How to Ask for Time Off (and Get It)

man's handing pointing to a date on the calendar as he asks for time off

Everyone needs to get out of the office occasionally – whether it’s to go to a doctor’s appointment or just to refresh and recharge. When you work for a small business, it can be difficult to get away because just one person’s absence can change everyone’s schedules and workloads. Even if you have paid time off (PTO) available, you might find it difficult to ask for time away from work. But, taking a break from work every now and then is essential for maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Follow these eight steps to help you confidently ask for time off.

1. Review the time off policy

If your employer has included a section in the employee handbook about PTO policies, review the policies before submitting your request. The policies will probably outline the guidelines for taking a leave of absence, including

  • how many hours you’re entitled to,
  • how PTO is accrued,
  • how to submit a request, and
  • how far in advance to put in your request.

Before you submit your request, make sure you have enough hours available and are following all the instructions carefully. If the company did not include leave policies in the employee handbook, ask your boss how they would like you to submit a request.

2. Give as much notice as possible

Try to submit your request as soon as you know that you’ll need to be away from the office. If you ask early enough, your boss will be able to review the request, your coworkers will be prepared to pick up some of your workload, and you can finish any outstanding work.

3. Choose the timing carefully

Try to submit your request when your boss is in a good mood and not distracted by other things. If they’re in a bad mood or just got out of back-to-back meetings, they’ll be less receptive to your request and might think that you’re not a team player. Asking your boss when they’re not stressed will increase the likelihood that your request will be approved.

4. Think about the company’s calendar

Occasionally, you can’t help being out of the office during a busy season for your company. But, try not to ask for too much PTO if there’s something big going on in the company. For example, if your team has a major project due at the end of the month, you might want to postpone your trip until all the deadlines are met.

5. Put it in writing

When you’re requesting time off, always put the request in writing, and ask that your boss respond in writing, too. That could mean that you ask your boss via email or that you submit the request through your company’s HR software. If you have it in writing, you won’t have to worry that someone else will request the same day off or that your boss will forget and wonder where you are.

6. Be respectful

When you submit your out-of-office request, remember that it is a request. In other words, ask your boss; don’t demand it. Don’t say, “I’ve booked a trip at the end of the month and will be gone for 3 days”. Instead, say, “I would like to go on vacation at the end of the month. Would it be possible for me to take a few days off?” By requesting time away before booking hotels, you’re not left in the awkward position of cancelling your plans, and your boss can let you know if it’s not a good time.

7. Plan your workflow

If you’re going to be out of the office for multiple days, then create a plan for how your work will be handled before and during your absence. Try to do as much beforehand as you can, so your coworkers aren’t left trying to handle your responsibilities on top of their own. Then, ask your coworkers who would be available during your absence to handle anything that pops up or that can’t be finished before you leave.

8. Accept the response

Just because you have vacation available doesn’t mean your boss has to approve every request. They might turn it down because it’s a busy season for the company, you have a major deadline coming up, or a coworker will already be out of the office. If your boss denies your request, don’t “call in sick” and take it off anyway. Instead, accept the response and remember that your boss isn’t saying you can’t take off at all; you just can’t take off at that time.

Vacations can help you recharge, clear your mind, and come back to work refreshed. Check out these nine signs that it’s time for you to take a vacation.

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