Stewarding People Well: Vacation Requests

Stewarding People Well: Vacation Requests

Asking for Vacation Time Shouldn’t be an Exercise in Fear for Employees

If you are a Type-A business person, the thought of taking a vacation from work is fraught with questions. Will the company face a crisis while I’m gone? Will anyone care to keep things going at peak efficiency if I’m not there to ensure it happens? Should I wait until the company is stronger financially?

Your employees may be facing the same concerns, especially if you have hired motivated employees who thrive on success. They may embrace your drive to keep the company strong and fear stepping away from their responsibilities could hurt the business.

As a good steward of people in your business, it is your job to create an environment where your employees recognize the importance of vacations. This begins with your own attitude toward maintaining balance in your life. It may feel like your business is your life. However, relationships and health cannot be ignored without you reaping a breakdown in these areas. The swells of failing to prioritize relationships and health affect your business—often negatively.

Lead by example. If you must, carry your smart phone with you, and check in once a day. Otherwise, get away from the building that houses your business. Connect in the present with the people that matter the most to you. Amazing ideas often materialize when you place yourself in a different environment.

Your Vacation Policy Is Important!

Idea generation also happens when your employees step away from their day-to-day work environment. Vacation time rejuvenates, especially when an employee enjoys their job. Even employees who are ambivalent about their work usually return with a more positive attitude.

One of the first steps to eliminating fear that vacation requests may be unwelcome, is to create a clear vacation policy. It’s common to offer two weeks after the first year, three weeks after two years and four weeks after more years with the company.

It’s also common sense to build personal time off/sick leave days into the company policy. Who wants their employees to share the latest bug with their co-workers, especially when it could be something serious SARS or Avian flu? This type of vacation policy, with personal time benefits, acknowledges your employees’ needs to take a break—spend time with family, travel, tackle a personal project—do something where the boss doesn’t have a say in the outcome.

Whether employees are salaried or receive overtime pay, they can only function at peak for so long without serious time off. Karen Sumberg, vice president and director of projects and communications at the Center for Work Life Policy, says, “You get tremendous burnout where people are not working at their full potential, they’re not excited anymore, they’re just perpetually tired.”1 That’s not good for business.

Consider Alternative Vacation Policies

Then there’s the problem every employer dreams of. If you have a team that really cares about the success of the business, you may find they don’t take their vacations. Penny Herscher, CEO of FirstRain, found “that her long-time employees took less and less vacation time.” She didn’t believe they were afraid to take vacation. They were dedicated to their jobs. So she implemented a new vacation policy—take as much time as you need.

Herscher believes the policy won’t change the amount of vacation time her people take. What “it will change [is] “the level of freedom that our employees feel. If somebody needs to take five weeks, I trust that they’re making a good decision.”2

This type of vacation policy has business benefits as well. Companies no longer have to track used and un-used vacation time, or pay employees for un-used vacation.3

Check out these tips from Steve Olenski for how to hire the right employees.

Say, “Yes,” as often as possible.

If you’ve made good hiring decisions, your employee’s own code of ethics will produce some level of internal guilt—especially if you’re the type who is always running full out. But if you’re always saying, “No, that’s not a good time for us,” you’ll make your best employees feel guilty they want to take some vacation time.

Guilt isn’t something most people enjoy living with. Eventually, your employees have to evade it. This manifests itself in increased sick days and/or reduced productivity. It could even result in the employee leaving the company—and not always on pleasant terms.

Circumvent this. If you find yourself routinely stacking the schedule with stressful deadlines, start saying, “Yes,” to vacation requests instead. Unless there’s a good reason to ask your employees to not take certain days off—an industry-wide trade show, a scheduled product launch deadline, something significant—give them the dates they request. You’ll see positive results. Employees who are well-rested and happy, who have their work lives balanced with their off-work lives, are best positioned to be your most effective and high-performing employees.


Your employees not only deserve time off from work. They need time off. When you make it clear you understand that reduces distrust and increases loyalty. These are just two benefits of good vacation stewardship.

Employment Related Reading from Entrepreneur: The 5 Must-Use Steps to Successfully Conduct a Performance Review With Employees

2. Ibid