The Associated Press

The Trick to Requesting and Receiving PTO

The key is to plan ahead so that your manager and colleagues aren't inconvenienced by your absence.

The Associated Press

Planning to jet away? Give your boss plenty of notice, and present him or her with a backup plan for covering your responsibilities.

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Summer is upon us. And if you’ve been thinking you might have to go without a summer vacation this year, think again and begin planning now. According to Glassdoor’s Q1 2014 Employment Confidence Survey, only 15 percent of Americans didn't take any vacation time in the last 12 months (which means that 85 percent did take time off). In other words, stop saying no one takes vacation and use some of these tips to prepare and ask for time off.

Know the policy. If you haven’t already reviewed your company handbook’s vacation policy, now would be a good time to do so. Requests for paid time off, or PTO, may need to be submitted months in advance. Or you may not have accrued enough time yet to earn your precious vacation. If this is the case, don’t give up – there may be a work around. Request to meet with your supervisor and ask what options may be available if you want to take a long weekend or an extra day off. It also pays to be in good standing with your employer. Be sure you’ve been meeting your deadlines and performance expectations before getting your heart set on a vacation.

Timing is everything. Your vacation should adapt to key dates on the company schedule. You don’t want to find out after you’ve requested the time that it falls right in the midst of a project deadline or major company event. Take a look at upcoming events your company is involved in and timelines for projects. “While there is always work to be done, employees should be conscious of using time off they’ve earned to recharge” says Rusty Rueff, Glassdoor's career and workplace expert. It may feel like there is never a perfect time to get away, but don’t let that stop you. Instead, assess when your absence will have minimal impact.

Make it a long weekend. Taking off Friday or Monday gives you that extra day to your weekend and more time to unwind, and some companies already offer decreased summer hours, so use that time to take a mini vacation. Another alternative if you haven’t accumulated enough PTO for a full day off is to request several hours off on a Friday afternoon.

Identify your backup. Things can, and often do, go wrong. The key to a relaxing vacation is to identify someone on your team to serve as backup to reduce your stress and help ensure the crisis gets resolved. You may need to bring your manager into this decision if someone has not already been identified to do this. The earlier you do this, the better your chances of getting a positive response. Have a plan mapped out and hand over work instructions, a project timeline or any other notes that will make it easier for your backup. To sweeten the deal, offer to return the favor in the future. And don’t forget to say thank you by bringing back a souvenir or giving a gift card to show your appreciation for the help.

Communicate your request NOW. The sooner you request time off, the better. No one likes last-minute surprises, especially your manager. Be sure you have all the paperwork, such as the PTO form, completed. And don’t just drop it on your manager’s desk or inbox. Take time to craft a short but complete note to accompany your request. Make it easy for your manager to say “yes” by including key information such as exact times and dates you will be out of the office, the amount of time being taken and who will handle any emergencies. Every request is subject to approval, but a rejection doesn’t mean that you can’t take vacation ever. Identify other dates that may work, just in case. If your first-choice vacation time is not accepted, present your second choice dates.

Close the loop with customers. Unplugging and relaxing during your vacation helps ensure you’ll be refreshed and not frazzled when you return, so notify clients and customers that you'll be out of the office as soon as your vacation has been approved. Let them know the dates you'll be out and explain who will be available to handle emergencies in your absence. Make sure your out-of-office email message also indicates the same information.

Hannah Morgan writes and speaks on career topics and job search trends on her blog Career Sherpa. She co-authored “Social Networking for Business Success,” and has developed and delivered programs to help job seekers understand how to look for work better.