit, etc. I’ve also made it known that I’m the kind of boss who will make every effort to not call them at home while they’re sick, on vacation, etc. Unless the building burns down, of course.

    Reply
  8. Rebecca

    Point #2 strikes home for me. I’m going to take off 4 business days in a row soon, and while I’m looking forward to it, I dread it at the same time. My email will be a disaster, despite my explicit out of office messages, work won’t get done because we’re already understaffed, and unless it’s a raging emergency, it will be sitting there when I return. I recently took one whole day off, a Friday, and it took me two days to get caught up when I got back to the office on Monday. It’s no way to run a business, IMO, but it seems to be the way of things now – work everyone to death to avoid paying just one more person benefits.

    Reply
    1. Student

      I feel the same way.

      I’m already months behind on work because we’re deeply under-staffed. I can’t get anyone to take my stuff on for a week so that I’m not returning to an ever-increasing backlog. In my case, if it is an emergency, I think my co-workers will just let the emergency continue to burn while I’m gone unless it threatens to consume their own projects.

      I’d love to take a vacation. I’m worried my projects will explode into a gory mess while I’m gone and I’ll get fired over it.

      Reply
  9. SevenSixOne

    My job is busiest in the winter/spring and slowest in the fall, my husband’s job is busiest in the summer/fall and slowest in the winter. We have about a five-week window where neither of us is in a busy season and taking a vacation is even POSSIBLE.

    If we had kids, we’d have to take our vacations around their school schedule… like the rest of the parents in the office. It’s no wonder people don’t always take vacations!

    Reply
  10. Just Another Techie

    Wow. I feel really lucky that this doesn’t even come up at my workplace. We have a team vacation calendar so we know who will be out of the office and can plan around it, and pretty much everyone has a 1-2 week vacation on there. Everyone has enough common sense to not take time off during our serious crunch times, and I don’t think I’ve ever formally asked permission to use my PTO. Just a quick email or IM to the boss a couple months out saying “I’m thinking about summer vacation and looking at the last two weeks of June. Do we have anything big coming up then?” Once the answer was “Yes, there is XYZ that you hadn’t considered, could you push it back to August instead?” but usually it’s “Sure. Just make sure you arrange coverage with your teammates, and QRS is the highest priority to get done before you leave.”

    Reply
  11. Engineer Girl

    #2 especially! Rarely do managers sit down with the employee and figure out when it would be a good time to take vacation. It started to change about 10 years ago. I would always get push back when I put in a vacation request – even if it was 6 months out. It’s worse when you have a manager that has all of their family local or who hates travel. They love to take 1-2 day vacations and can’t see that others may not take vacation that way. Some employees have family out of town or like to travel. An employee should have the option of taking an actual block of vacation (more than 1 week long). At my last assignment every single person on the team had 5-8 weeks of vacation on the books because it was never a “good time” to have someone out of the office. The company never penalized the managers by looking at their employees accrued vacation times and associating it with employee management. Then they screamed when the accident rate went up by 300%.
    An employer also needs to commit to not calling the employee on vacation, even if it is for a 5 minute question. Calling drags the employee back into work and breaks into the restoration process that occurs on vacation.

    Reply
    1. Retail Lifer

      I was so happy to be out of cell and internet range for 75% of my recent vacation. Life was strange without both, but work couldn’t contact me so it was absolutely blissful.

      Reply
    2. workisthebest

      The issue with it all is Paid Time Off. They are paying you to not work. If it was unpaid that would be fair. If you have a company phone they should have the right to call you.

      Reply
  12. Ash (the other one)

    Sigh. I just had an employee take a week off only to see on her timecard that she worked for half of it. I’m not exactly sure what she was working on (she manages a project that I’m only tangentially involved with — its the nature of our work that you manage people but not necessarily their projects). I’m not sure how to convince her to actually go off the grid!

    Reply
    1. The Other Dawn

      I had this problem with an exempt employee. Every time she mentioned going on vacation, she would say we could contact her, that she would be logged in, etc. I kept telling her no, we won’t contact you, take your time off and don’t worry about us! But I guess she felt she had to do that since it was a newly expanded department. I understand that and I’d probably do the same thing, but at the time it was frustrating to have someone actively telling me that she was just too busy to take vacation and felt the place would fall apart.

      Reply
      1. KathyGeiss

        I think part of the challenge is “I would do the same thing.” Maybe I’m misinterpreting but I know to believe my boss when she says “we will be fine” because when she is away, she is actually away. She doesn’t check in and she doesn’t make herself available except in Actual Emergencies. She sets a really good example and while it can be challenging with her gone, ultimately it sets a culture that I appreciate.

        Reply
        1. The Other Dawn

          In general when I go on vacation, I’m unplugged. What I meant was, in this particular situation I would have done the same thing. Newly expanded department, big back log of work, no one really settled in yet. That’s all I meant by it.

          Reply
          1. Elizabeth West

            Me too–my cell phone and email are posted in my cube, but you have to actually walk in there and look for them. My boss has my phone number so if there is any kind of crisis she can call me. She never does, however. Unless I’m out of town, I could zip right back to the office and put out a fire but so far that hasn’t been an issue. *knocks wood*

            Reply
      2. Hlyssande

        I volunteer at two conventions a year in a hotel just across the freeway from my office. I keep telling them that I can come in if it’s a super emergency…but they’ll have to deal with my con gear rather than business casual.

        I’ve never been called.

        Mwahaha.

        Reply
      3. Anonsie

        See I prefer doing that to being totally cut off, I get bored and I’m very personally invested in my projects at work.

        Reply
  13. Ann O'Nemity

    Taking a vacation usually means working tons of extra hours before I leave and after I return. It makes the whole thing stressful, even though we’re given decent vacation packages and encouraged to use them.

    Reply
    1. SevenSixOne

      Same.

      I can take 2 or 3 days at a time without making the days leading up and returning too stressful, but much longer than that hardly seems worth it.

      Reply
    2. Office Girl

      Yup. I always tell my boyfriend (who is an anesthesiologist) that although his job is EXTREMELY stressful, at least when he leaves for the day (or week or month) someone else is doing all the work and he comes back to a clean slate…wouldn’t it be nice if it could be like that for everyone!

      Reply
      1. Jennifer

        Even though my coworkers are doing my work while I’m gone, I somehow always come back to a giant pile that takes all day to do. I don’t know how that happens. I also got bitched out for losing something that came in while I was gone.

        Reply
  14. Va ca tion ?

    I have yet to work in a place where it’s truly easy to take vacation. Either I’m always slammed or there’s a large backlog when I get back or both.

    The worst was my previous employer, where I couldnt even be out for an appointment without getting called to walk them through things for which I was their singular guru… and after 6-8 months of saying I needed a back up, them agreeing in principle, but taking no action to find someone, I was out the door. Quality of life is really key.

    Reply
    1. Kyrielle

      *weary* At LastJob I was on bereavement leave (and they had nicely extended it beyond the norm for me, admittedly) and the day I had to meet with the lawyer and start probate on my parents’ wills, I think as I was walking from the public parking area to the lawyer’s office, I got a call from my boss about something.

      I *think* it was urgent, because I remember feeling put upon but not furious, which would’ve been my reaction if it wasn’t, but really, seriously…if you can’t do without me, something’s wrong in how my coworkers are cross-trained.

      Reply
  15. Retail Lifer

    I only get two weeks vacation and I don’t get sick time. Between the six vacation days I took for an actual vacation and and the days I had to burn for doctor’s appointments and being sick, I’m out of time off for the year already. I can’t get sick again until January, and it’s been a bad year for me medically already.

    This will be a first for me. I normally have a ton of time I can’t take because of staffing issues. So, yay for being sick a lot this year?

    Reply
  16. Paloma Pigeon

    Per a point above, school schedules make it challenging for families to bank vacation time. Many times my husband uses his vacation as gap coverage when there is a break during the year and we can’t find coverage, or want to save $$ toward other necessities.

    Reply
    1. SevenSixOne

      I mentioned that above. If you have kids, you really can’t take a family vacation when the kids are in school. If several people in your department have school-age children, you may not be able to have everyone gone at once… and the people without kids have to plan THEIR vacations around when the parents won’t be at work.

      Reply
      1. Noah

        My family always took vacations while we were in school. It was an unexcused absence, but we generally took work with us. When/if I have kids I plan to do the same. Many times you can find better deals on travel and the places are not as crowded.

        Reply
    2. Lia

      My issue when my kids were small were all of the half days, early dismissal days, teacher conferences, etc — there seemed to be at least one of those a month, and that ate up vacation time quickly, because the after school programs they went to usually did not stay open for those events.

      Reply
  17. Brandy

    So, my company offers unlimited (manager discretion) PTO. I directly manager 6 people, and one of them never takes time off. However, she has 2 kids and is constantly trying to deal with a sick kid (or two), family emergencies, appointments etc. She works from home, so her work/home life get really blurred on these occasions. I’ve had to (remotely) sit her down and tell her “just take the day.” She can’t give me 100% when she’s got a puking kid, and I don’t want to expect 100% and get 25%.

    I manage two others that also have young children, and they do take time when they have family things to deal with- drs appts, sick kids, whatever. They don’t abuse it, of course, but it just works better for me if I know Jane or Bob will be out of pocket all afternoon on PTO vs pinging Jane and it turns out she’s cleaning puke up at the moment when I have a critical client question.

    Reply
    1. SherryD

      Totally! I would never try to phone or email a coworker taking a sick or vacation day. But when they *say* they’re taking PTO, but are staying plugged in, I get confused about whether it’s OK to contact them.

      Reply
  18. TotesMaGoats

    The first bullet should really be-provide enough PTO so people can actually take a vacation (or two) in a year and not worry about sick leave or things like that. It’s all well and good to say people should take leave but if you only give a handle full of days and that’s also sick leave then I’m not surprised that people don’t take leave.

    Reply
    1. Zahra

      Yeah, that’s my problem too: my husband is a long-distance truck driver, so I’m essentially a single mom during the week (from the POV of my employer). I have no one to take care of my son if he’s sick, so I’m keeping my PTO for that and to complete the gap between Dec 25-Jan 1. I’ve got 9 days banked so far, and 3-4 will be taken during the holidays. If I have them all at the end of the year, I’ll plan a week off before the end of April.

      Reply
    2. Melly

      Exactlyyy. I don’t get any PTO which means I don’t take any time off, which means I’m burnt out fast.

      Reply
    3. Jennifer

      And the second thing would be to have enough staff on hand so that the Titanic isn’t sinking every time a person is gone.

      Reply
  19. voyager1

    I am in banking, I am required to take a week off… However I get only 10 days.

    I feel for the rest of you however!

    Reply
    1. Anonymusketeer

      I’m also required to take a 5-day audit week, but I only get 5 vacation days. So if I want to take a random Friday for a wedding or something I’m SOL. I hate it so much.

      Reply
  20. Meg

    This is SO important! One of my very favorite things about my job is our vacation policy. We get 5 weeks, and more importantly, my boss really encourages us to take it all. It doesn’t roll over, so she’ll make sure we do it! Which is great because it relieves the stress. I mean, I love my job, but I don’t want to feel guilty for wanting days off!

    Reply
    1. lawsuited

      At my last job I got 5 weeks of paid vacation that did not roll over, but I was definitely not encouraged to take them. Quite the opposite. I submitted 8 vacation requests which were all denied. I was ultimately only able to take 3 days of my 5 weeks and I think those were only approved because I was having surgery and had a medical note saying I required those days off for bed rest. Considering I took a lower salary in exchange for more paid time off, I feel like my employer really reneged on my employment contract by not allowing me to access a substantive benefit we agreed would be part of my compensation. Part of the reason I left was that I was burnt out after a year and half without vacation, and no hope in sight!

      Reply
    2. mel

      Enjoy it! I suspect my husband has a similar deal because it just seems like he’s completely free to take a day off whenever, for whatever reason + usually two weeks off in the summer + all weekends and holidays + christmas/newyear week and STILL have enough left over to take a month of fridays off at the end of the year.

      And I have to work every major holiday and watch him go camping/visiting/etc without me, so I’m incredibly embittered about it. lol

      Reply
  21. mdv

    I have coworkers who think nothing of losing time because they NEVER EVER take time off…. not more than a day here and there in 10 years, for one of them. And for me… I am not willing to lose any vacation time!

    That said, it’s really hard for me to get time off because there are a number of tasks that I am the only person in the office who can/will do them, which means that my vacation schedule is highly dependent on what deadlines are going on. Then, when I try to book a vacation, the assistant director for my area (I don’t report to him) has always already got vacations booked, and I can’t go. On top of that, he gets pissy when I take time off.

    You can’t win, either way.

    Reply
  22. nona

    I can take a vacation, allegedly, but my workload won’t allow it. Same goes for sick days.

    I hurt my leg a while ago. I hid it. :/

    One of many reasons I’m looking for a new job.

    Reply
    1. lawsuited

      Get out of there! I fractured my ankle years ago and wasn’t able to go to physiotherapy because my employer at the time was very hostile about me rescheduling my work calendar to fit in to the frequent appointments so I gave up. Needless to say I have ongoing ankle problems. I’ve since attended physiotherapy, but the damage is done. When I think about it now, it’s completely awful that I worked anywhere where I felt I couldn’t leave the office for much-needed medical treatment.

      Reply
  23. KathyGeiss

    Actually disconnecting while away (as opposed to calling and checking in) can be hard for some people’s egos (I’m guilty here too). It can be hard for people to accept that the office won’t fall apart with out them because they like feeling important. That, added to a culture that rewards workaholic tendencies and I can see how this can be a problem.

    Maybe there is value in finding a way to encourage people to stay disconnected by reassuring them of their value to the company. I don’t really know what that would look like but I do know in my case, seeing management actually disconnect while on vacay is helpful.

    Reply
  24. moss

    I love our current vacation policy which was implemented last year. We have a bucket of days and then we have 5 days that we have to take CONSECUTIVELY and then the entire company shuts down between Dec 26-Jan2, so there’s no guilt, there’s no squirreling away time to get time off during holidays. Also they don’t allow rollover and they really honestly mean it when they say they WANT YOU TO TAKE VACATIONS.

    pretty good for a US-based company.

    Reply
    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      This is my favorite. My last organization also closed down from Christmas to New Year’s. It was the best, because it meant that you didn’t come back to too many emails/crises/etc. Most people seemed to respect it pretty well. Love.

      Reply
  25. Gallerina

    I have the opposite problem: 25 paid days off a year and my boss is loath to let us take any of them as she “doesn’t believe in vacation” They’re use it or lose it too, so it’s not like I can cash them out. Feels like having a chunk of my salary denied to me :(

    Reply
    1. mdv

      I would go to your HR folks about this — if it is part of your compensation package, then it shouldn’t matter if your boss “believes in” vacation or not (and, WTF?), you have EARNED those vacation days, and deserve to take them!

      Reply
  26. Jake

    I used to work for a company where taking time of wasn’t too tough.

    4 weeks of pto a year, allowed to roll over,and we all had people that could cover our work.

    I didn’t realize how great that was until I left for a company where nobody covers your work and you’re forced to work crazy hours when you get back to catch up.

    Reply
  27. Julie

    The problem for me is that I worked retail for enough years that it started to become part of my nature to not ever think I could take time off. In my jobs since, I’ve always had problems where the person covering me simply sat in my seat and didn’t do any of my work due to its specialized nature. Luckily my firm is clear that I’m to take vacation and has tried to help me in any way they can, even shutting down my remote location for two days once. It’s helping me but I’m still just not used to being treated like a person. I’ve really felt like I didn’t deserve to take it and I’d be punished if I did so it’s hard to change what I’ve been taught for almost 15 years.

    Reply
  28. BRR

    As part of number 2, figure out how people can take off and not have twice as much work when they come back (not sure if this was implied or covered in another comment). Having things pile up takes away from being recharged and refreshed.

    Also as people say, provide enough time.

    Reply
    1. Beezus

      Yes! This is huge.

      I left a job last year where I never felt like I could take vacation because I always worked at least as many hours prepping for/catching up from the vacation as I spent on it. I worked 60 hours a week at minimum – everyone on my team did – so there was no bandwidth to provide coverage for someone else. When I did take time off because I had family commitments, I wound up logging in to take care of small things or joining conference calls. If I took three days – 24 hours of PTO – I would wind up working at least 12 extra hours before and 12 after to catch up, and logging/calling in for 8-10 hours of actual work. Not worth it.

      In my current job, my base job leaves me enough bandwidth to actually allow time for professional development, providing vacation coverage for other people, and taking vacation of my own. I can’t tell you how much difference that makes in my morale – it’s amazing.

      Reply
  29. LiteralGirl

    I’m leaving at the end of next week for a month in Europe with my husband and kids. I’ve always avoided taking vacation during mid-month because that is when I run all of my monthly reports, but that won’t work this time. I’ve given my office mate some training, and have scheduled our itinerary so I’ll have reliable internet service during the crucial days so I can help out if needed. I’m so thrilled to be away from the office for a month that I don’t care if I need to work a bit.

    Reply
  30. mel

    Yes! My coworkers routinely take months off at a time, leaving the remaining two of us to scramble like crazy trying to cover the absense. It’s not great and sometimes we have to “fight” over who has to work saturdays, ha! But two months is just too long. I have to wonder what it’s like to think that taking off for months at a time is a reasonable thing to do.

    I don’t even feel comfortable to take one week a year. Everyone is quitting en masse, and as a result, I don’t think I’ll ask for my week off this year. I hate the idea of being the cause of a lurch, because I know that I won’t really be replaced during a vacation. It would just result in one less person, passing the work onto someone else who already has work.

    But I want a vacation SO BAD that i’m super tempted to just quit and be unemployed for a while. Did this at Oldjob.. I was just too tired and couldn’t keep going. So I quit and took “vacation” for a month. There’s a binge that happens after years of unhappiness, like dieting, I guess.

    Reply
  31. S

    Reading everyone’s stories about their lack of PTO makes me shudder. I have a generous vacation + sick package (separate, bankable pools for both) and an ED who encourages full use of the benefits. Being in an environment where that’s not supported… augh.

    Reply
  32. Kathlynn

    I’m on holidays right now. My boss was talking about how she doesn’t like it when people are constantly booking time off, and doesn’t care if she can give it to them, or paid holidays, because… We don’t care if she takes her holidays. You know the thing we have no control over. We are not her supervisors, we are her staff. She also claimed two of the employees who quite last year did so just to spite her. One moved out of town, after leaving her SO, the other moved into an Assistant Manager position, that paid much better then min. wage she was getting as a cashier.

    Reply
  33. AnonEMoose

    I’m feeling some frustration around this issue myself right now. I have a week of vacation time coming up very soon. Which is a good thing – this is the one time I take more than 1-2 days off at a time all year.

    For months, literally MONTHS, I have been asking my boss “who is covering X, Y, and Z while I’m out?” and getting a whole lot of “don’t know” in return. Meanwhile, I have repeatedly covered for and otherwise assisted the other two people on my team when they have been out for various reasons.

    Now one of them is leaving, so there’s really no one to cover. And no guarantee of when we’re getting a replacement, although at least some of her work is also going elsewhere in the company, so that’s something. On the other hand, we’re also expecting more work to head our way in the near future, so who knows.

    All this means I’m going to come back to a giant mess. I have a meeting with my boss next week to discuss how he wants me to prioritize when I get back. But I’m kind of a steaming ball of resentment about this right now, and feeling distinctly taken for granted. I’ve already decided that I am NOT going to kill myself catching up when I get back. If some stuff has to wait, it has to wait – and anyone who complains is getting sent right to Boss.

    Which I plan to make clear to Boss next week. Along with reminding him that I have stepped up and covered when I technically didn’t have to, and that I’m going to seriously consider whether I do that again. Because while I’m happy to help…it’s really not cool with me if the help only ever flows in one direction.

    Reply
    1. Harryv

      I don’t know why you think it is up to your boss. My team has to arrange and if needed, train up their peers to support their work when they are on leave. As a matter of fact, the one taking the leave is responsible to let me know who their backup is.

      Reply
      1. Windchime

        Yeah, well, at my workplace it’s up to the manager to…….manage. I’ve never understood workplaces where the workers themselves are responsible to arrange coverage. In those situations, I always picture the manager in some back room with their feet up on the desk, smoking a cigar and stroking a white cat and laughing while the poor employee is desperately trying to find someone to cover so they can take their measly one week vacation that they had to wait all year to get.

        Reply
  34. AGirlCalledFriday

    I…could not work somewhere that I can’t take vacation. I’m a traveler, and I want to see everything. On my travels I very rarely see fellow Americans. It’s a huge problem – we are so closed off from everything. However, how in the world is anyone supposed to go anywhere when they have a week or 2 in which to do it for the entire year????

    Reply
    1. Jennifer

      I’m never going to travel away from North America. I just accept this as a fact. Too much money and time, plus other factors.

      Reply
  35. inkstainedpages

    I cringe internally every time my boss tries to get me to use my vacation time. Ours rolls over, and I’m trying to save up for maternity leave someday, since there’s no paid mat leave here. So I’d feel bad pressuring my staff to spend a big chunk of vacation time in case they are saving up for something similar (I don’t discourage them using it, though).

    Also, as a manager, I struggle with being completely unplugged when I do take vacation time. I feel so guilty, like I’m slacking off on my duties. I’m glad to see all the comments here from people who feel encouraged by their bosses setting the unplugged example. I’ll remember that next time I’m gone for a day or two and hopefully not feel so bad.

    Reply
  36. Harryv

    Great point. We have colleagues across the US and in some states, they have use it or lose it laws before the financial year ends. What happens is people don’t plan and end up taking the entire month of March off. It’s bad for the business and bad for those who did plan and spread out their vacations.

    Reply
  37. TL17

    I work for a small company that allows 30 days off. Nobody ever takes more than a handful. I try to take several long weekends every year. Big boss takes time, and works the whole time, sending emails at odd hours and returning calls. It has created an expectation that when people do take a day off that we actually have to work the whole time. I actually hate taking days off because I’m on edge the whole time about checking emails and responding. I have been doing this for eleven years and I am exhausted. I have answered work calls at concerts, at sporting events, and in all sorts of other settings because vacation doesn’t mean vacation. It is not worth saying anything to Big Boss because he doesn’t care; working through vacation works for him so it must work for everyone.

    Reply
  38. Anonyby

    Yeah, definitely need to make sure employees have vacations as an option! As a part-timer, I have no PTO (my company currently has a shared bucket for sick & vacation). Not only that, but my take-home isn’t enough for a vacation. I still have no clue how I’m going to pay to be at my brother’s wedding next year (short of getting a new job). My current boss at least asks me about the less-important holidays if I want them off or want to work (I chose to work because I need the $).

    Reply
  39. MissDisplaced

    I feel fortunate. My boss is from Europe, where things like vacations are meant to be taken. She reminds me to schedule them for the year, and never gives any issues about taking time off. I receive a generous 3 weeks + 2 choice days (only been there 1 year) however, we can only rollover 1 week into the next year. This is SO DIFFERENT from many companies I’ve worked at in the past where you were lucky to get a week only after you had worked there a full year.

    Reply
  40. Office Girl

    This. I’m tempted to post it up on the refrigerator in our office for one specific manager…fortunately, I don’t work under him, but some of my work friends do. He has no problem with vacation, but he likes to hassle anyone taking more than one week at a time. This is a company that gives 3.5 weeks of leave every year and there’s no policy in terms of how you take it, whether one day at a time or all in one go, but any time a coworker requests to take 2-3 weeks it comes with a comment of “you know, if we can function just fine for 3 weeks without you here, what does that mean?” Never mind that we have a lot of employees from other countries, where it takes 20 hours for them just to fly home to visit family…and he wants them to go halfway around the world and back in a matter of one week….ugh.

    Reply
    1. BeenThere

      I just did that fly halfway around the world for a little over a week. I was sad because I couldn’t spend as much time with my family and then sad because I had to use up two thirds of my vacation time.

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth West

        That’s why red-eyes are so great. I HATE wasting a whole day flying. If I’m going to be sleeping anyway, I might as well travel at the same time! Of course, that doesn’t do much for a 20-hour flight, but I suppose I could be writing during part of it.

        Reply
    2. Elizabeth West

      I would love to respond to that question, “It means you have really good employees here, and why aren’t YOU on holiday? We can certainly handle everything for a couple of weeks.” ;D

      Reply
  41. Anonsie

    I would like to add to this for managers: If people are disapproving of one of your employees using their vacation days because they don’t want to have to wait a couple of days or talk to someone else to ask a non-urgent question, please don’t take it back to your report like this is a problem they need to solve by always being in the office.

    A shiny new penny to whoever can guess why I can never take time off to relax.

    Reply
    1. AnonEMoose

      So much this. It’s part of backing up your people, which a good manager should do. If it’s non-urgent, then the person throwing the special snowflake fit about having to wait is the one with the problem. They can either figure it out, or send an email and wait for a response when the vacationing person is back.

      Reply
      1. Anonsie

        Yep. I’ve gotten into hot water for being out of the office when someone had a question many times, but they are always mysteriously questions that the person doesn’t feel the need to email or call me about. If I’m reachable and you choose not to reach me, you are manufacturing your own problem for one– and second, if what you need can flux entirely out of existence if asking for it requires more work than tossing it out as you walk by my desk, it wasn’t important enough for me to need to be there for it.

        Reply
  42. Noah

    Should I admit that when I started looking for a new job I began hoarding my PTO because I knew it would payout on my last paycheck? Over 200 hours of PTO helped to bridge the gap between old job and new job, and gave me a week off for vacation between the two.

    Reply
  43. Jessie's Girl

    I’m not taking vacation or personal time because I can’t lose it in California. I’d rather it be paid out when I leave (at a hire rate of pay than when I earned it).

    Reply

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