According to a Gallup poll, Americans work for 47 hours per week on average. Around 21% of employees even work for more than 50 hours a week. In Europe, the situation is a little better. With Europeans only working for around 37 hours per week. However, these figures do not account for the number of hours employees spend with busy work like checking and replying to emails. 

Time off from work is essential for everyone. But often due to the fear of being replaced or even the guilt of not doing their very best, people fail to ask for paid time off. They might even be entitled to quite a few but they just don’t take them. All this leads to sad cases of employee burnout that were easily preventable. Actively disengaging our brain from work even just for a few days can be transformative. It is also crucial for a healthy work-life integration that doesn’t take a toll on our psyche.

We understand just how complicated requesting time off can sometimes be. This article will help you with the process, best practices and frequently asked questions of time off requests. 

Ten Best Practices for a Time Off Request

Although you may have paid time off available, they are subject to approval. Here are some best practices you must follow to ensure that your time off request is approved every time:

#1: Articulate Your Needs

Time off can be requested for a number of reasons. There might be some types of leaves that are non-negotiable for the employee like sick leaves, bereavement leaves and parental leave.

In all likelihood, all empathetic managers will provide immediate approval for these leave types. But within the purview of sick leaves, falls mental health breaks. Not all managers are receptive to this leave type.

You need to articulate why you need a break and write down all your reasons. This step will help you understand why you feel burnt out and how a vacation can help. You should consider what will happen to you, your team, and your company if you don’t take some time off work. Burnout can seriously impact your work. It can also affect the people around you as you will not be able to do your part with enthusiasm and creativity. 

Be sure to let the manager understand what you’re going through clearly and concisely.

#2: Timing is Key

Timing is a crucial factor when asking for a PTO. It is reasonable to assume that your manager will not be happy if you ask for time off work when there is a heavy workload or when there is a crisis.

Most businesses go through a cycle where there are periods where there is a high volume of work. There are times when there is a low volume of work. Plan your time-offs and ask for them during moments when there is relatively less work.

Your manager will be much more likely to approve your leaves if they’re able to run the department without any problems even in your absence.

#3: Coordinate Time Off Requests with Co-Workers

One of the biggest reasons for managers cancelling leaves is too many employees taking time off in tandem. In such cases, managers can grant leaves either on a first-come-first-serve basis or based on the reason for leave. In that case, if you’re applying for a casual vacation you can wave goodbye to your time off.

Preempt such situations by coordinating leaves with team members. Absence Management Softwares like AttendanceBot can sync team calendars to ensure that there is full visibility for all time-off requests.

American Vacation Time Off since 1978

Source: Statista

#4: Request Time-Off in Advance

Every company has different ways of allowing employees to apply for time off. It can range from a time-off request form to even absence tracker systems on apps like Slack. Whatever process, apply well in advance. Last-minute leaves are more likely to be scrutinized more.

Schedule your time-off around times with less work. For example, it will be easier for you to get time off right after project completion.

It is better to ask for time-off in advance if you are requesting it around holidays. There will be many people wanting PTOs during holidays. Your manager is likely to give time-off to people who applied earlier than the rest. 

#5: Give Your Manager a Heads Up Before Applying for Time-Off

You should ask your managers verbally before putting in a formal time-off request. Start the conversation with positive intent. For example, you can tell them that you need a break from work to re-energise. Mention that you will be able to work more effectively after some time off. Share with them the reason you want time off and how you will make sure that there are no bottlenecks for team members. This will show them that you take work seriously and you want what’s best for the company.

Your manager might suggest an alternative time where it will be easy for the company to accept your time-off request. Asking for approval before the formal application can be the way to go for some managers.

The flip side is that a lot of times managers want to automate the process of requesting time off. They may just want to look at the type of leave, the number of employees taking time off, the reason for leave, advance notice and quickly approve/reject the leave. Be sure to understand what approach your manager prefers and stick to it. 

#6: Request Time-Offs Formally 

Plenty of times, employees verbally ask for time-off from managers and the latter end up forgetting the conversation, leading to significant problems for HR. 

Irrespective of verbal approval, formal time off requests are important. Email your manager and HR well in advance to written leave approval. This also ensures that the organisation can make other arrangements for your absence if required.

With apps like AttendanceBot, this whole process is simplified considerably. Employees can message AttendanceBot on Slack/Teams with the time off period, leave type and reason for absence. AttendanceBot then messages the manager for approval. The manager reviews the leave request and can look at all other leaves approved during that period. All it takes is a single click to approve/reject the leave which the employee is then notified about.

It does away with complex processes of time off request forms, saving those forms, setting up an out of office notification, notifying team members and tracking time off taken.

#7: Help in Setting up the Workflow in your Absence

You should help managers in setting up alternative arrangements and tweak the workflow so that work doesn’t suffer in your absence. For example, you can convince some of your co-workers to handle your responsibilities while you are away. This ensures that there will be no problems in your absence and managers will be more likely to accept your vacation requests in the future. 

#8: Make Sure to Complete your Work before you Leave

Plan accordingly and ask for time-off in advance. Before you go, ensure that your work is done and all affairs are in order.

As an employee, it is your responsibility to finish all the work that has been assigned to you when you take time off. Try not to overburden other employees with your time off. 

#9: Collaborate with Your Manager and Co-Workers

You work with colleagues and managers towards a common goal. Your absence might slow down the entire team. It is vital to plan things with your managers and team members before leaving. Ask them how you can make it easier for them in your absence. Your planning can be made more effective with inputs from your manager. They might help you by providing you with insights. 

#10: Ask for Short Time-Offs when Possible

Studies show that short time-offs are just as effective as long time-offs of more than ten days. It will be easier for you to get a short time off rather than a long one. Short vacations are just as energising as long ones. Moreover, if you plan your time off with extended weekends, you will be able to take more time-offs in a given year. As an added bonus, you will have next to nothing to catch up on when you return. 

Possible Reasons for Rejection of Time-Off Requests

#1: They cannot Cover your Work with Existing Staff

Employers might deny your request by saying that they cannot cover the work in your absence. You can work around this by actively engaging with your manager to come up with solutions. Try to call in favours with your colleagues and ask them to cover for you.

#2: They cannot Handle High Volume Work

We talked about business cycles earlier. There are periods when there is a high volume of work. Managers need all hands on deck during this time. It can be impossible to manage work in the absence of any employee. It can be hard to get time off during this period.

However, if you have a genuine emergency, managers might understand the situation and accept your time-off request. 

#3: You have Asked for Time Off on Short Notice

Managers will not be happy if you ask for time offs just a few days before you want it. Plan your time off well in advance. Collaborate with your managers and set a plan for your leave. The manager will likely reject your time-off request if you ask for PTO on short notice without a solid reason. 

#4: You Haven’t Followed Company Policy

Irrespective of company size, there is always a process for applying for time off. Depending on HR, these can be time consuming or simple. But irrespective, it is your job to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s in this process.

If you haven’t followed company policy, your time off request might get denied or converted to unpaid leave. 

#5: You are Taking Too Much Time Off in One Go

Employers might reject your time-off request if you are taking too much time off at one go. It gets harder to manage work when employees take leaves of more than ten days. No amount of planning can help managers with the workflow in such a case. Try to plan short time-offs with the help of weekends to get more time-offs in a year. 

Frequently Asked Questions for Time Off Request

What information must I provide for the time-off request?

Write the reasons you want the time off and include the exact dates. Next, write about the arrangements you have made so that work doesn’t suffer in your absence. Lastly, try to preemptively answer any questions HR and your manager might have.

Can an employer deny a time-off request?

Yes, employers might deny requests for time off due to several reasons. They can say that they can’t cover your work with existing staff. They can say that you are giving them short notice. However, that doesn’t mean they will necessarily reject your time off request.

Follow the company policy for time-offs. You can also ask for unpaid time off if the organisation is unwilling to give you paid time off and it is an emergency. 

Do you have to give a reason for a leave of absence?

No, however, it depends on company policy as well. Most companies have a specific number of paid time-offs. Many companies do not require a reason for the time-off unless expressly mentioned. However, you are working in a team. It is crucial that you take into account your manager and team members. 

If you’re asking your team members to cover for you on short notice, they are much more likely to help you if you’re upfront about your emergency. Rather than them seeing your vacation pictures on Instagram at a later date.

How to ask for a day off?

Being honest is a good policy for almost all business decisions. It doesn’t matter if it’s a personal issue or mental health crisis, tell your manager why you need time off. 

Can I be fired for taking paid leave?

Most employers do not fire employees for using paid time off. But the caveat is that employees should follow all time-off request policies and return to work as agreed to while applying for the time off. Otherwise, there can be repercussions for violating attendance policies.

Time Off Requests during COVID

Taking time off should be simple especially in the troubled times we live in currently. But often HR and managers can over complicated the process. Push for simplifying the time and attendance policies in your firm by letting go of dinosaurs like the archaic time off request forms or even emails.

We’re not saying that AttendanceBot is the only solution, but it’s a good one. Feel free to reach out to us for a demo, or just add it to your workplace and take it for a spin.