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5 ways to get more out of your vacation days


By Sabine Vollmer

Finance professionals and others working in US office environments have a conflicted relationship with paid time off. They want more of it, but they don’t take full advantage of the vacation days they already get, polls suggest.

About one-third of the more than 1,000 US office workers staffing firm Accountemps polled said they do not get enough vacation, confirming findings of previous US polls that more paid vacation ranks high on the wish lists of CFOs and office workers.

But the Accountemps poll also found that many workers take fewer vacation days than they could. Forty-one per cent said they have taken no paid time off or less than they could have because they were concerned about the amount of work that would await them when they returned. And 35% took fewer or no days off because they worried about their colleagues absorbing their workload.

When they do take vacation time, many workers have a difficult time disconnecting from the office. Forty-one per cent of the participants said they checked in with the office once or twice a week while they were on vacation.

“Thanks to 24/7 email access via smartphones, the lines between work and personal time are becoming more blurred,” Bill Driscoll, an Accountemps district president, said in a statement. “It’s important to take a break from your inbox and use your vacation time to relax, so you can return to work with renewed energy.”

Younger professionals in particular have a hard time disconnecting. Thirty-six per cent of respondents ages 18 to 34 check in with the office at least once or twice a day while on their summer vacation, compared with 16% of professionals ages 35 to 54, and 12% ages 55 and older.

Driscoll also highlighted the need for managers to lead by example. “As a manager, if you rarely take your vacation days or you choose to check in frequently while on vacation, your team will model your behaviour,” he said. “Encourage employees to use their time off and disconnect from work to avoid burnout.”

Forty-eight per cent of respondents said their managers at least somewhat encourage them to take vacations, and 47% said their managers neither encourage nor discourage them from taking time off.

To get more out of days away from the office, Accountemps has the following five tips:

  1. Cultivate a vacation-taking culture. Managers should create an atmosphere where employees feel motivated and encouraged to take time off to recharge.
  2. Plan ahead. Let your manager and colleagues know about your vacation plans well in advance. Block off time on your first day back to meet with your manager about critical updates and catch up on calls and emails.
  3. Assign delegates. Clarify to your manager, colleagues, and other contacts who will take the lead on key projects while you are away. These backups can keep work progressing in your absence. Managers who delegate during vacations can also evaluate whether the second-in-command might be ready to assume more responsibility in the future.
  4. Disconnect from the office. Try to unplug while away to get the greatest benefit from your vacation. Managers can help by setting a good example themselves while out of the office. If checking in is necessary, establish one short window each day when you’ll be reachable, and stick to it.
  5. Ease your mind. Put your work worries aside while on your break. You will return to your job feeling more energised and ready to tackle tough projects. And don’t feel guilty about taking time off. Think of your vacation time as part of your compensation package – you’ve earned it.

Sabine Vollmer (svollmer@aicpa.org) is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.