Americans took less time off than much of the industrialized world this past year, using an average of 12 vacation days, though they were allowed 15.
Heading into 2016, “living life to its fullest” was the most common New Year’s resolution for Americans, according to a Google Consumer Survey by GO Banking Rates. The concept of traveling more would have fit nicely under this concept for many, but Americans continued to give in to work-culture pressures that lead them to pass on the paid vacation time that is owed to them.
Expedia’s annual Vacation Deprivation report again showed that Americans took less time off than much of the industrialized world this past year, using an average of 12 vacation days, though they were allowed 15. Compare that with Spain, where workers got 30 vacation days and used them all.
The report also showed that “guilt and worry” led many workers to skip vacation.
“The idea that we cautiously ask to please be allowed to take a vacation is weird on its face,” said Holly Weeks, a communication consultant and professor at the Harvard Kennedy School. “The employer agreed to the terms of vacation, which is usually its duration, not its timing, at hiring.”
But by adjusting mindsets and planning ahead with common-sense strategies, experts in fields related to work-life balance and communications believe that individuals have the power to combat what has become the norm in many American offices. Here are five ways to take the time off you have already earned in 2017:
Get organized and start early
It seems like an obvious first step, but saying you will get organized, and doing it, are different things.
Scott Petoff, a travel blogger and the founder of VacationCounts.com, suggests using a paper or online calendar to track company holidays and map out your preferred vacation dates, as well as booking your travel as early as possible, which makes it harder to back out of it later.
Starting early also gives you an advantage if you’re willing to choose dates that don’t fall on known busy periods, Amanda Augustine of TopResume said.
Delegate your responsibilities
There is no need to complicate the approval process by dumping your work onto other people.
“The more notice you can provide, the easier it will be to convince your boss that you’ll be able to delegate your responsibilities for coverage in your absence,” Augustine said, adding that “you won’t be able to relax” if you left the office “with loose ends.”
You can make it easy for your boss by putting your vacation request in writing, making sure that it clearly states your company’s paid time off policy and your number of accrued days and that it also conveys your intention to discuss how your work responsibilities will be handled while you are away, said Pat Katepoo, a career coach and the founder of WorkOptions.com.
Work with your co-workers
You can be firm in your commitment to take the vacation days you deserve while still being courteous to your colleagues. It is as simple as talking to your colleagues and doing it early.
Petoff suggested starting the year by inviting them to a time-off planning lunch to discuss potential vacation dates and determine if there are any conflicts.
If conflicts do emerge, the next step is to involve your boss, but not behind your colleagues’ backs, Weeks said.
Convey the value to you
Try asking yourself this: Why am I taking this time off and why is it important to me?
This is kind of a trick question, because there is no such thing as a bad reason to take time off from work. But being confident in your decision can make it hard for your superior to deny your request.
“A self-respecting view of a decision or request is preferable to a pity plea, because asking as though a ‘yes’ is a huge favor to me may make my manager feel magnanimous, but it also sounds like I don’t expect it to happen,” Weeks said. “I want my decision respected, not second-guessed by my manager.”
Remember what you’re owed
Imagine if you had to write an email to your boss every two weeks for your paycheck, or every time you went to the doctor. Is using all of the vacation days your employer has already agreed to give you really any different?
“I would like to see employees who feel they must argue for permission to receive their compensation take a stance of detached entitlement,” Weeks said. “Not the sense of entitlement that justly has earned a bad reputation, but the simple entitlement to one’s compensation as an agreed condition of employment.”