5 Tips For Asking (And Getting) Time Off For The Holidays

With the holidays quickly approaching, it may be time to put in your PTO requests before your managers start saying no. Read below for tips on how to successfully take time off during one of the busiest times of the year.

By Caitlin Shaw4 min read
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The Hectic Holidays

The holiday season may be known as the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also arguably the busiest. During the months of November and December, everyone’s social calendars begin to get fuller and fuller with traveling, attending religious ceremonies, organizing parties, and gathering with loved ones. According to research from HR databases, employees take the most time off during the month of December. In fact, many employees requested PTO twice as often during the holidays compared to any other time of the year. And since someone has to work during the holidays, employers cannot accept every single PTO request during this time. Follow these five steps to successfully get your much-needed vacation time approved. 

1. Know Your Company’s PTO Policy

This one may seem obvious, but it still needs to be explicitly stated. Even before you think about taking vacation days, you should know how much PTO you’re granted. In fact, the number of PTO days is often one of the first pieces of information that recruiters offer to new hires. Know how many days you’ve taken and how many you have left before asking for time off. Be sure to also familiarize yourself on the rules and best practices of PTO at your company. Some companies have a rule (either spoken or unspoken) against team members taking PTO at the same time. While this may seem bothersome or unfair, it actually makes a lot of sense — there can’t be too many team members on vacation because work could become near-to-impossible for those left in the office.

Other companies have rules on allowing your manager a certain amount of time to approve your PTO request — some companies require two weeks, and others could even require a month. It’s especially critical around the holidays to know if your company has a “use it or lose it” policy. If this is the case, then employees need to use up all of their PTO before the end of the year; otherwise, it’ll be wasted. If your company has this rule, it could be even more difficult to get PTO approved at the end of the year. 

2. Plan Ahead

Remember that skill of “organization” that you so proudly flaunt on your résumé? It’s time to put that into practice. Planning ahead is arguably the most important tip on this list, and if you plan ahead well, then you’ll prove yourself to be a responsible employee. Not only does planning ahead include requesting PTO in plenty of time, but it also includes finishing all of your important duties before you’re out of office. One of the first things you should do when deciding when you want to take PTO is check your calendar to ensure that you’re not missing any critical deadlines or meetings. Keep in mind that when you’re “OOO,” your coworkers are picking up your extra work, so try to finish up your part of a project before you go on vacation.

If your company has a “use it or lose it” policy, it could be difficult to get PTO approved at the end of the year. 

Once you ensure that there aren’t any conflicting priorities on your calendar, ask your manager as early as possible. Recruiting websites like Glassdoor recommend giving as much notice as you can, and the longer you plan to be out of office, the more notice you should give. Obviously, there are special circumstances or emergencies where you may need to take a day off with little to no notice, but don’t let last-minute PTO requests become a habit. This is especially critical around the holidays since everyone wants to be out of office with their families and friends — so the earlier you ask, the better.

3. Time Your Ask Strategically

Timing can be everything when it comes to requesting PTO. If your manager looks even the slightest bit upset, busy, overwhelmed, distracted, or in a bad mood, then avoid bringing up the topic of PTO entirely. It may be best to ask about OOO requests following a successful meeting or closeout on a big project. That way, your positive contribution will be fresh in your manager’s mind, and they could be more likely to grant your request with ease. Also, consider how your boss prefers to communicate about these topics. Does he like to be told in person and then reminded with a calendar hold? Or does a simple email asking about PTO suffice? Knowing these nuances could help your chances of being granted with PTO approval. 

4. Prepare To Be Flexible, but Not Too Flexible

Finding the balance between being flexible but not too flexible when it comes to PTO requests is tough — especially for a newer or younger employee who may not be as willing to ask for what they deserve. It’s important to be understanding of the busy holiday season and respectful of the fact that not everyone can take PTO at the same time, but don’t forget that PTO is a benefit that you earned. If your manager gives you pushback for taking PTO during the holidays, don’t let him or her intimidate you. Respectfully offer to adjust the days of PTO or negotiate to work extra before you leave. Remind your boss that your PTO is a benefit that you have a right to use and the holidays are an important time to be with family and friends. Most companies do not require their employees to provide a reason for taking time off, so if your manager demands to know why you’re requesting PTO, remember that your reason can be because you simply want to. 

5. Put It in Writing

Reminding your manager about your PTO in writing is a critical final step to successfully requesting time off. Send an email and a calendar hold to your manager and entire team so that everyone is aware of when you’re OOO and can plan accordingly. Without this step, your coworkers are much more likely to forget that you’re OOO and be upset when you’re not in the office one day. Communicating clearly and promptly about your PTO is critical in establishing yourself as a reliable and responsible employee. Another good rule of thumb is to refrain from making any solid plans until your manager has officially approved your PTO request. Just because you ask for time off does not mean that you will be granted those exact days, especially during the holiday season. Make sure you have written approval before booking a plane ticket or RSVPing to your best friend’s Christmas party.

Closing Thoughts

According to HR research, most employers’ biggest complaint about their employees is when they’re not accountable for their work. Show that you’re an accountable and responsible employee by requesting PTO far in advance, getting your work done before you leave, being flexible if needed, and reminding your manager of your absence via email. These five tips are by no means the only ones out there for successfully getting PTO during the holidays. If you’re still looking for more tips and best practices, visit resources like Indeed or Glassdoor.

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