Let's Talk About Taking Your Vacation Leave
Americans don’t take enough vacations. More than half of employees left unused vacation hours in their leave bank last year…look, we get it. We like to bank vacation too because guess what you get to do when you leave your current position for the next opportunity? You get a nice, fat bonus check of all your cashed-out leave, which can help float you until your first paycheck at your next job. We suspect that that’s an unspoken component of leaving your leave on the table, and we’re not here to dissuade you from that, but look—you need a break from work every once and awhile. We’re not here to single you out, so we’ve created a few personas below, and if one (or more) seem to be a bit real for you, well…
You’re the one everyone comes to—if you take more than an hour off for a doctor’s appointment, everyone tells you the place falls apart without you there. You get calls morning, noon and night about your work, and you’re there to handle everything that comes your way. That’s great! (But also, real talk, you’re headed on the fast track to burning out if you can’t find some time to yourself really soon.)
My friend, we hate to say it to you, but if you take a few days off here and there to decompress and enjoy your annual leave, the place will not fall apart (and if it does, that’s not a particularly functional workplace.) It’s nice to feel wanted, but it’s also nice to not be glued to your email or have to worry about deadlines for a few days, too.
Look, we know you. We’re not going to tell you to go take a 2-week backpacking trip across Europe (although you’d probably have a blast) so we’re going to compromise here. You need to take a few long weekends to get out of the office and enjoy your life, so you can keep on enjoying your job. Deal?
Oh, my friend, we feel for you. When you own your own business, it’s all but impossible to turn off, even for a moment. Your business is your livelihood—and unlike the scenario we created above about banking leave, when you own your own business there’s good news: you get unlimited leave! There’s also bad news: you never get to cash it out, and when you take it, it usually costs you money to disconnect from your business! Ah, the joys of entrepreneurship.
We have a compromise for you too, friend. We’re going to need to start small, especially if you’re a one-person operation. Set an evening aside where you don’t work. (See? Baby steps!) If you find that it doesn’t cost you too much money, start considering taking a day (or even a whole weekend off) to further get out of your head (and business.) What’s the point of being an entrepreneur if you’re working all the time and never reaping the benefits of it?
You’re exactly who we described in the opening paragraph—you bank your leave because inevitably you’re going to leave your role, and you’d like that bonus check at the end. We get it—the average time anyone spends in a position is 4.2 years. [link to: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/how-often-do-people-change-jobs-2060467] Long gone are the days you start a job fresh out of school and hold it until you retire in your 60’s.
…but you have to take some vacation. You’re the best candidate for taking a solid one or two weeks to go do something fun somewhere exotic or sit at home the entire time (we don’t know your life, but both sound like solid choices.) The only thing that’s standing in your way is you. Our compromise here is that you commit to taking 50% of your leave each year because everyone needs a break. You can bank the other half for a rainy day.
You don’t want to take any leave, because you feel like it puts you in a vulnerable position in your organization. This is the worst position to be in, and we really feel for you, so we’ll be blunt. If you’re in this position, we suggest you use all of your leave to look for new opportunities elsewhere. A healthy organization makes allowances for their employees taking leave. If you’re in a position where you think your job is in jeopardy if you took a vacation, unless that is a very temporary feeling (as in, you can’t take a specific week off, because you have a massive deadline) you have to accept that the situation may not get better. It may be in your best interest to seek success elsewhere.
We hope this helped you a little, and more importantly, we hope it inspired you to take your vacation days because you earned them!