6 things to consider before taking time off work

Everyone know that one of the best parts of working is vacation. Taking time off is not only good for you and your family, it's also good for your employer because you come back rested and focused. But before you hit the beach, here are some things you need to know about your vacation time.

Do you have a paid-time off bank or separate vacation and sick days? Many companies have moved to the so-called PTO model. It doesn't matter if you are going to Disney or at home with the flu -- time off is time off. If that's the approach your employer uses, make sure you reserve enough days for unexpected illness toward the end of the year, or you may find yourself throwing up in the office instead of at home.

Is your vacation time accrued or simply granted? Accrued vacation means that you earn a little vacation time every pay period. Some companies don't allow you to go into "debt" with accrued vacation, so even if you're entitled to two weeks of paid vacation per year, you can only take one week off in July because you've only accrued one week's vacation time. If your total allotted vacation time is granted to you, you don't have to worry about that.

Get approval before you book that trip -- in writing. Don't buy plane tickets or book non-refundable anything without first getting official approval for the time off. Most managers will work with you around your schedule, but some won't. And in some cases, even nice managers have to say no because of work demands or schedule conflicts. If three people want the same week off, someone is likely to be disappointed. Make sure you ask for time off early, get confirmation in writing, and put it on your calendar and group office calendars.

Plan out the rest of your year. Your available days off are limited, so make sure you think about the fact that you'll need a day in October for your father's birthday and three days in December for Christmas travel. Point is, don't get caught short.

Use your vacation days. Americans get far fewer vacation days than many other people around the world, yet we still often don't take all our time off. Sometimes this is because bosses don't allow you to take time off, but often it's our own issues. We're concerned that people will see we're not invaluable when the sky doesn't fall when we're away. We're worried that a crisis will erupt if we're not on email 24/7. Take vacation anyway. It's good for you, your boss and your coworkers too. So, plan to use them, but if you can't...

Can you roll over unused vacation days? In some companies your vacation bank just continues to grow. Some day,20 years down the road when you quit or retire, you'll get a huge payout for the 300 vacation days you never took. But in many companies you're not allowed to roll over vacation time, or you're limited to carrying over two or three days. If you work for a "use it or lose it" company, use it! If you're in a roll over company, remember that you need to take vacation from time to time to perform your best. Plus, just because company policy is to pay it out when you quit, that doesn't mean that policy will still be in place next year.

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