Q: I don’t want to take vacation now. I don’t have anywhere to go. I want to roll over my vacation time and take it next year when things are back to normal. My manager says, no. What difference does it make to him, whether I take vacation now or next year?
A: Vacation time is designed to help employees refresh, renew, and re-energize. The goal is that after a break, you will return with greater energy, enthusiasm, and focus for work. It’s even more important now for employees to take time off, based on perhaps being sedentary, the change to working remotely, or working in an isolated situation. Vacation is not just about going someplace else, it’s about taking a break to recharge, even if that means staying local this year.
Vacation time is a financial liability for companies that rests on the books as time that needs to be paid out. Managers and companies have a vested interest in people taking time off, obviously so that employees have a chance to relax – but also to remove the financial liability that unused vacation time represents for an organization. Deferred, or rolled over, vacation time puts companies in the position of having to juggle employees taking off twice the amount time when they’re trying to run a successful business. Being without an employee for double the amount of time will not help managers ensure that working employees are able to cover for those who are out. Even delaying employees’ time-off requests until the end of this year can put companies in a difficult position with everyone wanting to use their time at the end of the quarter or fiscal year, which can have a negative impact on organizations.
Part of the challenge of employees assuming that they’ll save their vacation time to use next year is that next year may not actually look different. Employers need their employees to be operating as best they can and should encourage employees to take the downtime now to recharge. Teams need to coordinate schedules and ensure coverage for all projects. Asking someone to cover for you so you can really step away with trust promotes collegiality, and offering to do the same for your colleagues encourages them to take time off as well.
Take vacation over the next few months using appropriate social distancing based on state travel and tourism guidelines. You may find the appeal of a staycation greater than ever this year. Be a tourist in your own town or state. Take day trips, go for a walk or hike, or have a picnic. Think about the things you can’t squeeze in – or are simply too tired to do – when you’re working all day.
If changing location is what triggers a vacation mindset for you, consider a house swap with close friends or extended family. The important thing is to put away the laptop and phone; remove yourself from the urgency of work and the routine of a workday schedule, and focus on a more casual life schedule.
Times of high stress are when you need to take vacation. With the stay-at-home restrictions adding childcare, educational, or senior care responsibilities on top of work, you may be tired and bordering on burning out. You may think you’re not impacted in terms of being tense at work or not being your usual positive self. Ask your colleagues; they may not share your impression. Most people need a break.
You should feel comfortable scheduling time off. Good planning, communication, and coordination before and after a vacation will help you relax and return refreshed. For organizations working onsite, employers should help employees plan ahead for any changes in protocol or safety measures upon returning to work after a vacation.