Tips for Asking for Time Off at the Holidays

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For many of us, the holiday season is a period of time we want to spend with friends and family, without having to worry about responsibilities related to work. The trouble is, though, that many of your colleagues have the same idea. Add the fact that some people are in fields where work must continue through the holidays, and you have a tricky challenge to negotiate.

Almost everyone would love to have some extra time off during the busy holiday season. Employers have to juggle requests in order to keep employees happy and to make sure that the workload is covered. It can be a challenging time of year to ask for - and get - extra time off from work, especially when you're working for an organization that is busy during the holiday season.

Tips for Asking for Time Off at the Holidays

What's the best way to ask to take vacation or personal leave? When you want to take time off for the holidays, it's important to be flexible, to be willing to give as well as to get, to plan to ask early, if possible, and to be able to offer solutions for getting your work covered, if necessary, while you're away.

Here are tips for successfully asking for time off from work during the holiday season.

Know What Time Off You Have Available

Before you ask for holiday time off, check your vacation or personal leave allotment to be sure you have the time available to use. Also find out if your company has a "use it or lose it" vacation policy, which could mean you have to take days off from work prior to the end of the calendar or fiscal year or forfeit them. Check company policy to see if there are guidelines for requesting time off, and be sure you comply with them. The information should be available in your company's employee handbook or website.

Ask Sooner Rather Than Later

Strategies for handling this holiday dilemma will vary given your situation. However, the earlier to you ask, the more likely you will be to get your request approved. If you are in a sector like retail, hospitality, IT, or healthcare, where coverage must be maintained, then you may need to discuss scheduling with both your manager and your co-workers.

One approach is to prioritize your holiday preferences as far in advance as possible and to bring the issue up for discussion with bosses and colleagues. The earlier you raise the topic, the better, and although being the first one to ask for time off doesn't necessarily guarantee that your request will be granted, it does give you more leeway with your negotiation.

Be Ready to Compromise

Be understanding and patient when asking for time off. Kindness will go a long way. You should also spend some time thinking about how you can best compromise if your request isn't granted in full.

For example, if your family gets together on Christmas Eve, then you might volunteer to work on Christmas so you can take off the day before. If you have colleagues who celebrate Jewish or Islamic holidays, then you might volunteer to work those days in exchange for coverage on Christmas or New Year's Day.

Another approach is to explore the possibility of splitting shifts on holidays. For example, you might offer to cover 6 am to 12 pm, or 12 pm to 6 pm, instead of your typical 12-hour shift.

Plan in Advance

If continuous coverage is not an issue in your field, then advance planning can be the best way to clear time off for the holidays.

Anticipate deadlines that occur around the holidays, and set your own deadline for December 15th to make sure you get the work done before the holiday period. 

Sharing your plan to work extra hours or do whatever is necessary to clear the holidays with your supervisor and team members well in advance can help alleviate any concerns.

Raising this issue with your work team well in advance can also help you to avoid preemptive requests from aggressive fellow employees.

When you submit your request for time off, be sure to convey to your supervisors how you plan to ensure all of your responsibilities will be taken care of before you leave for your vacation.