how to ask for time off

Your Guide to Asking for Time Off

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With summer around the corner, a beach vacation or a Europe trip might be on your to-do list. But taking a vacation means that you’ve got to ask for time off. Mike Watson, President at Ignite Management Services and co-author of Rise Up: Leadership Habits for Turbulent Times has some tips on the best practices for requesting time off.

Time off is trending

Staying close to home and having the ability to travel while you’re working remotely was “so valuable to fill our tanks,” says Watson. People are slowly looking for opportunities to travel, he adds, and tourism industries are predicting that 2022 will be a record summer. Additionally, people are looking to recharge from COVID burnout, as many haven’t taken time off throughout the pandemic other than for holidays.

As a result, Watson says, we should see a spike in employees seeking time off. According to ValuePenguin, almost half of Americans are making travel plans in 2022, with nearly a quarter of Gen Z and Millennial workers planning what they call a “bucket list” getaway – one they’ve been dreaming about for ages.

“Some employees are in jobs where they need to make formal requests for time off,” Watson says. “And, if employers are not seeing it already, they must brace themselves. The requests will be coming, and we better be ready!”

When to take time off

While you might be slightly nervous about asking for time off, Watson says that, for the most part, the onus is on managers to create an environment where employees feel like they can take time off however they want. You never need to justify seeking time off, and you shouldn’t ever feel pressured to share why you need a break unless you feel comfortable.

“Managers should not put themselves in a place of judgment on what constitutes good time off vs. bad time off,” Watson says. “Employers have the right to expect their employees to be present at work and be at their best. They do not have the right to judge what is done on vacation time.”

That being said, on the employee’s end, you should reconsider taking time off only if you think it will leave your team in the lurch.

“There will be very rare circumstances where an employee regularly puts their needs above those of their colleagues,” Watson says, “and makes requests for time off that are to the detriment of those around them. In these situations, it should be the bigger issue of selfishness that should be addressed.”

Best practices for time off

Now that you know you can take time off for whatever reason you please, you’ve got to learn how to request it. So if you’re gearing up to ask for time off, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Speak up

Watson says that while a more outspoken person might be willing to just tell managers what they need, a more soft-spoken person might have a more difficult time.

“Some have the confidence to be upfront and ask,” he says. “Others, who need it just as much, will be less forthcoming in expressing their needs.”

That being said, if you feel like you’re going to be berated or judged for asking for time off, that’s not a problem with you – that’s a problem with your manager.

“Managers have a responsibility to ensure that all employees know that it is appropriate to ask for and receive time off.”

If it’s that daunting of an idea to speak to your manager about time off, you can always request it through HR instead.

Be considerate

Next, it’s extremely important that you don’t demand time off or consider those around you when you take time off. If you have a huge deadline or a big responsibility that your team needs you for, Watson says you should keep them in mind before putting in for time off.

“Requests that do not contemplate the needs of others and are not presented respectfully are bad requests for time off,” he says. “Ponder the impact on your colleagues and ask.”

Also, preparing for your time off is an absolute necessity. Rather than dropping action items and leaving them where they lay, you should make an action plan to not only help others in your absence but help yourself in your return to work. You can also show these plans to your manager if they have reservations about permitting you to take a vacation, and your preparedness might reassure them.

Don’t anticipate a problem

If you’re worried that your company culture isn’t conducive to time off, don’t let that scare you away from asking for time off. Instead, keep an open mind and try to foster respectful dialogue.

“There is no set culture around managers seeking time off,” Watson says. “Some organizations recognize that rest and recovery are essential elements of peak performance. Other cultures will tend to grind it out and see time off as a luxury but something that does not impact performance. While this approach, in our opinion, is misguided, it is not uncommon.”

Again, you don’t have to explain yourself to your manager if they’re skeptical about why you’re taking time off. And if they ask, you can tell them that your reasons are personal and leave it at that.

But if you want to explain why you’re taking time off, it could be an illuminating moment between you and your superior where you can have a discourse on the importance of time off. You owe it to yourself to unplug from hustle culture every once and a while.

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