A guide to requesting time off
Knowing where to begin when asking for time off can be challenging. Some companies require far-advanced written notice, while others are way more casual. Either way, it's important to remain on good terms with your colleagues and boss. To ensure this, it helps to put some forethought into your request. Here we discuss tips on how to properly ask for time off from work, and share examples you can use as a guide.
Preparing to ask for time off
Planning your time-off request is just as important as the request itself. Here are some tips for making sure you plan to ask for time off the right way.
- Review your company’s vacation / time-off policies. Employers aren’t required to provide paid time off (PTO) for sick leave, vacations, or holidays. Organizations in the private sector, however, often give full time employees some PTO, however some employers don’t offer any paid vacation at all. Many employers provide a specific number of days or weeks for salaried employees, while others allow employees to accrue time off based on how long they’ve been employed with the company. For employees who are paid hourly, vacation protocols tend to vary. It’s common practice that hourly employees are required to cover the time they’ll be away. The bottom line is: it’s crucial that you’re aware of your company’s policies, and how they apply to you before drafting your request.
Learn more: 20 Companies Offering Unlimited PTO
- Plan to give sufficient notice. There are, of course, unexpected life events (family emergencies, for example) that won’t allow for advance notice, and employers generally do their best to accommodate under special circumstances. That said, most events are planned far enough in advance to allow you plenty of lead time, and to increase the likelihood of approval it’s important to ask as soon as you possibly can. A general rule when requesting time off: the longer you plan to be gone, the more notice you should give. Along with increasing your chances of getting the time you want, it demonstrates consideration for the company and your colleagues.
- Check the calendar. It’s always best to request time off when other employees aren’t taking time off, and when work is relatively slow. Although this won’t be an option every time, having a look at your team or company calendar can provide you with insight as to who will / won’t be around, and upcoming deadlines, projects, or meetings that might occur during or immediately after the time you want off. It’s in your best interest that your employer knows you’ve considered the schedule of the team.
- Get caught up with work. Of course, taking time off when work is slow, or no one else is on vacation won’t always work out. It’s extra important that you make sure you’re caught up on work ahead of time, and that any projects you’re working on are in order. This is especially significant if your absence will impact the workload of the team. If there’s a date you must stick to (like a wedding), give as much notice as you can and come up with a plan for how your responsibilities can be managed in your absence. Your employer is likely to feel more comfortable with your time off when reassured things won’t fall behind and their employees won’t become overwhelmed. If necessary, offer to put in some extra time prior to your time off to ensure things are under control.
- Avoid making plans before your time off is approved. Even if you’re entitled to time off, it’s more professional (and polite!) to frame your request as a request rather than a demand. “I have a trip to Cancun coming up so I’ll need next week off,” probably won’t sit well with your boss, and has a different feel than, “I have some vacation time coming up, and would love to spend it out of town with my family. Would the week of _____ be ok?”. Not to mention that your boss could really need you at work the week you’ve already booked at a hotel, which would be tricky.
- Plan when to ask your boss. Again, planning to give as much notice as possible is a good start, and talking to your boss when they’re likely to be the most receptive can have a huge impact on the outcome. Try to put in your time-off request when they’re less likely to be stressed or extremely busy. Avoid asking during a crisis, or a high-volume phase. If there are specific times each week that tend to be more pressurized, don’t ask then either. If you’d prefer to ask them in person, ask when they’re free to talk. If you’re more comfortable with opening the discussion via email, plan to send it when you know they’ll have some downtime. If you can catch them in a good mood, even better.
Drafting a time-off request
Now that you’ve covered all bases in the planning department, it’s time to draft your written request. Below are tips for writing a request, and a time-off request example.
- Open with a succinct subject line. Though it may seem inconsequential, the subject line of an email can mean the difference between your boss opening it now vs. later. It also serves as the first impression of the email itself. How often do you ignore or put off opening items in your inbox that have lengthy, unclear, or even blank subject lines? Chances are your boss might do the same. State the purpose of the email and the dates you’d like to take off, and any information you feel might help your boss identify who’s making the request, i.e., your name, employee number, etc. The less detective work an employer has to do the better.
- Disclose why you’re writing. Even if you’ve already spoken with your employer, the beginning of your email should state, clearly, that the purpose of the email is to request time off. Included here should be the type of leave you’re requesting, and the days you want.Learn more: Sending Your Employer a Sick Day Email
- Use discretion when giving details. Some companies require employees to give a reason when asking for time off and some don’t. If your job doesn’t, it’s up to you to decide how much you want to share. Consider how much notice you’re giving and how long you’ll be gone, when making decisions in this department. Your boss may consider it a professional courtesy to give a few details as to why you’ll be gone, even if it isn’t required, which could increase your chances of approval.
- Include job-related information. In the second portion of your email, provide as many details as you can to bring your employer up to speed on your work. As mentioned above, it’s imperative that your boss knows you’ll be caught up on current work, and that upcoming projects will be handled in your absence. Describe what you’re working on, what you’re finishing, what you’re delegating, and how things will transition so the impact of your time off is clear.
- Conclude the letter. To end your letter, thank your boss for considering your request, and ask that they contact you with any questions and to confirm their decision regarding your time off. Optional, yet often helpful: allow them to email you while you’re away if they have any questions or concerns about work.
Subject: Lane Sanders – Time-off Request, 6/12-6/20
I would really appreciate being able to take a week away from work to study for my final exams. The dates are June 12 – 20.
I’ll be caught up with everything I’m currently working on, and Pierre Jonas and Brian Foran have agreed to cover upcoming tasks while I’m gone. I’ve created a detailed outline for them so they’re clear on what they’re each responsible for and the associated deadlines. I’ll be reachable by phone and email should any questions arise during my absence. I can also get a head start on things that are due the week I get back.
Thanks so much for your consideration. Please contact me with any questions and to confirm these dates if they’re ok.
Subject: Request For Time Off – Abigail Jensen
Dear Ms. Young,
I am writing to request some time off between Wednesday, March 13 and Monday March 18 to attend my sister’s wedding in upstate New York. The wedding is on the 16th, but as it requires me to travel, I would like a couple of extra days around the date for traveling and seeing family.
As it is a couple months away, I’ll have more than enough time to get caught up on current projects and can spend extra hours in the upcoming weeks to get ahead on things due after I return. Michele Jones has agreed to handle any edit requests that may arise while I’m away, and I will be reachable by phone and email, in case there are any questions about my work or clients.
Please let me know if you have any questions or need additional information. Thanks so much for your consideration.
Of course, there’s always a chance things won’t go your way – employers aren’t required to provide time off for any reason other than medical. By planning ahead and using these tips for requesting time off, though, you’ll increase your chances of scoring that rejuvenating vacation.