how to take vacation when it’s never a good time to leave work

If you’re like lots of Americans, you’ve accrued vacation time that you’re not sure when you’ll ever use. You might feel guilty about taking time off when there’s so much work to be done, or just not foresee a slower period that will allow you to get away, or have a boss who discourages you from scheduling time away. But taking occasional breaks from work is crucial to maintaining your quality of life – and sometimes your quality of work too, since many people become burned out when they’re never able to get away.

If you’re one of the many who doesn’t know how you’ll find time to go on vacation, here are five tips for making it happen.

1. Stop waiting for a “good time” to go. The nature of many jobs is that there will never be an easy time to take time off,no matter how well you plan for it in advance. But that’s no reason to not go at all. It’s in your employer’s best interests to have well-rested and recharged employees, and vacation time is a benefit that you’ve earned, just like salary, so you should use it. So instead of waiting for the perfect time – which may never come along – decide that you will be using your vacation time this year, and make the question one of what accommodations should be made, whether than whether accommodations can be made.

2. If your manager balks, be assertive. It’s certainly your manager’s prerogative to say that you can’t take time off at a certain of year (because it’s the company’s busiest time or because two other people on your team will be gone then), but she shouldn’t say that you can nevertake time off. If you’re getting the sense she doesn’t want to approve vacation time, no matter when it is, address the issue head-on. Say something like, “I haven’t been able to have a vacation in two years because it’s so hard to get away, and obviously that’s not sustainable in the long-term. Time off is part of my benefits package, and I’d like to use it. Can we talk about how to arrange things so that I can plan for some time off with confidence?” Sometimes some bosses are so caught up in the day-to-day rush of work that they need prodding to step back and look at long-term needs like this. (And good managers know that great people will eventually leave if they’re working in a culture that doesn’t support their quality of life – and good management is about getting results in the long run, not just the short-term.)

3. Be sure your office is prepared to handle anything that might come up in your absence. This means making sure that you’ve documented how to do the key elements of your job that could be done by someone else in a pinch; enlisting coworkers in helping cover pieces of your job that will need to be covered while you’re gone; informing your boss about those arrangements so that she’s in the know; and making sure that your outgoing voicemail message and email auto-reply both let people know that you’re away, when they can expect a response, and/or who to contact for help in your absence.

4. Try to unplug completely. Much of the benefit of vacation time comes from truly being away from work – mentally as well as physically. If you’re still checking work email and taking work calls, you’ll lose this benefit, especially since it takes most people a few days of doing no work to get out of work mode completely. So don’t be tempted to check in to make sure you’re not needed. In all but the rarest cases, your office can survive without you for a week or two.

5. But if you really can’t unplug completely, limit the ways in which you’re checking in. Don’t offer your office constant availability; you shouldn’t be taking work calls when you’re relaxing on the beach or getting interrupted at dinner. Instead, if you can’t unplug altogether, let coworkers or your boss know that you’ll be checking voicemail or email once a day (or once every two days) and only responding to messages marked “urgent.”

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 80 comments… read them below }

  1. Kay @ Travel Bug Diary blog*

    Planning ahead is really important. I usually travel someplace warm for the two weeks following Christmas. It’s a slow time in the office – so it minimizes work disruptions. I request the time of a few months early. We usually don’t even know what we’ll be working on when I make the request, so there’s never any problem with approval. And we can plan around that time slot really early. Planning ahead of time also helps me. The period around New Years is high season everywhere, so booking early helps me lock in flights and hotels in my budget.

    1. Neeta*

      It helps sooo much. A lot of times, I ended up going on holiday during really “critical periods” so to say, but my boss/clients had been aware of this for at least a month prior. As such, no one got mad… well, not too much.

  2. Runon*

    If you are checking emails it is good to recognize that just because someone sent you an email (or vm) that you don’t have to respond. Most things can sit, finding a way to make yourself ok with that is important too. Can you have a flag set up with things to deal with the day after you get bag and just hit that, you now know to deal with it and know it will pop up, but until then the world will continue to spin if you go have a swim.

    I think it is also good to understand that while April might be a really bad time for a tax preparer to take a vacation, it might be a great time for someone who does corporate training for tax preparers to take a vacation. Just because some parts of your business or company are busy doesn’t mean everyone is. (And maybe December is really crazy for the same corporate trainer because that is when they are doing all their work to get ready for training new laws and staff, but a great time for the preparer to go on vacation.)

    1. Chinook*

      “If you are checking emails it is good to recognize that just because someone sent you an email (or vm) that you don’t have to respond”

      This! I once had a boss (I was his assistant) who replied to an email I sent about something inconsequential when he was on his honeymoon. It was something that could wait but I knew I would forget about. I replied to his email that, if I needed his response, I would state it was urgent in the subject line (because I knew he would glance through his emails) but that everyone in the office was not expecting a response from him while he was gone. And, because of the type of relationship we had, I also reminded him that that type of behaviour is what cost him his first marriage and that, if he insisted on replying to my emails, I would set them up to all show up in his inbox at 8 am the first day he got back.

      1. tcookson*

        That’s what I do with some of my coworkers who I know compulsively respond to emails, even if they’re on vacation. I know I’ll forget to send an email if I don’t do it immediately, so I just set the email to be delivered on Tuesday, mid-morning of their first week back.

  3. Jamie*

    I really liked the caveat for those who can’t unplug completely. When the advice is “turn off your phone” it’s not doable for a lot of us, but you hit the nail on the head of limiting and clearly communicating availability.

    I used to be one of those people who felt guilty about emails that came while I was in the shower because I didn’t respond right away. That may sound like what you want out of an employee, but you really don’t (at least if it’s me) because it gets to the point that resentment is triggered with every email chime, text alert, and (most of all) phone ring. It’s absolutely Pavlovian.

    1. Really determine what is an emergency to you – and someone having to look something up themselves or wait until morning for things that can are NOT emergencies. Define emergency and educate your users. Even if it’s something you can answer off the top of your head force yourself to wait to respond during the times you agreed to check mail. You are conditioning people to honor your time off and it reinforces your definition of an emergency.
    2. Communicate the above super clearly. Don’t tell them you’ll check periodically – tell them you’ll check email once in the morning and once late afternoon (or whatever) and do that. Flag the emails as they come in (because we all know you’re checking more often – just not responding) and send a short response that you got the email and will take care of it…and give them an ETA (when you get back – whatever).
    3. If you have an emergency deal with it immediately. Part of the deal of teaching them to honor your time is giving them the security of knowing you really mean it when you say you’re available in an emergency. That’s your half of the bargain. And if you’re out of town and it requires someone on site then make sure they know you’re communicating with the person you’ve arranged to handle it.

    It can take time but it’s so worth it. My users know that any time day or night if there is a server issue or production bottleneck I’m on it – I’ve come in at 2 am, on Chistmas Eve, it doesn’t matter…but they’ve also learned that if they put in too long a number in Excel and it does this ##### that’s not a reason to call me when I’m home sick…you ask someone else or google is your friend.

    1. fposte*

      Managerially speaking, I *don’t* want people to feel guilty for not answering emails in the shower. As in Chinook’s example, I don’t want to have to be responsible for creating somebody else’s boundaries–I want them to maintain their own.

      1. Cat*

        Agreed; I have a co-worker who refuses to draw those boundaries for herself and then gets angry and resentful when other people don’t do it for her. It frankly creates a lot more stress and drama than anything else, and forces everyone else to walk around on eggshells lest you be responsible for her driving herself into the ground. (I’m perhaps dramatizing a little, but I find the whole set-up to be both martyresque and easily avoidable.)

        1. Jamie*

          Absolutely. My point was exactly that – a bad manager may thing they want an employee handcuffed to the job but you really don’t. And that people who don’t inherently have a boundary between job and personal time can create one and train themselves and others. It’s like learning any other good habit – it’s hard at first but you’ll be so glad you made the effort.

    2. SevenSixOne*


      It can be so hard to let people flail and not put out every fire immediately. But I guarantee that if you make a habit of not responding to anything but true emergencies for at least 30 minutes, you will be amazed how often you’ll get a frantic SOS message and then “never mind, problem solved” five minutes later.

  4. Anonymous*

    Frankly, if you think there’s never a good time to take vacation or you can’t keep from checking work emails while away, you really have some misplaced priorities in life. If you died tomorrow, your company would go on without you.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s not quite that. Some people love their jobs and have as much trouble unplugging completely as they would from anything else they really enjoy. Others would love to unplug but have offices that make doing it hard.

      1. darsenfeld*

        Hmmm… I think numerous countries, vacation time is a basic right in labour law.

        IMO, it’s a poor manager and/or organisation who does not account for holiday time, in the account of “being too busy”. Surely a manager must appropriately plan his or her workforce for all eventualities.

    2. Jamie*

      You can’t paint everyone with the same brush…some jobs just aren’t compatible with cutting off communication. Not every company has enough staff to have redundancies for every position.

      For me the stress of not checking in would ruin my time off – because I’d imagine the worst. I check in, know everything is okay – know they can get me if they need me – so I can relax. Nothing wrong with wanting to stay connected.

      1. MovingRightAlong*

        Agreed, I used to work at a place that had zero redundancies.

        I’m going to write that again, because it’s so ridiculous: this place had zero redundancies. If you were out sick or out of town and an emergency came up, you had to be ready to be on the phone trying to walk someone though a fix.

        “Go to my work area, the part with the two tables that make a T. Look for the box that says ‘glue.’ …Have you found it yet? On the shelves with all the boxes. Ok, look down. Now two over. Yes, that box. Open it. Inside is glue. Now here’s how to use the glue….”

      2. tcookson*

        The times I’m most grateful to be connected are when I have faculty or students traveling. I just sleep better, if I have a group of students on an out-of-state trip, knowing that if I’m not hearing from any of them, it’s because everything is okay, not because I can’t be reached between 5pm and 8am.

    3. Chinook*

      I think that sometimes people can’t unplug because they know that things like emails can pile up and feel overwhelming when you get back to work. The ability to spend 5 minutes checking your emails once a day to confirm that there are no major emergencies waiting for you when you get back can allow you to relax more. And, if there is an emergency, being able to delegate it someone else immediately or deal with it in a timely manner can make yoru job easier in the long run. But, since those types of emergencies shouldn’t happen too often, it should only take you 5 minutes a day to verify that everything is okay.

      I still look to General Rick Hillier (Ret. Cdn. Forces) who was on vacation when a major scandal hit the Canadian military/government. When he got back, the media asked him why he didn’t fly back immediately. His response was that he surrounded himself with people he trusted were competent to deal with whatever was happenning(and that he was probably on his nth rum & coke and really didn’t care when the news broke).

    4. Mike C.*

      You’re speaking from a privileged position. For some there are very real fears of being passed up for promotion or even being first in line for a layoff if they dare take “too much” vacation.

      1. Jessa*

        Exactly. There are places that if you don’t answer right away you’re in trouble.

        And that in this economy where people get fired for breathing wrong and a dozen people are probably lined up for their jobs, makes a difference.

        1. JM in England*

          + 1 billion Jessa!

          Sometimes, you don’t know that breathing wrong is a company offence until you actually do it!

          1. Jessa*

            Yeh, didn’t we just have a thing here about vague complaints on “attitude?” Not the OP, but some of the responses? The OP was doing it right, trying to figure out how to impact attitude in a good way. But notes about people being dinged in performance for “vague-itty vagueness.”

      2. darsenfeld*

        What is “too much” time?

        If an employee’s contract says s/he is entitled to 6 weeks vacation per year, then the firm has no choice but to honour this, or face civil legal action.

        I think the case here is simply bad management, or employees who don’t know their rights.

    5. fposte*

      I think I get what you’re trying to say, but I really like my work so I don’t think it is a misplaced priority. My investment isn’t based on the notion that it would crumble if I died. However, my work will be a major pain in the butt if I leave it all till I come back, so I have a much more restful time if I can defray some of the backlog while I’m away.

      1. Anonymous*

        This is all evidence of how brainwashed we have become in the American work-centric culture. You “must” be available while on vacation? What did people do 15 years ago? Terrified to take vacation because you want a promotion? It doesn’t work this way in other places and it doesn’t have to here. But it continues because everyone buys into it.

        1. Jessa*

          It continues because people lose promotions, rises and other benefits for taking vacation when their bosses do not want them to (IE ever.) It’s not brainwashing if it’s true.

          The problem is that the people with the power to fix this are not. Federal regulators do not care, they think it’s fine if they stomp all over the middle class and poor. And unions have been rendered toothless by those same federal regulators.

          For everyone who says we DON’T need unions, we need them more than ever now. To ensure we can keep what few rights we still have. You’ll notice the federal government is already stomping all over the 40 hour work week and overtime pay.

          1. Jessa*

            Sorry hit enter early – also vis other places? They have LAWS. Other countries have laws that require people to get vacations and holiday pay. They have laws regarding severance and on what grounds you can dismiss with no severance. The US does not.

            15 years ago, the economy was different, unemployment was less, attitudes were much different about workers and their rights. Now all the rights reside with the employers. And states are doing more and more to make sure it stays that way.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Some of this is perception that varies depending on where you stand. From a managerial perspective, I see plenty of ways that employers’ hands are tied, some of which seem unreasonable.

              1. Jessa*

                I do not disagree with you. I guess my bias is for workers. Since employers hold the ultimate power most of the time – how much you get paid, if you get leave or insurance, if you even have a job.

                The problem is that yes good managers get stuck in the methods necessary to blanket protect against bad ones. If there were more good than bad it would probably not be an issue.

          2. Anonymous*

            Yeah, whoa. Not endorsing unions. It would be very simple for the federal or even state governments to make laws mandating paid time off and requiring that using it cannot be factored into other employment decisions.

            1. Jessa*

              Except that the current federal government despite the will of over 95% of the population are doing just the opposite they are trying to overturn the 40 hour week AND while they DO mandate comp time they do NOT require the employer to allow the worker to USE it.

              So basically if this passes fully you can make someone work as many hours as you want and then say “sorry but you can’t take that comp time ever.”

              Unions are NECESSARY. Every state where right to work has been enforced has lower wage per hour, and lower over all benefits for EVERYONE not just the union shops. Right to work is BAD for workers.

              And the federal and state governments are anti-worker as well. Every jobs bill has been voted down, every worker protection bill has been skewed in favour of owners and management. The federal government has PROVEN they will NOT stand up for employees. Ever.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                As with any other political issue, if people cared enough to speak out in sufficient numbers, this stuff could change. They don’t, and so it doesn’t.

                1. Jessa*

                  Totally. However we elected a President who cannot even begin to get the people across the aisle to even compromise with him. Even though THEIR constituents also agree. People are speaking out. Nobody’s listening.

                  But this is a worker/manager blog, to teach us how to deal with all of this stuff.

                  I retire from the field after shaking the hand of my learned and very logical opponent.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Not enough people are speaking out to their legislators though. It’s shocking how few people communicate with their legislators. If more people did so — and voted in their own interests — we’d see more change.

                  Getting off my personal soapbox now. I get worked up about people not speaking out, even when I disagree with what they’d be speaking out about. Grrr.

                3. -X-*

                  We saw on the recent gun control debate that speaking with legislators wasn’t enough – money talks more than talking.

                  More generally, it’s been demonstrated that, at the national level, legislators of both parties rarely listen to poor constituents. Poor people can talk all they want – they are ignored when their interests are at odds with wealthier actors. This is a classic recent work on that:

                  Key point: “In almost every instance, senators appear to be considerably more responsive to the opinions of affluent constituents than to the opinions of middle-class constituents, while the opinions of constituents in the bottom third of the income distribution have no apparent statistical effect on their senators’ roll call votes…These income-based disparities in representation appear to be unrelated to disparities in turnout and political knowledge and only weakly related to disparities in the extent of constituentsf contact with senators and their staffs.”

                  Voting could change things. It’s not clear that talking more to legislators will.

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  If legislators believe that you’ll vote based on how they handle a particular issue, that talking absolutely does matter. And legislative staff will tell you that they often assume 10 letters represent the viewpoint of tens of thousands who didn’t bother to write.

                  Legislators do care about money, because it helps them stay in office. If you can help vote them out of office, that’s powerful too.

              2. Rob Aught*

                If it really was 95% of the working population the laws would change.

                As a former union member I am not for them for all industries. I think in some cases they do more harm than good and seem better at lining their own pockets than representing their constituents.

              3. Jamie*

                Where are you getting the 95% statistic and what are the specifics of what they are trying to overturn.

                I understand you are passionate about this, but links to the facts would be helpful.

                1. Jessa*

                  The statistic is a response to reading a whole load of stuff written by Republican constituency. It’s probably not an accurate or firm number, however, there are studies on other areas of Republican lawmaking (ie gun control, reproductive rights, etc.) that show a LARGE number of their constituency does not agree with the heavy handed blanket policies that are being sought legally. I’m making a presumption that given that a large number of their constituents disagree with certain planks that there is probably a correlation about those numbers. I don’t know if a study has been done about labour law. But if you would prefer I’ll say well better than 50%. That one could probably be proven with some Googling.

                  However –


                  that’s the listing about the 40 hour work week thing they are trying to push. The point is it’s NOT likely to pass and Obama WILL veto it.

                  My point basically is people are saying we don’t need unions because the feds and state will stand up for us. It’s clear their intent is NOT to, even if they don’t succeed right now.

                  And even with the language used about “have to let them in a reasonable time, etc.” and “pay out at end of year,” here’s the issue – pay out at end of year means more taxes out of it (higher payment than if given at time earned could mean higher tax bite and even if you get it back in April that’s longer to get your money,) means the company gets to use that money when the employee cannot, etc. And there are NO definitions of use in reasonable time either. Nor of how to prevent employers from forcing all their workers to take comp.

                2. Jamie*

                  Thanks. Actually this is something we get requests for all the time from our non-exempt personnel.

                  In our factory we’re shut down twice a year when everyone but me and a skeleton crew are off for a week which buttressed by weekends and the holidays ends up being between 10-12 days. Many of our factory staff leave the country for vacation at these times and we get at least 20 requests a year to bank extra time instead of being paid OT.

                  They are frustrated that our hands are tied on this. This is an area where there should be more flexibility, IMO.

                  Now, there’s a special place in hell for a company who would use this to avoid paying OT and not allowing the comp time – and I have no doubt they are out there so the language requiring use would need to be quite clear – but I can tell you that you would get majority support from factory workers here to have the option of banking comp time so they could buttress shut down and extend their vacation to 3 weeks or a month. Absolutely we have people who would be besides themselves with joy over that.

                  Protections so it’s not abused, okay, but the idea itself isn’t an affront.

                3. -X-*

                  Building on what Jessa said, a recent study (not peer-reviewed) suggests that most US Congresspeople believe their constituents are far more conservative than the constituents actually are:

                  When we consider how wealthy, white and male the Congress (particularly one of the parties is) relative to the country as a whole, and also how the leadership of national level media is also staffed by wealthy people, it is not surprising that, even with best of intentions, our national political dialogue skews toward policies that favor wealthier people. Even the framing of political discussion reflect that. Just as an example, economic reporting is “business news” or sometimes “financial/investment news” , almost never “labor news” and only rarely “consumer news”.

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  However, it’s also true that wealthier people tend to advocate for their interests more. I’m not denying that money matters in politics; of course it does. But all the money in the world won’t save a legislator whose constituents decide to vote her out.

                5. Lore*

                  True. But where I feel like the money does come unhelpfully into play is limiting the possible selection of candidates who will be running against that legislator. If I’m a voter, and all the candidates come from a fairly narrow spectrum of politics and an even narrower spectrum of backgrounds (which is often the case even across party lines), then I’m not really getting a choice to express any true issue-related preferences through my vote.

                6. -X-*

                  “If I’m a voter, and all the candidates come from a fairly narrow spectrum of politics and an even narrower spectrum of backgrounds (which is often the case even across party lines”


                7. -X-*

                  Read the paper by Bartels I linked to. It suggests that when wealthy and poor people advocate the same amount, the wealthy win.

                  “But all the money in the world won’t save a legislator whose constituents decide to vote her out.”

                  This is true by definition, but it so untrue in practice. We can have a majority of people holding a certain position which the politician is against, and a politician with deep deep pockets can lie or mislead and win. It’s not right to lay this mainly at the feet of voter apathy.

                  Particularly when in many instances the two parties are, in voting records on major economic issues, not that different. It’s Coke or Pepsi on a lot of labor and consumer issues, or at least it was until the Tea Party took things even further away from the needs of the poor.

        2. fposte*

          You’ve put in quotes something I didn’t say, which I have a problem with for a start. Then there’s the fact that you ignored my entire point about workload, so I’m not really sure what you thought you were responding to.

          But you’re basing your entire approach on an adversarial belief. I *like* doing my work. I get to do that whether you like that or not. It doesn’t make me brainwashed to like my work in a way you don’t like yours. I like taking vacation, but nobody does my work for me, so it makes sense for me to handle my workload to make my vacation as restful as possible. For me, that includes doing some work while I’m on it. It’s nothing to do with fear.

          And even in the countries that take more vacation than the U.S., there are plenty of inhabitants who remain connected to work on holiday. You’ve conceived the US as a total outlier in a world where everybody else unplugs for weeks at a time, and it’s just not true.

          1. Anonymous*

            I have to second this. I worked for a European company for years and my bosses were routinely checking email and participating in calls during paid time off. I think a lot of it had to do with job level – these were VP level and above.

      2. darsenfeld*

        Doesn’t sound healthy to me, in honesty.

        As a manager, I would ensure that a subordinate go on vacation and take his or her allocated quota. If not, then I would label him or her as a workaholic and deny them opportunities.

        It sounds harsh, granted. But if an employee doesn’t want to take vacation, this to me shows an unhealthy attachment to his or her job, and even deeper issues. I would also feel for his or her family, or even if the person were single without children for his or her own wellbeing.

        1. fposte*

          “Different from you” is not the same as “unhealthy,” though. I mean obviously at your company you’d be free to set rules about work hard play hard, or everybody has to live green, or whatever you please; I’m just saying this is rather a blinkered approach to the diverse way people approach their work lives.

  5. Lore*

    Something I’ve done very successfully (but you have to trust your co-workers to respect this) is given one person (either my boss or the person who’ll be covering for me on the most crucial projects) my personal email (or cell number, if I’m going somewhere that it will work and I can use it). I tell them I won’t be checking my work email/voicemail, but if they need me urgently they can contact me. I find it adds one layer of needing to think–looking up another address that’s not built in to the address book; calling an outside number; or locating the person who has that information–that generally raises the bar for “emergency” just enough. Having said that, I’m also really fortunate that I work in a place where we have a pool of trained temps we’re allowed to bring in to sit at our desks at least part-time when we’re on vacation, so a lot of the triage gets handled that way.

    1. Judy*

      I generally give my entire team my personal email address, with instructions if it is an emergency, send an email there saying “log in and check your work email”. That way, if they need me they can find me, but I’m not getting phone calls and I’m not checking the corporate email account lots.

      Also useful because my team is global, and I really don’t want to be getting calls at 2am. Nothing we do is that urgent.

  6. Chinook*

    When I worked at a weekly paper, the production manager had not taken the day the paper went to the printer off in years. This meant lots of long weekends but never a full week off. Two of us working for her encouraged her to write down a “won the lottery” manual with details of how to do her job if she suddenly decided to never come to work again. She then took a press day off but stayed in town in case she forgot to write something down or we needed her. When she discovered that we could function without her, she then would happily take her vacations because she knew she gave good instructions and hired people she could trust. Without these 2 things, I doubt she would ever have taken those days off.

    1. Jamie*

      “won the lottery” manual

      So much more cheerful than my “hit by a bus” manual.

      Speaking of which there are departments where almost everyone chips in for lotto tickets when it gets big and they’d split the winnings. Can you imagine if they won? An entire department gone overnight – so your type of manual is much more apt! Buses rarely target that many people at once.

      1. Chinook*

        Because I work with guys who work in the bush right now, I have started calling it the “eaten by a bear manual” because buses are just so rare where they are ;).

        “Speaking of which there are departments where almost everyone chips in for lotto tickets when it gets big and they’d split the winnings. Can you imagine if they won?”

        I once had a boss who insisted on being part of the lottery pool because he didn’t want to have to work at a place where all the accounting staff just quit.

      2. Elizabeth*

        I have run multiple lottery pools for specific drawings, and we made the group decision that not everyone in any given department could be in a single pool, and no one person could be in every pool. So, I had a spreadsheet with tabs title “Pool 1”, “Pool 2” & “Pool 3”, with the list of names for each entrant into the pool and how much they contributed (I didn’t limit them to a single chance, since this was already a tracking mess).

        That way, if we did manage to hit, not every person would be stripped from a department. We have never managed to win more than about $20, but we still run the pools that way.

      3. Elle-p*

        I used to work for an EAP program and one of our clients had a department where all of the employees chipped in on a lotto ticket. They actually did hit it big and we had to send a crisis management professional on site to deal with the fallout from so many people leaving the organization at one time!

          1. fposte*

            And presumably, if we’re really supporting the notion of karma, the woman he mugged did something terrible to deserve it anyway and that was her karma.

      4. Liz in a Library*

        We used to joke about that at my last job. There was only one part-time employee who didn’t join our pool (because she was more logical than the rest of us), and she swore she’d kill us if we all quit en masse.

        Fortunately, or unfortunately, our highest win was also $20.

      5. Becky*

        Slightly off-topic, but my husband’s work does this, but it’s agreed upon that if you enter into the group lottery you agree not to just quit if they win. Obviously not enforceable, but they have put that out there, and I think most people would abide by it.

      6. Jenna*

        I wish we HAD won the lottery. It isn’t like the company can’t go on without you. They just laid off 30 people and an entire deptartment where I work. Locked everyone out of their computers while they were in the surprise layoff meeting.
        Then, they discovered that the only person left who had the code to the postage meter was on vacation, so I suppose they were lucky that SHE answered her phone.

      7. MovingRightAlong*

        “Buses rarely target that many people at once.”

        HA! But perhaps there needs to be a restriction on how many people from the same department can be crossing the street at the same time. Just in case.

        I’m going to be laughing at that all day now.

        1. Chinook*

          “HA! But perhaps there needs to be a restriction on how many people from the same department can be crossing the street at the same time.”

          Actually, I worked for a family run company where the father/CEO and son/president were not allowed to travel together for insurance reasosn. This caused all sorts of scheduling nightmares when they would go to the same conference or meeting. They “tempted fate” when they drove together to a funeral in the middle of the Rockies for a family friend because no one could justify them taking separate vehicles and this allowed them to work in the back of the car while someone else drove.

          I think companies around here got serious about this when there were 2 separate small plane crashes where a board of directors would be wiped killed.

          1. Jamie*

            I’ve worked two places where this was the rule also – the owners traveled by air separately.

            1. Anonymous*

              I’ve worked for a larger company and our travel policy had limits on the number of employees from the same department that could be on the same flight.

  7. ExceptionToTheRule*

    And just because you aren’t going anywhere on vacation doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take your days. Stay at home or whatever, but get the heck out of the office for your own mental health.

    1. some1*

      This is what I came here to post. And if it’s hard to take a few days or full week at a time, taking a Friday or Monday off every few or several weeks does a lot for your mental health.

    2. darsenfeld*

      I seldom go anywhere on vacation, but I enjoy the time off to lie in on mornings lol..

      Life is about balance ultimately.

  8. Rob Aught*

    I’m venting a little frustration here

    Vacation policies and how unevenly they are often applied within the same organization drives me nuts.

    When I request vacation I do my best to plan in advance, give as much notice as possible, and make sure I have a backup plan for anything that happens while I am out of the office. This has nothing to do with being in management either. I had a backup for my work when I was a developer. When I was a consultant though, it was almost impossible for me to take vacation and I got a huge payout when I left the firm because of all the accrued vacation I had piled up. That said, I put so much effort into covering my bases that I really think my employer better have a darn good reason why I can’t take vacation. So far it hasn’t been a problem.

    On the other end, when an employee requests vacation I check for any reason why I can’t approve. My default setting is “Yes”. I do have to have coverage for certain dates and I do make the team aware of this. Everyone can see the team calendar. I avoid having to turn down vacation requests by letting employee’s see when we need coverage. Usually they self regulate. I have had some challenging requests but I have honored them because we did technically have coverage and having to live without a key person for a week is probably a small price to pay for maintaining their morale.

    Sadly, I see too many managers balk at request and this does put the burden on the requester. I personally think that’s a shame. Paid time off is allowed for a reason. Managing productivity levels is the responsibility of management and I can’t think of a better way to negatively impact productivity than knocking the enthusiasm out of your employees. Don’t ever act entitled, but this is definitely an area that I think people can be assertive.

  9. Jessa*

    I think part of the problem in the US is that while some companies give vacation time, they’re not obligated to as they are in other countries, and they’re NOT even obligated to let you take it. A lot of companies do not care even if best business practises say people should get time off.

  10. Elizabeth*

    I’m one that has a hard time taking time off. I’ve always got multiple projects going that make it difficult to not be at work.

    Last year, I was on medical leave for 4 weeks, followed by a week of half-time and another week of significant lifting restrictions. There was some doubt before I left that my department would just fall apart without me. They managed to get through it, albeit with some serious issues I had to address the moment I got back. The worst was that a major project failed, not one that I was involved with before I left, but had I been at work, I could have been available to help with righting the ship.

    I loved having 4 weeks off, even if I couldn’t do a lot of stuff I would normally have done. I made sure I didn’t think about work the entire time.

    I have a lot of trouble just taking a day off to take the day off, even though we’re being encouraged to do so to lessen the liability the organization has in the PTO balance. No matter how much I prepare people, I get a lot phone calls, texts & emails. I’m not sure how this will work when I’m on a cruise ship for 10 days in November, and my phone will be shut off & I won’t have internet access.

  11. Ann*

    I have a boss who is a bonafide workaholic. He does not understand the meaning of vacation or weekends or sleeping. He also doesn’t understand it for other people either. He will e-mail me at 3am, and expect that when I come in to work, I will have seen it and taken action. Shortly after I started working for him, he said on a Friday that he would look something over and e-mail changes over the weekend. I explained that I would not be reachable over the weekend because I was going to my grandpa’s funeral. He said, “you’ll still have your computer and phone…” He was utterly flabbergasted when I insisted that A. I wouldn’t get cell reception (my relatives live on a farm) and B. didn’t have internet (yes, they are that backwoods). I’ve started purposely taking vacations to destinations where I absolutely cannot be reached except by carrier pigeon (a little island off the coast where there are no cars or cell service; the mountains; a foreign country; camping in Wyoming, etc).

    1. SW*

      I’m sorry, it sucks having a boss like that. My previous boss was like that, and held the same standards for everyone else. He’ll hold the management team hostage until midnight unnecessarily, and call frequently when he’s on vacation in, say, Brazil.

      Luckily, I was an hourly employee, and knew to stand up for myself when he started insinuating that he’d “really appreciate it” if I worked off the clock every so often.

      I’d never want to be a salaried, exempt employee for a boss like that!

  12. Anonymous*

    Sometimes taking vacation can be a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario.

    I supported a time-consuming “production” function in my last job. I was the only person in the company who knew how to do this. If we didn’t do it each month, it would screw up month end closing and mess up relationships with key stakeholders. I never got any pushback from management about taking time off, but my doing so didn’t change any deadlines. Often if I took time off, I would end up pulling all nighters to get the work done on time which pretty much wiped out the benefit of taking time off.

  13. Cassie*

    I agree about not waiting for a “good time”. I planned to go to Disneyland for my sis’s birthday and a deadline was sprung on me the day before. It was the year they had free admission for the birthday person, so I didn’t want to (couldn’t) reschedule my day off. I just made sure that everything was prepared, asked my coworker to finalize it after getting input from my boss, and that was that.

    I didn’t tell my boss where I was going, though – that probably would have been too much!

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