Asking for time off when you're about to start or you have recently started a new job can be a bit tricky. If you make your request at the wrong time or ask in an inconsiderate way, you could come across as someone who doesn’t care about the company or the job.
However, if your request for time off is well thought out, you can avoid (or at least soften) any negative impact. Here are some considerations to take when asking for time off.
When to Ask for Time Off at a New Job
If you know you need time off for a vacation or other commitments before starting a new job, it's advisable to broach the topic before your actual start date. The best time to mention that you need time off is after you have been offered the job, but before you accept it.
By being upfront about it, your supervisor knows you're not trying to take advantage of the company. And if you communicate your needs before beginning the job, an employer will likely be understanding of your request. People make commitments (whether it's to friends or family) in advance of being offered a job, and most employers will be sympathetic to this.
No matter what the reason for needing time off, ask your employer as soon as possible. They will appreciate receiving a head’s up well in advance.
If a need for time off arises after you have started a new job, then broaching the subject will likely be more challenging. That said, true family emergencies, deaths, and health crises are all perfectly valid reasons for needing time off. On the other hand, you'll need to prove to your new employer why you warrant time off for a vacation or another seemingly personal event.
Know the Company Rules
Before asking for time off, review any company policies on paid time off, vacation days, personal days, etc. Some companies are very flexible and offer employees an unlimited number of days off. Others require you to work for a certain amount of time before you begin to accrue days off. Make sure you know what the policy is at work so that you know whether what you are asking for is generally acceptable or not.
If you have not yet accrued vacation days, you might ask if the employer can “loan” you vacation days that you will be earning in the near future. Many companies are willing to do that.
Consider the Timing
While you want to tell your boss as soon as possible, you also want to think of the specific timing of the request. It’s always a good idea to ask for a favor (like taking time off) after you have done something to impress your boss.
Try not to ask for time off during a particularly busy time at work or when deadlines are approaching.
For example, you might make the request at the end of a meeting in which you summarize your progress for the week, or after you have completed a big project. Also, think about the timing of the time off itself. If you're asking for time off around the holidays, be sure to give your boss as much notice as possible.
Plan For Covering Your Workload
Before asking for time off, think about how you will manage any work you might miss. Will you submit your report a day early? Have you asked someone if they could cover your shift (only ask someone who is a trusted employee, who you are confident will do the work well)?
If possible, include a pledge to work extra hours before and after your planned absence to ensure that all of your tasks are completed on time. You could also offer to work remotely, or at least stay in contact by phone or email. Being proactive shows that you are a responsible employee and that you take your work seriously.
Be sure not to lie. If you are going away for a friend’s wedding or a vacation, say so. You don’t need to provide any extra information – just keep it brief and honest.
Talking to Your Boss
Be sure to ask your boss rather than simply telling them. You can say something like, “I have accrued two vacation days, and I am wondering if I can use them the week of August 18. Does that work for you and the rest of the department?” By phrasing it as a question, you are showing that you respect your boss and that you want to make sure your time off works for the team.
Whatever your unique situation is, you should share enough details with your employer about why you need time off so that your request comes across as legitimate. Whenever possible, provide documentation such as a funeral announcement or a doctor's note, even if your employer did not ask for it.
After telling your boss in email or in person, follow up with an email a couple of days before you take the time off. You can send a short email saying something like, “I just wanted to remind you that I will not be at work on Tuesday, November 2.” You might also add information on who will be covering for you, or what work you will be doing in advance of your leaving. This reminds your boss of your time off and also of your sense of responsibility.
Sample Email Asking Boss for Time Off
Subject Line: Firstname Lastname – Request for April 11-12
I hope you are well. I have a quick question. I am hoping to take off Thursday, April 11 and Friday, April 12 to attend my niece’s graduation in California. Would this work for you and the team? I would be available by email on both days.
I double-checked, and our current project will be completed on April 8. I will complete the follow-up paperwork by April 10.
Let me know if that works for you, and if you need any more information from me. Thank you so much.
Sample Email Following Up About Time Off
Subject Line: Firstname Lastname – Checking in re. April 11-12
I just wanted to remind you that, per our email conversation last week, I will be out of the office this Thursday and Friday.
We completed our team project ahead of schedule, so I will be able to get the follow-up paperwork to you by Tuesday.
Again, I will be available by email Thursday and Friday if you or anyone on the team needs to reach me. Thank you.