Paid vacations can be tricky. They give employees a much-needed respite from the grind, yet lately many are hesitant to utilize them to their full extent. According to a recent survey conducted by GfK in conjunction with Project Time Off, while there has been a slight uptick in recent years, 54% of full-time employees still ended 2016 with unused paid time off.
Millennials, who job hop more regularly and thus know how easy it can be to be replaced, are even less likely to take vacations. A whopping 43% of “work martyrs”, aka people who sacrifice time off to keep working, are millennials.
Imagine you started a job a couple months ago and are finally getting into the groove of things, but you have a vacation coming up that was planned a year ago. You might have told your boss about it when you first came on board, but the idea of abandoning your post so early in your stint there keeps you up at night.
What if your associate takes over your responsibilities and does a better job? Will they promote her and get rid of you? How can you prove to them that you’re indispensable?
Your worries may be somewhat irrational, but that likely won’t stop them from plaguing you even when you’re supposed to be relaxing and recharging. So what can you do to assuage your fears?
Here are four steps to help you prepare for a vacation so you can actually enjoy it.
1. Start a tally of your work contributions
If you think you might be replaceable, the best way to show your boss (and yourself) that you’re not is a list of all the things you’ve done for the company. Whether it’s projects you’ve completed, successes you’ve instigated, or simply great ideas you’ve put out there that made an impact, write them down and keep them handy.
You don’t need to send the list to your boss like a self-evaluation or progress report — they’re just a good reminder that your contributions are unique and worth remembering.
2. Make sure your work is covered in your absence
This is a pretty simple consideration, but it often seems as if few employees think to do it. While you might not need to find a formal replacement to do your job in your absence, it’s always a good idea to make sure those who work in your department know you’ll be gone, and that they’re comfortable taking on some of your responsibilities in need be.
By taking that step, you’ll be helping out your manager and higher-ups who would have had to do that delegating. Not only does it show you’re thinking of other people’s time; it also highlights your care about the company as a whole. It shows you recognize that your role is part of a larger system that wouldn’t run as well without it.
3. Create an “in case of” manual for sudden situations
If something unplanned should occur in your absence that doesn’t fall into your normal, day-to-day tasks, it’s helpful to have a guide for someone who might have to step into your job to solve the problem. Things that could arise might be anything from a client needing specific information that only you know to finding figures on a past project that aren’t recorded in a commonly known place.
While you can’t plan for every out-of-the-blue need, you can try and put all that information together and make sure it’s accessible for when those situations arise.
4. Talk to your boss about your concerns
If you’re still feeling anxious even after you’ve done everything you can to prepare to take time off, it might be a good idea to have a matter-of-fact conversation with your manager.
Tell your boss what’s making you nervous about leaving, and together the two of you can make sure all your bases are covered. At the very least, if your boss has already approved your vacation, they will likely give you the encouragement you need to feel secure in stepping away.
Then, finally, you can take a deep, relaxing breath, put up your “out of office” automatic email reply, and let work go for a while.