6 Biggest Vacation Mistakes Employees Make (as told by Parks and Rec GIFs)

America’s vacation culture requires a serious change. Company leadership has a big role to play in that change, but from the CEO to entry-level employees, everyone has a role in shaping their company culture. Avoiding the six biggest vacation mistakes employees make will help make your office a better place to go every day—and to leave when you need a break.

1. They don’t plan ahead.

Planning your vacation days out at the start of the year not only makes you happier (in every category P:TO measures), it also protects the time by blocking your calendar from endless meeting requests and makes it more likely your time will get approved. And if you’re worried that sending multiple vacation requests at once will make you look less dedicated, it’s quite the opposite—your boss will be glad to know when you plan to be out as far in advance as possible, rather than having to scramble to cover responsibilities later. In fact, getting you to plan ahead should be just as important to your boss as it is to you!

2. They don’t consider the company calendar.

We’ve heard this complaint from a lot of managers. In most cases, employees weren’t considering the company calendar—busy seasons, project deadlines, their coworkers’ already-approved vacations. Not because their employees were asking to take time off, but more so because they had to say no, which is not something your boss wants to do. Don’t put your manager in this position! More than nine-in-ten managers say it is important to them that their employees take time off, which makes sense when you consider that 89% of them are concerned about your stress levels and burnout (89%). Need more proof? A whopping 84% of bosses believe that you’re more creative and focused after taking a vacation.

3. They don’t cover the basics.

Taking a vacation is treated like a cloak and dagger operation in some offices, with cultures so prohibitive employees feel that they need to be covert when they do take time off. This may explain why 40% of employees don’t send a simple reminder before they go. Even worse, 30% of employees don’t coordinate with colleagues to cover their responsibilities while they are out. The latter may be chalked up to employees not unplugging at all when they do leave. But in either case, it’s bad form and can negatively influence the vacation culture of the workplace.

4. They follow bad examples (or set one).

The majority of Americans don’t use the vacation time that they earn. Managers are even worse about taking time off, and when they do, they’re more likely to spend that time working. Forgoing vacation in the name of face time or working through your time off might feel like a personal choice, but without strong communication, it creates expectations—however unintentionally—that they are supposed to skip vacation or work through their time off too.

5. They treat vacation time like a bank.

You may be able to rollover time, stockpiling it for someday or waiting to cash out when you leave. There’s nothing wrong with using your vacation time as you see fit and as your company allows. BUT, if I may, I would warn you that employees who take more vacation (specifically 11+ days a year) are actually more likely to get a raise or bonus than employees who take less. So while you could leave your job with three months’ salary in your vacation bank, perhaps you could have had more over your time there by taking time off and reaping the creativity, productivity, and performance benefits that make you stand out. Choice is yours.

6. They ignore the potential of the out of office message.

The out of office message is an opportunity—not an opportunity to provide 9 different means of contacting you while you’re out, but a chance to break free of work and know that you’ve covered your bases (who to reach out to in your absence and when to expect you back). Beyond that, it can be fun and show your personality. Special points to the vacationer who came up with this one:

I am currently out of the office. I have a cell phone, but I will not be giving the number out. If you can guess the number, however, I will take your call.

Need inspiration? Check out Westin’s out of office generator (you’ll be glad you did).

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