On average, Americans receive 10 days of paid vacation time annually after a year of employment, compared to Brits who are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks of paid vacation and Germans and Australians, both of whom average 20 days of paid vacation annually. And, half of all US workers don’t even use the little time they’re allotted, leaving more than 700 million days on the table per year.
Don’t be that person; whether you take those days to travel with your family or just mentally recharge from home with your computer and phone tucked away out of sight, it’s important to factor in time off for your own emotional well-being.
But what if you’re in a new job that doesn’t offer much paid time off—or as much as your travel dreams require? Vacation time is one of the things you can bring up during salary negotiations before accepting a job, but it can also be negotiated at other times during your career lifespan within a company. Use these tips to negotiate for more vacation time.
Know the best times to ask for more vacation time:
- While negotiating for a new position. You have a lot more leverage if your new job offers less vacation time than your current job allows. You also are in a better bargaining position if you have other offers on the table. Use this position of strength to ask for more time off as a bargaining chip. Additionally, if the new job can’t meet your salary expectations or other criteria, asking for an additional week off is often a logical compromise.
- During an annual review. Most companies will have annual reviews with their employees at which point salary increases and bonuses are offered for work performance that met or exceeded expectations. Don’t be afraid to ask for additional days as part of a bonus package for a job well done.
- When receiving a promotion. Negotiate as a part of an increase in compensation, particularly after a period of intense working conditions—launching a new product, for example—that had you in the office every night and weekend.
Be prepared to outline your criteria:
- Have a specific ask. Think long and hard about what should be included in a written or verbal request. Don’t just go in asking for “more time off,” but rather have a specified time period that is fair and one your boss can easily lobby for if he or she has to take it to upper management.
- Have data to back up your ask. This could be a benchmark of other norms in your industry or based on your previous position. But be reasonable: In other words, if the current policy is 10 days, ask for 12 to 15, not 20. Along those lines, document your accomplishments and worth to the company as reasons for why you have earned more time—performing above expectation always goes far with being rewarded at work, though expectations are always going to be individual to your superior.
- Be prepared for a “no” and have follow-up questions ready for each of the reasons your request might be denied. If the company policy, for example, is 10 days annually, you can ask under what circumstances an exception might be made. If you’re told that, because you’re new they can’t offer more days, you could then ask about a staggered increase over time.
- Get it in writing. Make sure the amount of time you get off is specifically spelled out in your contract or in an email that can be used as binding down the road. Even if your boss is good for it, imagine a worse-case scenario where he/she or the HR manager leave, and there’s no documentation of your vacation time increase.
If you absolutely can’t negotiate for more PTO, there are still plenty of ways to stretch out your current vacation time if you think creatively.
- Travel over the holidays and long weekends. Take a vacation day on each end to stretch out your trip even further—and also increase the likelihood of getting cheaper airfare deals since holidays are notoriously the most expensive days to fly.
- Offer up alternatives. If more days off aren’t in the cards, see if your boss will allow you to work remotely, at least part of the time. That way, you can travel and work during the weekdays while you’re on trips but still enjoy the change of scenery.
- Ask about comp time. Comp time, or compensatory time, is paid time off given to an employee instead of overtime pay. If you’re regularly asked to work late or on weekends or holidays (or you foresee a big project that will require longer hours), so if you can arrange to earn some extra time off through that overtime work.
- Accept extra days off without pay. Not successful with securing additional PTO? If you’re in the financial position to do so, compromise and see if you can add in the option to take a few extra days per year unpaid.
- If your company's PTO is determined by hours worked, see if you can work four longer days each week instead of five. Some companies with flexibility are more than happy to allow employees to work four 10-hour days as opposed to five 8-hour days. The big draw? You have a long weekend every weekend.
- If all else fails, consider a new job or going freelance. If PTO and the flexibility to travel is the most important thing to you, it might be time to ditch the corporate world and go out on your own. In 2018, the Freelancers Union reported that 56.7 million Americans worked as freelancers, nearly a four-million increase over the previous year. Digital nomadism (working a remote job from locations around the world with no fixed home) is also on the rise as more companies see the value in finding the right person for the job, regardless of where they live.
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