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Ask A Manager

How to get the vacation you deserve

Marketplace Contributor Jun 29, 2018
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Comedian Hugh Lloyd and his wife, Carol, prepare to go to Australia in 1969.
Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

We asked listeners to write in with questions for Ask a Manager’s Alison Green on how to get the vacation days you deserve. Or, if you’re a boss, how to make everyone happy and keep your business running efficiently. As summer gets underway, Green gives us her best advice about vacation time. Below is a summary of her answers.

How do I ask for my vacation time?

The thing to remember about vacation time is, for most people, it’s part of your benefits package. So you don’t need to cajole or beg or wheedle your way into getting vacation time. You should be able to be pretty straightforward about it, you know, it can be as simple as “I’m thinking about my vacation time this year. I’d like to take off the first week in August. Does that sound OK to you?”

What if I think I deserve a bit more?

In fact, when you are first negotiating a job offer, before you’ve even accepted it, it can be an easy time to negotiate for more vacation. But once you’ve been working there a while and you’re in good standing, you can try asking for more time off in the same way you might try asking for a raise.

From a business owner in Alaska who wants to know how to handle unpredictable vacation time: “I had to explain to people that I’m not really going to be available in September because that’s when moose season is, and you never know when the moose is going to show up, so I may be gone for one week, it may be three.”

One of the nice things about running your own business [is] that you get to decide for yourself when you’re working and when you’re not. In most fields, you can get away with telling clients that you’ll be away for three weeks. That’s not outrageous. I think in his case, he might be better off just saying he’s going to be away for three weeks so that everyone can plan around that. If he comes back early, great, that’s easier than unexpectedly being away longer than people are planning on. But you don’t need to tell people what you’re doing with your time. You can if you want, but it will also be totally fine for him to just say, “You know, I’m taking a few weeks off in September,” and not getting into the details about the moose, if that’s feeling a little too exotic for his clients.

Can I use my sick days for vacation?

Most employers don’t want you to use sick days for vacation because the idea is that sick days are there for when you get sick. And if you use them on vacation, they’re not going to be there if you unexpectedly get sick later in the year. And that can put you and your employer in a bind. And that’s also when you get people coming in sick to work, infecting their co-workers. So usually employers want you to keep sick leave separate, but not all of them. And also if you need a few extra days for a dream vacation or your honeymoon, sometimes it’s worth asking if you can pull those days from your bank of sick leave. Typically they just don’t want you doing it all the time.

How much of my vacation should I share on social media?

It’s not a bad idea to have some boundaries on social media so that your co-workers and especially your boss aren’t seeing everything you post. I mean, vacation photos aren’t usually a problem as long as they’re reasonably wholesome. But if you’re having a drunken vacation and you’re doing shots in all of your photos, you probably don’t want your colleagues having those images in their head. So I would say limit them to maybe what you would limit your grandmother to.

How do I disconnect — or should I?

There are some jobs where you know going in that you’ll have to have some availability even when you’re technically on vacation. But most people really should be able to disconnect completely for a week or two. And if you can, you should. I mean, there’s real emotional benefits to getting away from work completely that you’ll undermine if you keep checking your email. I think a lot of people feel checking their email while they’re on vacation is actually better for their quality of life because it means they won’t come back to a huge mess waiting for them, and they can keep things reasonably under control, and sometimes that’s really true. But more often than not, I would challenge people to see if there really is a way to just disconnect completely because you will come back refreshed and more productive. And it’s not great for us mentally to always be thinking about work.

If I’m the boss, how do I make everyone happy and run everything efficiently?

I think if you’re in a situation where you need to have a certain number of people at work for coverage, it helps to ask people to get their time off requests in pretty early on so that you can figure out can you give everyone the days off that they want or do you need to modify some of those? But also, if you’re having trouble getting the coverage that you need for times of the year that are very popular to take off, one thing you can do is offer incentives to get people to work during those times. You know, bonuses or extra vacation days later in the year. That can be a nicer way to do it because you’ll often then get people who are volunteering to work on those most in-demand days, and they kind of solve the problem for you.

To hear the full interview with Alison Green, click on the audio player above.

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