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PTO Etiquette: How to Take Time Off From Work

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AntonMatyukha on Deposit Photos

Once you finally land a job, on your first day, Human Resources likely will hand you copious amounts of paperwork that include your work vacation policies. As if day one in a new environment wasn’t intimidating enough, you’ll likely be dizzied by mind-numbing tax forms, healthcare insurance selection, 401(k) options, and several other mundane — but critical — pieces of paper. As you sift through the documents that will define your work existence, it’s important to pay close attention to your new employer’s time-off policy. If you don’t properly allocate your time off, you’ll forgo having much-needed vacation time. Here’s a full guide on how to take time off from work.

Americans don’t take time off.

While employers aren’t required by law to provide vacation, most white-collar jobs typically offer two weeks or 10 workdays of paid time off. That means your direct deposit will continue to land in your account while you’re far away from your desk.

But most Americans don’t take full advantage of this amazing perk. In 2020, many workers left PTO on the table as they struggled to figure out a work-life balance. But even before the pandemic, people still were choosing hustle over restBut our mental and physical health is suffering. A new report from WHO said working long hours without vacation can be deadly — increasing the risk of stroke and heart disease.

Essential tips for cashing in your paid vacation

  • For the first three months at a job, they can fire you with little recourse. So, please make sure you don’t ask for time off during your first three months. Wait until after your 90-day trial period before you engage your supervisor.
  • After you’ve settled in, ask for your office calendar. Every office has days that are closed for holiday observance. As a general rule, most offices do not open on most national and Christian holidays. Generally, if you are a salaried employee, these days are often paid and don’t count toward your paid vacation.
  • Remember, you can always combine your week off with two weekends, which gives you enough time to visit destinations overseas. You can also take shorter vacations more frequently. Either way, explore every option available early on.
  • Unfortunately, for travel purposes, every other working stiff has these days off as well. So, expect to be shaken down by airlines and hotels if you plan on traveling on big holidays like Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
  • If you’re trying to avoid being gouged, you’ll need to take your vacation during the off-season. This means you should ask your supervisor well in advance that you’d like a break. Ask which time of year jives best with your company’s workload, and plan way ahead of time.

Familiarize yourself with time-off policies.

Many workplaces have rules where if you don’t use your paid time yearly, you lose it. Others have cash-out policies that compensate you for your time off if you didn’t use it. Your Human Resources representative can usually answer most of your questions. If you have doubts, HR people are used to people asking them a litany of dumb questions.

Time off is essential to your mental sanity. Navigating the workplace’s time-off policies can make or break your quality of life. Plan early, and take your paid vacation time seriously.

Your supervisor holds the keys to your vacation.

A good relationship with your supervisor is critical to this whole process. If you’re doing good work, they will not mind you taking your allotted vacation time. Be sure to gauge how much time away is appropriate, but as a general rule, more than a week away at a new job is too much.

In the end, a lot of people don’t cash in their paid time off because they’re swamped with daily life. A little planning goes a long way and will allow you to take regular vacations, where you can recharge your soul and come back rejuvenated.

Now, to find your next vacay destination — Just go to Instagram!

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