What’s the deal with missing days of work?

Much is to be made about paid time off packages.  They are a major point of interest for everyone that is considering a new job or company.  The irony of this, of course, is people are taking a job to work, yet they want to have the most paid time off possible so they can take vacations and be away from work.  Regardless of the irony, taking time of is an important component of your time at a company.  Time off allows you to take a break from the daily grind, recharge your batteries and come back to work with a fresh mental state.  

Though the thought of a tropical vacation sounds amazing, the show goes on back at work.  Projects will not stop just because you are out of the office.  Decisions will be made even if you are not there.  There are a few ways we suggest you prepare for time out of the office to ensure your projects continue to make progress while you are out:

  • Create an out of office document.  This document includes a list of all projects and key milestones coming up over the next week.  It must include the names of business partners to contact in the case of a question
  • Discuss the plan with your manager and any necessary coworkers.  Though your manager and coworkers may be heavily involved with your projects, it is important they know exactly what to do while you’re out.  Take some time with them to review your out of office document and give them the opportunity to ask you questions.  Not only will this better prepare them to cover your work load, but it will also prevent them from reaching out to you while on vacation
  • Empower others to make decisions.  For many reading this, you are likely a newer employee that is lower on the totem pole, so decisions are often raised to your manager anyway.  But, for those that are managers, provide those that are taking over for you the ability to make decisions.  Make a decision tree to make it easier, if needed.  Empowerment is an important aspect of someone’s engagement at work, so this is a good opportunity to try it out.  It is good to note - you cannot be upset with a decision made while you’re out since you were not there to understand the given circumstance.  Trust that your colleagues are making a decision in the best interest of the team and company
  • Set up your out of office auto-response email.  Won’t go into detail on this since there is a whole post dedicated to it
  • Thank those that helped you while you were out.  Recognition is huge, especially if you are a manager recognizing your employees.  This will make them more connected to you and the team, as they will have contributed in a bigger way.  The thank you can be at a public recognition forum, an email, or a coffee.  Whatever works for your culture, just be sure to thank them. You never know when you’ll need their help again

So that covers what to do if you miss days of work due to vacation, but other events may come up or you may be sick.  Here are some other scenarios and ways to address them:

  • All-Day Training: Missing one day, you will likely be fine.  If something critical comes up, you will know about it and will be able to step out of the training to take action.  If you are in training, let your coworkers know you will be unavailable that day.  If your presence is required at a meeting, either ask for a reschedule or see if your manager can attend in your place
  • Sick Day: Depending on your company’s work from home policy, I suggest you just work from home.  If you are sick, but still functioning, there is not reason to go into the office and contaminate others, but there is also no reason to use a precious day off

Perception of Taking Days Off

Taking days off is great, but how does it impact your perception?  I recently took a few week long vacations, within two months of each other.  The perception of me, as a result, was “Steve is a big traveler who likes going cool places.”  People love to hear about the places you’ve been!  I felt the vacations may have been a bit close together, negatively impacting other’s perception of me, but it actually had the reverse as a result of what I did on those vacations.  So long as you are not abusing your vacation days or using them to miss important events or meetings, the perception of you will not be negatively impacted.  You are given vacation days for a reason - use them as you see fit!

Taking the Time Off

A big deal is made out of your ability to take time off and the process of requesting the time.  Each company has a different way of requesting time off.  Some have formal processes, some are more casual.  CSU’s philosophy?  If you want to take a vacation, just tell your manager you are taking certain days off.  By telling them, rather than asking, you are limiting their ability to say “no.”  While they still can say “no,” the chances are smaller because you are not presenting them with the option to do so via a question like: “Can I take these days off?”  As I mentioned before, you are given vacation days for a reason (to use them), so you should not hesitate to request using them.

Comparison to Undergrad

As an undergrad, you may miss class to sleep in or if you went out the night before and can’t function at optimal speeds.  Neither of those are excuses for missing work.  However, as a result of missing class, you make it work.  It is not the end of the world if you miss your class.  You speak with a classmate and ask them what you missed and get caught up.  The show goes on whether you are there or not.  The same is true in Corporate America.  No one individual is the show stopper.  Projects continue, meeting occur, and decisions are made whether you’re there or not.  If you miss any of these projects, meetings, or decision, just be sure you get caught up on them quickly to understand why they happened and what the impact is for you and the company.

Thought Starters

Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

  • How have you noticed a change in your mental state as a result of taking days off work?
  • What methods do you use to prepare colleagues for when you’re out of office?