Dear New Shrink,
I am hoping to take a vacation at some point this summer. I have been working in my current position for the past three years and the only time I have taken off has been for holidays. This has been an especially stressful year so I am in dire need of a true vacation. My boss is very strict about time away from the office so I would like your advice about how to approach him and what to say. Ideally I would like to take 10 days off but I am flexible about when this is (as long as I get a vacation). Your thoughts and ideas are very much appreciated.
Have to Get Away
Dear Get Away,
Taking time off is a very important part of being a productive professional. Many times we get so consumed with work that we do not realize we need a break until it is too late and we feel burnt out. There are many positive aspects of taking a vacation from work including increasing creativity and productivity upon your return, reducing stress, and promoting overall well-being.
Keep in mind that vacation time is time that you earn. Your employer has decided on a set amount of time to reward employees for their dedication and time on the job. Even though this is time you have earned and up to you to decide how and when to use it, it is important, and often time requires, that you seek the approval of your supervisor. Tense situations can certainly come about as a result of requesting your vacation time at inopportune times.
If your office uses a shared calendar system you can start by reviewing the schedule for the next few months. Since you are flexible with your vacation time try to choose a time that does not overlap with your boss’ or colleagues’ vacation time. Many professionals try to schedule vacation around holiday time so they can have more time out of the office without using all of their accrued vacation time. Weekends like Fourth of July or Labor Day tend to be popular times to take time off. You will also want to be sure to avoid vacation right before a big deadline or other busy times for your office. Think back on your past three years and see if there is a time you remember things being slower than usual — this can be an ideal time for you to step away. This may also help to reduce the amount of work you come back to as well.
When asking for your vacation, be sure to find a time when your boss is not consumed with other things. Adding your vacation request in the mix of a busy or stressful day may just add pressure to your supervisor. Use the communication method that works best for your boss when requesting your vacation leave. For instance, if he likes to have time to review questions before answering, it might be best to send him an e-mail with the dates you would like to take vacation. You should also include the number of accrued vacation days so he can see that you have earned the time for the dates you would like off.
Finally, when you do take your vacation be sure to really take time for yourself. Set your out of office message on your voicemail and e-mail indicating that you will be away from the office and provide a date when you plan to return. Make sure to specify another colleague within the office who can field any questions during your absence. It can be tempting to check in with the office on a regular basis or continue to have your e-mails sent to your mobile device. If you truly feel the need to check in during your vacation, limit yourself to a certain time of the day. The most successful vacations are the ones where you truly turn off and give yourself a much-needed break from the daily grind. Good luck!
KATRINA DAVY, M.A., Ed.M, is a Santa Monica-based professional College and Career Counselor. She holds degrees from Columbia and Cornell universities. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. All questions are kept anonymous; let us help you with your life matters!