4 Things Every Employee Needs to Consider with Vacation Time


Today I delivered a customer service workshop in Chicago. When we broke for lunch, three of the attendees invited me to a vegan bistro. Of course, I was thrilled to join them!

Over lunch, one of the ladies told me, “I almost never take my vacation time. I prefer just to cash out and get a lump sum payment.” The mother in me couldn’t keep quiet. I had to offer this young lady advice.

There’s nothing wrong with a cash payout, for sure. I just wanted to make sure this young woman knew about all of her options and benefits with vacation time. What followed was an enlightening conversation between the four of us, and as we were getting up, the ladies said my remarks would help them make the best choices for their respective vacation benefits.

So, I thought, why not transcribe what I shared with the ladies. Perhaps, it might help some of you too, even though this is not my usual customer service focus.

Vacation time or paid time off is a benefit that’s been the norm for so long that some of us take it for granted. But we shouldn’t. Vacation time is an asset that can be used to nurture our mental health, cashed out and vacation time can even be negotiated. In this article, we’ll look at four things you should consider when it comes to the vacation part of your compensation package.

1. Think of Your Vacation Time As Negotiable

Your vacation time or Paid Time Off (PTO) is part of your compensation package. And as part of your compensation package, it’s negotiable. If a position you’re considering offers ten days of vacation time, for example, and you know you want or need more time off, ask for what you want. It’s common for employees to negotiate extra days or even weeks of vacation time as part of their compensation package.


2. Unused Vacation Time Can Be Money In Your Bank Account

In a typical vacation policy, employees accrue vacation time throughout the year. If employees leave the company before using their accumulated time, they are paid for their unused time. When my dad retired after 38 years of full-time teaching, he had accrued sick time to equal roughly one year of his salary. Wisely, he held off on tapping into retirement savings for a full year while his sick pay functioned as his salary. Depending on your company’s vacation policy, you may be able to turn accrued vacation time into dollars.


3. Before You Cash Out Vacation Time, Think About Your Mental Health

One of my former colleagues, Ligea, used to say we all need an “Ah shit” day, a day where we wake up and say, “Ah shit, I don’t feel like going in.” My friend Kendra put it more tactfully. She’d say that everyone needs a “Mental Health Day.” Similar to sick days, mental health days, Kendra would say, are taken to preserve and nurture our mental health.

Many studies show that people who take paid time away from the office are happier and healthier, and they’re more productive and focused when they return to work than people who don’t regularly take vacation time. So, while it may be tempting to bank up your paid time off for a future payout, it’s a healthy and wise choice to get away from the office regularly. Give yourself a mental health day, go the beach, or do whatever makes you happy.


4. Taking Time Off Increases Your Chance of Getting a Raise

The A-Type personality and the workaholics among us tend to think it’s keeping your nose the grindstone that helps you climb the corporate ladder and secure the big salaries. But, research cited in the article “11 Hidden Benefits of Taking More Vacation,” found that employees who take more and consistent paid time off from the office get 10% higher ratings on annual reviews. People with higher annual reviews get bigger raises. Something to consider.

Your paid time off is an asset that can be structured to benefit your mental health, career climb, or your bank account. Align your vacation package with your professional and personal priorities so that at the end of the day, the time off (or cashed in) makes you happy.

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