How to Take a Vacation: Regardless of Corporate Culture or Caregiving Duties

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 11.02.08 PM“Is it too soon?” This is how I start my vacation request emails to my boss. That’s because every time I return from a vacation, I submit another request for more time off. Vacations remind me what’s good – spending time with my family, reading books, sleeping late, and logging off. Sadly, not everyone gets that reminder.

More than half of all Americans (56%) say they don’t take a vacation. This is bad news for caregivers.

Caregivers need breaks. Often, a caregiver works almost around the clock – at work, and then at home caring for family members. That constant pace, plus the emotional toll of caring for someone else, can tire even a superhero. Taking vacation has been associated with reduced stress, increased productivity and better mental and physical stress. But when our company culture doesn’t embrace time off, it can feel uncomfortable, and sometimes even be detrimental, to take a break.

Here are 5 things you can do to get your vacation time.

  1. Plan ahead. If you work in a company where vacations are rarely taken, you may be inclined to procrastinate when it comes to telling your coworkers you will be out for a week. Resist that urge and instead share your plans often and early. That doesn’t mean you should talk incessantly about the all-inclusive Caribbean resort you’ll be visiting. Keep those details to yourself. But do let your teammates know as soon as you book you trip (or staycation) at least a month in advance, both in person and in writing, that you will be taking time off. Then remind them one month, one week and two days in advance. You need to give them time to plan around your absence.
  2. Coordinate with your boss and coworkers. Even before you book, check in with teammates and your boss to see when, if at all, they are planning to be out, if there are any all-hands meetings planned or major events or client meetings. Show them you are committed to covering the work, by planning your time off at a time that is least disruptive to the business. Of course sometimes, that is impossible. If your in-laws are planning a cruise for Grandma’s 90th then your dates are probably not very flexible. If that’s the case, create a plan with your manager to cover the work while you are out.
  3. Offer to be available in the event of an emergency or question. Your vacation will be better received if your coworkers know they can reach you, if they absolutely need to. Believe me, I know how frustrating it can be to get a call from the office while you’re sunning in your beachside cabana, but the idea here isn’t to work while you’re away. The idea is to commit to keeping the lines of communication open – if needed. And by the way, if you want to minimize the amount of times work calls you, do not try to manage work remotely. The best way to send a message that you are off the clock it to stay off the clock.
  4. Ask an office friend to cover your back. At one job I had, I was called into the president’s office after every day off I took. A coworker I had been promoted ahead of, used every one of my vacation days to lodge a complaint about me. Even if I just took a single day off, that coworker created 8 hours of questions and chaos that I had to sort out every time I came back. Avoid drama while you are away by appointing someone, either formally or informally, to cover for you. In return, do the same for them when they take time off.
  5. Find respite care for your elderly or sick family member. Even when you can get time off approved at work, it can still be a challenge to cover your other job – caregiving. But if you are truly going to rest and rejuvenate on your break, you need peace of mind that your family member is well-cared for. Click here for info on how to find respite care when you need a break.

And if you are a manager? The number one thing you can do to create a culture where vacations are the norm, not a negative, is take your vacations. Corporate culture comes from the top. It’s your job to model good work life balance so that your employees can perform at their best – in and out of the office.

Photo credit: Ken Teegardin


10 comments on “How to Take a Vacation: Regardless of Corporate Culture or Caregiving Duties”

  1. Haralee Reply

    Some businesses now offering as many vacation days as you want sounds great but those of us who have worked for big businesses know people just don’t take them or are they encouraged to take more than a week-10 days at one time. Not that the company would fall apart but that your work will be undone until your return on top of your daily work.

    • admin Reply

      Those unlimited vacation policies rarely work in the employees’ favor. And excellent point Haralee: some people avoid vacation because they don’t want to come back to a bigger pile of work. You need a work buddy who has your back.

  2. Carla Reply

    I love this and the more I’m edging towards this the more I realize how important having back up it is. A backup person A and even a backup person B just in case 🙂

  3. Brenda Pace Reply

    Great ideas! I know many Managers that take off and most of the time the Assistant will serve as backup. At least, that’s what I do.

    Thanks for sharing this!

  4. Rena McDaniel Reply

    Such great information Liz. I’ve been avoiding signing up for respite care and only depending on family, but I feel like its something that I need to start on for the future. I am trying to take a few days next month…fingers crossed.

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