Vacation Planning – Is 5 Days Enough?

This article  should be taken with a grain of salt. It is a kind of a reflection on human needs, but also on the reality that, through the lens of several years of work, form a collection of socio-professional stories, so to speak.

Time to plan

The first half of 2024 will have passed very soon. It’s the time of exams, submitting papers for colleges, final hurrahs at school, and… the first wave of vacation leaves in many companies, which means first stress for HR and managers. Why stress? Well – summer schedules require building of a new management strategy, planning substitutions, staggering of longer projects (given the size and  set of competencies of the team available at the time), flipping, postponing and even freezing. And for HR? Human Resources   need to increase their vigilance –  leave limits analysing, rescheduling, shortening, extending absences and, in the worst case scenario, converting vacation leaves into sick leaves. Life is complicated and accidents happen, so it is important to be ready for anything.

That’s just the way it goes

Once everyone is set and ready, let’s distinguish between three types of holidaymakers in companies:

  • The always organised one, who has their vacation booked already at the beginning of the year and the calendar meticulously  planned.
  • The one who books their vacation time with an accuracy of +/- 3 days, because they are waiting for a lifetime trip offer
  • The one who never finds a good time for a  vacation,  has not even used all their leave entitlement for the previous year and is probably still hoarding some 5 spare days.

At first glance, type 1 appears to be the easiest to work with. Therefore, let us focus on them first. We can assume that people in this group are aware that rest is very important and one longer vacation in a year is simply a must have. Such people usually opt for a minimum of two weeks during the summer and later around Christmas, without hesitation. Thus, at the end of December and the beginning of January, their leave entitlement balance is  +/1 overdue day and in the HR can assume that all is sorted out.

The second group – is a little more demanding if we look from the perspective of scheduling substitutions and making sure that leave entitlement  is used systematically by these persons. Yes, here it is already a little more difficult to predict whether you will be able to put such a person to a minimum of two weeks’ rest, as we are all somewhat dependent on last-minute offers from travel agencies. Either way, there are no major problems with this group when you suggest  that it is time to take some rest.

And the third, most resistant group, whose watchword should be ‘not now’. These are the people for whom no time for a holiday is a good time, and if by some miracle you do send them for vacation, it will be a week at the most, and that’s still with a green dot appearing every now and then on their Slack account. Yes, a nightmare for HR people - on their vacation entitlement breakdowns, there is always a minimum of +15  unused days outstanding in January. Add to that extra days granted in the year  in exchange for example for ‘ 6 January ‘, and the pool is growing. The number may be on decrease, you did use one day, but have two newly accrued days to take. With each successive month worked, new days are added to the list.

How many days is enough

We can laugh at the above descriptions, but one has to consider how many days do we really need for a good reset? Is a week enough? Or maybe two? A month! A month is the perfect time to put everything together. In my reflections, each of these periods can be described as follows:

  • 1 week – adaptation and dealing with outstanding issues
  • 2 weeks – adaptation and dealing with outstanding issues, with space for a short trip/rest
  • 3 weeks – a process of adapting and dealing with outstanding issues, with space to leave, calm down, let go of stress, think deeply and re-establish your values
  • 4 weeks – you might think that in addition to the above, there will eventually come a time of boredom and longing for routine. 😉

It immediately reminds me of my first job in public sector,  where you had to plan your vacation time for the whole year already in January (as a part-time student, try to plan your 20 days of vacation for the whole year, when you usually use your vacation leave entitlement for the time of exams). Aside from the fact that with the salary of the time and the priorities of studying, it was hard to talk about travelling to warm places, a bigger problem was to squeeze in the best dates. Senior staff had unofficial priority for the best periods. The result was that  all May holidays, Corpus Christi holidays or the periods between Christmas and New Year, belonged to me but on-call. A sad truth, but ‘it used to be that way’. Today, one might ask, why did I let it happen? Well I did because at the time it was more important for me to have a fee time for my exams, so it was a sort of a compromise.

Whether you work in places where you are rigidly required to plan your holidays for the whole year (not everyone has flexible option available, with no possibility of change) or your organisation is open to change, provided you discuss the issue with one other and make suitable substitutions – without a longer rest one day you will start to be less productive. Of course, I totally agree that some things require diving in and spending some time on them to do them well, but without breaks, our creativity, productivity, and concentration will slowly start to diminish. While they crudely say that no one is irreplaceable, this slogan should be converted into ‘health is irreplaceable’, and no one will do it better than you for yourself. Everything can be organised somehow, and two weeks is not an eternity, it can be organised without emergencies popping up.

What we can do in difficult cases

How do we deal with difficult cases of stubborn employees? By raising awareness. As someone experienced in human needs, you can organise training sessions for employees in which you will address the importance of rest or warn them about what will happen if they do not take care of themselves. It seems easy, but if you keep nagging someone, for the sake of sanity they will eventually give in 😉. What else can you do? Organise a health promotion day at your company – peer motivation works best! With us, it is already happening and I hope to present the results soon.  How about you? Which type of holidaymaker are you? Be honest with yourself.

text written by:

Aleksandra Lipowska-Rochalska, HR Director