Enterprise Software

Do you use all your days off?

This season is when a lot of workers look forward to taking time away from work. Even considering the holidays, though, do support pros ever get around to using all of the vacation time they may have coming to them? Chime in with your experiences.

This season is when a lot of workers look forward to taking time away from work. Even considering the holidays, though, do support pros ever get around to using all the vacation time they may have coming to them? Chime in with your experiences.

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I'm looking forward to taking some much-needed time off for the Christmas holiday. I'll be going to Florida to enjoy some sun, some sand, and some time with my family.

It has been my habit for quite a while to try and take some vacation time around the year's end. Even taking a week off every year means I usually leave a lot of the days I had earned unused, though. I've long wondered if I'm alone in that regard.

There are a lot of variables that exist when considering this question. Different workplaces offer different benefits packages, and different employees accrue at different rates. From my university employer, I would accrue three weeks of vacation every year, 9.4 hours of vacation for each month I would work. Our benefits package also entitled us to five personal days that we could take off each year. So every year, I could conceivably take off almost a month from work. I was never able to accomplish this, and while some of my unused time might roll over into the next calendar year, not all of it would.

There are a lot of support pros who aren't lucky enough to enjoy the vacation benefits I had. There may be some techs who have even better packages. Support pros universally have a different relationship with their vacation time than other employees do. The nature of IT work means that there may be extenuating circumstances that affect whether we have full access to our time off. Tech support is a profession that does not always respect a 9 – 5 weekday schedule. Like doctors and plumbers, we may be called in to work when other people might be taking a holiday.

I also have the sense that lots of readers of the blog may work in short-staffed support teams or — like Joe Rosberg and me— have been one-person IT departments. When you have a lot on your plate, it can be hard to take time for yourself.

Have you been able to take all the time off that you may have due to you? If not, what stands in your way? Let me know in the comments below.

23 comments
jck
jck

Being the youngest (and only responsible) child my parents have, I am delegated with watching out for them and trying to fit that into a work schedule which includes a 40 minute drive each way to work, plus the 3 hours each way to them whenever my mother's computer doesn't work or dad needs help with lifting or doing projects that require climbing a ladder. Usually, I end up taking personal time (vacation) to go and do things for others. It's rare I take a vacation...well, not so rare as it used to be...i.e.- one real vacation in the first 35 years...then took 2 in the past 5. I usually do use all my days off...or close to it...but, I don't do it by choice but out of obligation.

jeremial-21966916363912016372987921703527
jeremial-21966916363912016372987921703527

Funny I should come across this article. I just attempted to take a day off on Friday, to stay home with a sick 5 yr. old. In my position, I handle the desktop environment, as well as application packaging and some programming. I am juggling 4 Enterprise Application projects at present, and received no fewer than a dozen calls from Project Managers, Application Support, and Management, all of them panicked when they saw my Out of Office message. I did my best to care for my son throughout the day, but still ended up putting in a 6 hour day into the evening to keep everything running smoothly.

stevmingus
stevmingus

Tech support doesn't really include days off,even though the boss says you need to take off. Even during a recent illness I had my laptop brought to me at the hospital so I could log into the server through a pinhole, use GoToAssist and RDP to still provide support. When I'm at home, I'm logged in full time inside the tunnel, and many of our clients have my cell phone number and direct landline.

jon_baumgardner
jon_baumgardner

20 years ago I used to think that state employees were lazy since they took all their 23 vacation and 23 sick days off as a benefit. Many would work second jobs around Christmas on their sick days. Now I think a mental health day (as a sick day) is required to stay sane in this business. I used to think that chances of promotion were hurt by taking all the days off. Many employers will make you take the time off now or you lose it.

Cerebral*Origami
Cerebral*Origami

No. I have over 10 weeks banked. It takes an act of god for me to get more than one week off at a time. Until last month I WAS the IT department and the drafting department and the copier repair guy, phone programmer, access and excel programmer, website , well you get the idea. The problem is that we are a custom electronic filter house and a customer can't order a part until I draw up an outline drawing and PDF it to them. I'm also the only one who can create the component drawings so we can order parts. And most of the staff have a very low computer savvy index. I have tried to train them in the simpler things but if anything varies even a little bit I have to go to their desk to fix it. They can grasp the reboot first concept and they won't follow instructions over the phone. On top of that the boss doesn't want me away from AutoCAD any more than absolutely necessary. I did just get an assistant so I'm hoping when she gets up to speed things will loosen up a bit. I'm going diving in Egypt next August and I don't care if the server EXPLODES taking 1/2 the building with it! I'm going!

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

...to use up as many days off as possible during the year. If we didn't use up the days, companies could easily justify rolling back on the benefits (outstanding days off = liabilities on a ledger; reduce days, reduce liabilities); adversely impacting the life quality of future workers. In short, I'm doing it for the kids!! (and who can argue with that, eh??) :)

jsaubert
jsaubert

I do take vacation time, just not normally all at once. We get 2 weeks vacation each year plus about 8-10 holidays we get paid time for. I currently have 224 hours vacation time that have rolled over from years past and it's nice to have that cushion. In my previous position we had the option of working a paid holiday and getting an extra vacation day out of it. I always did that if I could, I'd only take Thanksgiving and Christmas day off. I found it rather nice to be almost alone in the building. (It's amazing how much work you can get done when you're not being interrupted!) I racked up quite a bit of extra vacation during that time, so I've been using my 2 weeks up every year since then. This year I'm heading out to ComicCon and a few other points while I'm in that area. I'm also saving a few days for Dragon*Con and MegaCon. No plans for 2010 yet, but maybe soon. Vacation time should BE a vacation.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

In fifteen years with my current employer, I have had a cumulative total of less than five days of vacation left over.

JimInPA
JimInPA

Luckily my immediate supervisor does not give us a hard time about taking our accrued vacation time. There are other departments in our institution in which that isn't the case. In this profession you have got to recharge your batteries or you will quickly burn out.

mjd420nova
mjd420nova

Having worked for the same employer for thirty four years, I'm maxed out at six weeks a year vacation. I never get to take it all and wind up selling back two weeks at the end of the year. We also get twenty sick days a year (never take more then three) and ten paid holidays, so few if any but the newest employees take all their vacation days. I also seldom get to take more than two weeks at a time. I do get many comp days too, as many jobs run for up to three or four weeks without days off and I get to take that time off at the end of the job. Some jobs I'm delighted to work as they are almost like a workmans holiday, an eight hour day in Hawaii or Alaska in the summertime. Sometimes it's international and I get to play tourist during my time off shift in places like Japan, Taiwan or Singapore.

elserge82
elserge82

Well you can never spend a 100% off time (mostly business calls). But still you can make the most of it. Lucky me working a day off can lead to 1 or more additional off days depending on the situation;)

jdclyde
jdclyde

and so I am going to use it. Our days do not roll over, nor do we get paid for unused days, so I make a point of using every last day. I work to live, not live to work. For all the work-a-holics, keep in mind that when you die it only takes a few weeks to replace you and they go on fine without you. How about friends and family? How long will it take for them to replace you? If given a choice between having "he was a dedicated worker" or "he was a great dad" on my tombstone, it is a zerobrainer.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

No matter who you are, you need to get away from work periodically. (Weekends don't count!) If not by taking time off, how? When I was in the military, we were encouraged to take every one of the 30 days we earned each year; barring emergencies, we could only carry 60 days past the beginning of a fiscal year. There was always a rash of leaves granted during August and September; supervisors were required to explain why subordinates with "use or lose" days were not allowed or required to take those days before the end of the fiscal year. In my current job, I have mixed feelings about time off. First, we don't receive separate sick or personal days; all time off is taken from the accrued total or is unpaid. (I, and many others, often work sick, but that's another discussion!) We are able to accrue time off up to 1-1/2 times our annual allotment, but once we reach that level, we stop accruing until we use the time. Second, a tech from a neighboring territory can't cover both my territory and his because of the distances involved. Finally, a full-time replacement for only three or five days is not economical. I inevitably return from vacation to find 20 or more open calls, not something I look forward to. I am forced to spend my first week back from vacation closing those aged calls and trying get my call load back down to single digits. Still, I definitely need the breaks from work. Right now, I only get 80 hours per year, plus six holidays, so I usually take three days in the spring and five days in the fall. The other two days are held back as sick/personal days and used at random intervals, but they do get used. edit: clarify, fix grammar

MGP2
MGP2

At least it is for me. In my last job, I got 4 weeks of vacation. But you could also "buy" an extra week and I did, every year. It's one thing to be short staffed, but if you can't carry over vacation time over in those circumstances, then too bad for the employer. It's never been my fault that the employer didn't fully staff the dept. I have no problem kicking in my extra share when needed, but don't tell me I'm gonna lose vacation time for doing so.

jsaubert
jsaubert

That sounds so wonderful! Have a good time.

MGP2
MGP2

...as in, "I feel too damned good to come to work today." I used to be a programmer. As such, we had our own projects, so taking a day off didn't impact a coworker. So, as long as there were no pressing matters (meetings or deadlines that day), you could call in and take a vacation day without having to plan ahead. Came in handy when a friend would call the night before to plan a beach day.

bens
bens

My sick & vacation days do not roll over either. Either way though, I enjoyed reading this post as I have my first child due in June and that last line really keeps things in perspective for me. Thanks for that.

JimInPA
JimInPA

"First, we don't receive separate sick or personal days; all time off is taken from the accrued total or is unpaid. (I, and many others, often work sick, but that's another discussion!)" Where I work all of our time is thrown into a PTO bank. I also find myself working sick (there were 2 days last week I really shouldn't have been here) because I hate to waste valuable PTO being sick. Is that why you do it? It may be worth starting another discussion over. I have oft time wondered how many others were rowing that boat... edit:spelling

zlitocook
zlitocook

With the years I have with this company I had over 194 hours PTO I used to hate to take off a week because I was the only IT person here. I had three weeks of stuff to do with only one week off.

chris
chris

At my last job, I used every sick day, floating holiday, and vacation day alloted to me. I know others were frowned upon when they did it, but they never said anything to me. It didn't affect my pay either, I quickly became the highest paid tech in the shop after starting from the bottom.

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

I very rarely have used all of my vacation days at an employer. It is only within the last couple of years that I was forced to finally slow down and take some time off due to medical issues, such as my kidney stone extraction last year. I have a friend that works for the federal government that until he married a few years back, had a 20-year record for NEVER missing a day of work. I always use him as an example that there are some people that are even more insanely dedicated than I.

jdclyde
jdclyde

our for dart league, and things were going VERY well, and knew we were going to stay out till closing on a Wed night, so would call from the payphone at the bar. Union shop, so the sick day policy was easy to abuse, and people used them as unpaid holidays. I was good for being out on Thursday at least once a month, and often twice.