Once you finally land a job, on your first day Human Resources will likely hand you copious amounts of paperwork that includes your work vacation policies.
As if day one in a new environment wasn’t intimidating enough, you’ll likely be dizzied by mind-numbing tax forms, healthcare insurance selection, 401k options, and a number of other mundane, but critical, pieces of paper.
As you sift through the documents that will define your work existence, it’s important to pay close attention to your new employer’s time off policy. If you don’t properly allocate your time off, you’ll forgo having much-needed vacation time.
Americans don’t take time off
While employers aren’t required by law to provide vacation, most white-collar jobs typically offer two weeks or 10 workdays of paid time off. That means your direct deposit will continue to land in your account while you’re far away from your desk.
But most Americans don’t take full advantage of this amazing perk. In fact, 55 percent of workers didn’t use all of their paid time off in 2015, leaving more than $60 billion in forfeited benefits on the table.
This is probably because taking vacation takes some serious planning, and you have to coordinate with your supervisor to make sure you have the green light to take time off.
Essential tips for cashing in your paid vacation
The first three months at a job they are able to fire you with little recourse. So please make sure that you don’t ask for time off during your first three months. Wait until after your 90 day trial period before you engage your supervisor.
After you’ve settled in, ask for your office calendar. Every office has days that are closed for holiday observance, and there is a lot of variation. As a general rule, most offices do not open on most national and Christian holidays. Generally, if you are salaried employee, these days are often paid days off and do not count toward your paid vacation.
Unfortunately, for travel purposes, every other working stiff typically has these days off as well. So expect to be shaken down by airlines and hotels if you plan on traveling on big holidays like Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
If you’re trying to avoid being gouged, you’ll need take your vacation during off-season. This means you should ask your supervisor well in advance that you’d like time off. Ask which time of year jives best with your company’s workload, and plan way ahead of time.
Even if you’re planning six months out, before you know it, the day will come and you’ll be making bank while getting some much needed rest.
Familiarize yourself with time off policies
Many workplaces have rules where if you don’t use your paid time yearly, you lose it. Others have cash-out policies that compensate you for your time off if you didn’t use it. Your Human Resources representative can usually answer most of your questions. If you have doubts, HR people are used to people asking them a litany of dumb questions.
Your supervisor holds the keys to your vacation
A good relationship with your supervisor is critical to this whole process. If you’re doing good work, he or she isn’t going to mind allowing you to take your allotted vacation time. Be sure to gage how much time away is appropriate, but as a general rule, more than a week away at a new job is too much.
Remember, you can always combine your week off with two weekends, which gives you enough time to visit destinations overseas. You can also take shorter vacations more frequently. Either way, explore every option available early on.
Knowing your policies will save you a lot of heartache
In the end, a lot of people don’t cash in their paid time off because they’re swamped with daily life. A little planning goes a long way, and will allow you to take regular vacations, where you can recharge your soul, and come back rejuvenated.
Time off is essential to your mental sanity. Navigating workplace’s time off policies can make or break your quality of life. Plan early, and take your paid vacation time seriously.