How to Get on the Road to More Vacation Time

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By Chip Cutter, AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Many employees who aren't getting raises because of the recession are resorting to bargaining with their bosses: How about more vacation time instead?

Asking for a few extra days off may sound simple, but career consultants say it's not always an easy request for an employer to grant, given the bare-bones staffing at many companies. After multiple rounds of layoffs, furloughs and cutbacks, employers may be unwilling to part with any remaining workers, even for just a few days.

Still, there's hope. With the right strategy, employees can eke out some additional time for a weekend getaway or just a day away from the cubicle.

Here are some tips for increasing your vacation time:

Hone your pitch

Simply demanding extra vacation days or making ultimatums probably won't get you far. Instead, take a positive but direct tone and think about some specific reasons to back up your argument, suggests Ronald M. Katz, president of Penguin Human Resource Consulting.

Be ready to explain how you've earned the extra time off, and come armed with descriptions of recent projects you've completed or extra assignments you've taken on. If you've spent the past few years working overtime or traveling on weekends, bring that up as well to show you've put in your time for the company.

If possible, let your boss know how the company has profited from your efforts.

"You need to make your case with numbers," Katz said. "The language of business is numbers and those numbers are preceded by dollar signs."

And, like any sales pitch, think ahead to counter any potential objections your boss may bring up. Roy J. Lewicki, a professor of management and human resources at Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business, said it helps to show you've thought of all of the issues that could arise in your absence.

Explain how your job will be covered. Be willing to give a little, too, to get what you want: offering to take an extra project in the future or stand in for someone else can bolster your case, Lewicki said.

"Make it easy for them to say yes," he said.

Wait for the right moment

The timing of the conversation matters too. Asking for more vacation during a performance appraisal is natural, but it might also work if you piggy-back the request onto one of your recent successes.

Jonathan Pearson, a software engineer at a small technology company in upstate New York, successfully negotiated for two days of extra vacation time after he completed part of a large, multi-stage project.

While he had hoped for a raise, the extra days will give him time to pursue his hobbies — like amateur beer brewing.

"Wait until the end of some milestone," he said, "so you can say, 'Hey I did this work, it was done well, it was done on time. How about a day off?'"

Request small chunks of time — and be flexible!

Even the most agreeable supervisors may be reluctant to give employees long periods of time off because of their thinning staff levels. So, instead of asking for a week-long holiday, try requesting time away in smaller increments, said Sander Vanderwerf, senior consultant in the absence management practice at human resources consultancy Hewitt Associates Inc.

A request to leave two hours early every other Friday during the summer months, for example, is often easier for an employer to swallow than a request for an entire week off at once, she said.

Since most businesses have slower periods, it can also help to ask for extra time when the office is fairly quiet. Explaining, "it's my slow time, my work is done, I'm not leaving any of my clients or organizations who depend on me in a lurch," can go a long way toward getting approval, Vanderwerf said.

If bosses can't offer extra vacation time — for fear of alienating other employees, for instance, or creating hardships in the office — try asking for a flexible work schedule.

Brian Hawkins, an affiliate marketing manager at Pingo.com, a virtual phone card service, wasn't able to secure a raise this year but managed to persuade his boss to allow him to work remotely from family homes in such laid-back locales as Nantucket and Hawaii.
Suddenly, the lack of a salary increase didn't seem as important, he said.

"That extra money that I'm missing out," he said, "it doesn't mean as much when I can spend more time with my family."

Explain how your vacation will benefit the company

Human resources consultants say it's essential to describe how the extra vacation time will work to an employer's advantage, in terms of increased productivity, greater loyalty or higher job satisfaction and morale within the company.

Mary Simon, a human resources consultant who focuses on negotiations, said it's essential for employees to take a company's big picture into consideration when requesting extra perks. Solely focusing on personal goals can hurt the relationship between an employee and supervisor, she said.

Penguin's Katz said it's wise to toss out that age-old argument that you "deserve" some extra vacation time. To get the time off, you need to prove why it's helpful to the company.

"The organizations are not going to give anything to the employees," Katz said, "just to make the employees happy."

However, one consultant said it may be unwise to fuss over extra vacation time now, given the shaky economy.

Lee E. Miller, a career coach and author of "Get More Money on Your Next Job ... in Any Economy," said employees taking extra vacations may be putting themselves at risk if the company undergoes future job cuts.

That's because, by vacationing, they're out of the office and not building connections with others.

"Anything that keeps you out of sight is not a good career move at this moment," he said. "If I don't know who you are because I don't remember you, you're a box on that layoff list."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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