How To Use Your Vacation Days At Work — Part 2

On May 25, 2013 by travelogueblog

Palm Trees
So you’ve had a couple sporadic getaways this year, but you’ve still got some vacation time left and you’ve decided that you definitely want to use it. You’d like to take a trip someplace remote but you’re not sure of how to balance the logistics of leaving work and returning. Here’s what you should do:

Time it right

Time for a Vacation

Sarah, pre-vacation. The woman is under a lot of pressure at work. If she doesn’t get out of town soon, she may actually melt into the carpet.

It will never be a super convenient time to take your vacation because the nature of work in the modern world is that it never stops. That’s exactly why you need a break. Sure, your colleagues will have to pick up the slack for a while, the emails will pile up in your inbox, and worst of all, you’re the only person who can make the coffee right in the morning, so everyone will really miss you. But while it’s true that absence makes the heart grow fonder and people will appreciate you more when you return, there are some definite ways to reduce the impact of your not being there.

Sarah with a Sea Turtle

Sarah with a sea turtle. Much, much better.

Wrap up any loose ends before you take off. If you don’t, your lack of planning will be obvious and it will reflect poorly on you. There should be nothing left that you were supposed to do that, otherwise, people will have to wait for you to come back and finish, or worse, try to figure out on their own. File the paperwork on your end, hand off the project at a convenient lull (perhaps one that you’ve manufactured?), and leave a backup plan with instructions on your desk in case of an emergency. Not only will it give you peace of mind to not have to worry about business while you’re away, but it’s a simple professional courtesy to your colleagues. If you’ve done things right, whatever you’ve left behind will take about the length of your vacation to finish up, and people can just muddle through your not being there. Believe it or not, yes, that place can run without you.

Sea Turtle

You know who’s not worried about presentation deadlines? This guy.

Ask for your vacation with plenty of advance notice; I think about four months is just right. If you’re not required to request at a predetermined time of the year, four months is far enough ahead to plan, but close enough that they won’t put it out of their minds and get caught off guard when you leave.

Be conscious of what work will be like during the time you request off. Taking vacation will cause fewer problems if you time it along the company’s schedule, like right after a busy period. Sarah and I travel in July or August mostly because that’s when summer vacation comes around, but it makes sense for her, too. May and June are the busy months at her job when they undergo review for their annual license. After those hectic few weeks, people are more understanding of her need for a vacation, and they’re grateful that she didn’t try to request it when everyone else was putting in more than usual. She’s right there alongside them when they need her, earning that time off in everyone’s eyes. Sure, the places we go are hotter because it’s later in the season, but we deal with it, at least partly because she respects her job.

Only take a week off

Water Over Rocks
I’m not talking about a work week, but one whole week. Seems crazy? Here’s how: catch your plane on a Friday and come back ten days later on a Tuesday. That’s a really long vacation from your perspective, but it won’t seem that way to your job. Say you went to work that Friday but left a little early and caught the plane that night. If you came back to work ten days later on Tuesday, you’d only have missed six days of work — count ‘em. You could even go nuts and take that whole Friday off, leave the night before on Thursday, and take a full seven days off from work. That way, your vacation would completely span two whole weekends.

On the Rocks

No, sorry, I did not get that memo.

You see, because you put in for this vacation with plenty of advance notice, everyone has already planned on your not being there. You haven’t left anyone hanging, so they’re not anxiously awaiting your return. In fact, no one will even begin to miss you until the Monday before you get back when they realize, hey, where is he, anyway? When people finally start to question your whereabouts, the answer will be that you’re coming back tomorrow. And, when you do, wow! You brought in piña colada mix for everyone! The best part is that when your review comes up, as far as anyone can remember, you only took a week of vacation. They should be thanking you for leaving some time in the bank.

Get back to work

Smell the Hibiscus

Taking time to stop and smell the hibiscus now and again will make you a better person (and a better worker).

When you come home, you need to be present both mentally and physically at your job. I think that many places still (barely) tolerate their employees taking a week off, even in this late stage of capitalism, but, no, there isn’t any room for slackers in 2013. Don’t put your future requests for time off in jeopardy. When you go in, get back to work!

Also, keep in mind that the truth is most people won’t want to hear about your vacation for more than a few minutes. In fact, don’t even bring it up until someone else does. Doing so will just breed resentment. However, if someone else decides to take a vacation, you should be super supportive. Ask them plenty of questions, and let them do all the talking. Don’t give advice or talk about your own vacation. That’s annoying.

Who knows? If enough people start noticing that taking a week off isn’t a big deal, and that those who do are a lot happier in their job, maybe you will be the one who shifts the culture at your workplace toward the healthy practice of using up vacation time.


Back to work. If you need me, I’ll be at my desk, gazing mournfully at my “tropical destination”-themed screensaver until next year.

What do you think?

Is it a problem to take time off at your job?

Is this advice relevant where you work?

Should Americans have more time off from work?

4 Responses to “How To Use Your Vacation Days At Work — Part 2”

  • Susan B Siering

    You make a lot of valid points, esp. about utilizing two weekends, and it's usually cheaper not to fly then anyway. Love the pictures too.

  • Smart, witty, considerate of your co-workers…all good Mark. Love the photos too.

  • Mark NP

    Thanks, Suzanne Choate. I tried to imagine what it's like to not have your PTO already predetermined for you (like teachers have). Susan B Siering — I think going straight through two weekends is the best, too! You can both thank Sarah Siering for the great photo selections. She does a great job.

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