It happens every year. During the last quarter, there is a mad scramble of employees with “use or lose” annual leave on the books. They realize that they have too much leave remaining and if they don’t use it now, -POOF!- those days just disappear.
The ironic thing about this situation is that the very people who complain about being overworked, over-stressed, and disconnected from their families are the same people who end up losing leave because they refuse to take time off…
But here’s the thing that really annoys the heck out of me: These vacation days are part of your compensation package! If you choose not to use them, you’re essentially saying to your organization, “No, thank you, you’re paying me too much. You can just keep that part.”
Use your annual leave. It’s good for you, and it’s good for your organization. Here are 3 easy tips to make it happen, and 3 reasons your organization will love you for it.
Tip 1: Plan your leave at the beginning of the year.
If you haven’t done it already, do it now! Sit down with your family, your supervisor and your calendar (yes, I understand they may not all be in the same room!) and figure out: what big vacation(s) will you take this year? How many weeks will you take? Do you want a single large chunk of time, or will you spread it out over the year?
Once all concerned parties have reached agreement, submit the leave request NOW and mark the dates in your calendar. When you plan this far out, you actually increase the odds that you’ll take the vacation. Now, not only can you plan the majority of your work around the trip, but (happy bonus) you can also begin making reservations with enough time to find good travel deals.
Your supervisor will love you for planning ahead because she can plan appropriate workflow, AND doesn’t have to deal with last minute staffing surprises.
Tip 2: Spot and begin to train the person who will cover for you.
So often I hear, “Well, I can’t go on leave because there’s no one to cover me. Everyone else in my office is so inexperienced!” While this tip applies to all employees, for brand new, first line supervisors, training a back up is huge! Your job as a supervisor is to train those who work for you so that they’re prepared to step in when the time comes or the unexpected happens. Your taking vacation is a good way to do that.
Start training them now. Then let them practice by you taking a Friday off here and there. Let them cover you for the day, and when you come back on Monday,
see how it went. What went well, and what did they realize they don’t yet know? What areas does your employee want to focus on in order to feel confident covering for your upcoming week-long vacation? (Note of Reassurance: Even if your back up misses things while you are gone, it’s only one day. You can easily tune things up when you get back on Monday.)
Your supervisor will love you for this approach because when you go away on your PRE-PLANNED vacation, the transition to your back up will be seamless. AND, you have also contributed to the professional development of two employees, you and your back up.
Tip 3: Use your time to do something you love.
So often people use annual leave for taking care of obligatory family business or household chores and that’s it. I remember when I was a young officer, every time I took leave it was to go visit my parents or get something repaired.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my family, and I want to spend time with them, but there’s a whole big wide world out there that I was ignoring. Somewhere in the space of your annual leave, choose to do something that makes your heart sing. Go ski. Take a cruise. Visit a National Park. Learn to scuba dive. Do something to appreciate and enjoy the abundance that you’ve created for yourself through your work. After all, isn’t that part of why you do it?
Your supervisor will love you most of all for using this last tip. When you take your annual leave and use it to feed your soul in a different way than your work does, you come back re-energized, inspired, and ready to establish new standards of excellence for yourself.
When you implement these three tips, you’ll look back on the year and discover that you’ve made space for yourself, had a blast, and truly made the difference you wanted to make. Win-Win-Win!
So, where are you going on vacation this year?