Last year I was on a 12-month internship term, where we were allocated 3 “wellness days” or “personal days” for the year - AKA when it made the most sense for us, we were encouraged to take time off to disconnect, recharge, and forget about work.
Generally, personal days are built into your company’s policy - they’re meant to be used for personal reasons like family emergencies, self-care or big moves. But, whether your company has introduced this initiative or not (if they haven’t, they should be reminded that it’s 2022), many of us aren’t using them anyways.
For many people, the thought of asking for time off is weird and uncomfortable. Even if your relationships at work are extremely well-established, it can be really hard not to feel bad for asking to take time off unless everyone knows you have a vacation planned.
Here are some things you should consider as you navigate taking a personal day (because you should take one!):
Getting Over Feelings of Guilt
So many of us feel bad for taking a day off of work. We often feel that if we don’t have an extreme reason to be away, that we’re letting others down and not working ‘hard enough’.
I think this stems a lot from the ‘hustle culture’ that we’ve all been exposed to in real life, and especially in the workplace. A lot of us have been taught and encouraged to always be at the top of our game, and to always push through hard times, even if we’re feeling burnt out or exhausted. This has caused many individuals to believe that our productivity is a direct reflection of our value as an employee - and so if we’re not working long hours and producing constant output, our performance will reflect this accordingly.
Consider this: if we’re constantly working towards being more and more productive, and don’t take time to rest and recharge when our bodies need it, we’re a lot more at risk of burnout (which means we will likely be less productive).
So, take that as a reminder not to feel too guilty for taking time off. You and your body deserve it (and maybe you’ll even be doing your employer a favour by avoiding burnout, while you’re at it!).
How to Ask for a Day Off
Check in with your team
Be sure to look at the day(s) you plan to be away from your desk and check for any deadlines, projects and/or meetings that your attendance is really important at. Take note of anything critical that you are responsible for, and if anything significant happens to be on one of the day(s) you plan to take off, consider changing them. If you can’t, speak to your manager and your team to come up with an alternative action plan.
Tell your Manager
Tell your manager you’d like to take time off and go through the correct channels for approval. If you have the opportunity to call or meet with them in person to discuss your request - that would be best. It’s also not a bad idea to send them an email to remind them of your time off.
You’ll also want to mark the time off in your calendar so that no one is booking meetings that you won’t be available for.
Ask for Help
Remember how I said to check for any important items when considering your days off? This is definitely an important step when planning to take a personal day, but it’s also important to remember that work will never go away. There will still be meetings and projects moving when you’re not there.
If you need coverage, or someone to put on your out of office email, ask your workers for support. Remember: just like you would be willing to help them out, they will be willing to help you!
How to Spend your Personal Day
How you decide to spend your day off is totally up to you! If you prefer to use your personal days for an important event or a variety of appointments, that’s great. If you’d like to use it for a self-care day, that’s also great!
I would encourage you to spend the day doing something that makes you happy and allows you to feel both well-rested and recharged when you return to work. Much like self-care in general, this will look different for everyone. So, whether you’d prefer to spend the day deep cleaning your home, reading or watching your favourite movie, or running errands - enjoy your time away from your computer - I know it’s well deserved!
Why it’s Important to Use your Personal Days
Like I mentioned earlier, personal days are generally built into your company’s policy for a reason - and taking them can actually make you a better employee… imagine that!
Here’s what we know:
- Workplace stress is a real thing
- Burnout is also a real thing
- Life happens
- Self-care is important
You are not defined by your career (and so you shouldn’t feel guilty for living a life outside of work)
We’re very lucky that in 2022, many employers do encourage us to take personal/wellness days. But it’s important to remember that it’s essentially your own responsibility to check-in with yourself and ensure you’re doing all you can to make sure you’re both healthy and productive at work. And if this means requesting a personal day, congratulations! You’re putting yourself first!