SickIt’s that wonderful time of the year when the weather grows cold, noses start to run, and everyone needs a day to catch up. Our immune systems and vehicles begin taking breaks, leaving room for uncomfortable workdays or challenging mornings. As busy recruiters, hiring managers, and HR professionals, your weeks can be quite strenuous. Taking time off is pivotal to your mental and physical health.

Take a Day Off, You Say?

In 2013, an the average American worker received 16 paid vacation days. This is drastically different from workers in the European Union, where companies are legally obligated to give at least 20 paid vacation days per year. In fact, some countries require 25, 30, or more.

For those who do receive time off, there’s an overwhelming pressure to work anyway. Of the Americans who have paid time off, only 25 percent actually used all of their days. The worst part is that 15 percent took absolutely no days for themselves. More and more statistics show that we are addicted to working:

  • 40 percent of employees don’t take vacation days because they would return to a mountain of work;
  • 35 percent of employees say no one else at the company can do their work if they take vacation days;
  • 28 percent of employees say they want to show complete dedication to the company;
  • 20 percent of employees would feel guilty for taking time off.

More horrifying are the facts that 19 percent of employees fear loss of promotion or pay raise if they take their vacation days and 16 percent believe they may lose their jobs.

Yes, Take a Break

When an employee fails to take their vacation days, they are giving up what is considered part of their job. Last year, American employees surrendered $52.4 billion worth of benefits by not using allotted time off.

Aside from the financial aspect, there is the health of the employee to consider. The World Health Organization says that stress costs businesses around $300 billion per year, and sleep deprivation costs another $63 billion. Not taking time to recharge can negatively impact your job performance, setting you farther behind than you would be if you had just taken a few days off to begin with.

Take Time Off the Right Way

Needing a break inspires some of the most outrageous excuses for a day off. CareerBuilder compiled 10 of the most unbelievable — everything from a casserole in the oven to sleepy legs leading to a broken ankle is featured. Last year, 28 percent of employees who called in claiming they were ill were actually feeling well. Mental health day or not, 23 percent of workers who have paid sick leave still felt obligated to give a reason for their time off.

While the need for a break from work is valid and healthy, it’s advised to plan for the day off and not catch your team off guard. If you need to ask for a day off with little notice, there is a right way to do it (and the above excuses are not it).

Here are four things to always remember when requesting time off:

  1. Be honest: Making up a lie or “massaging the truth” is silly and will more likely lead to an awkward conversation between you and your boss. Plus, one in four employees out themselves via social media, so being honest right off will avoid that breach of trust.
  2. Send the request in writing: While face-to-face or via telephone allows for a more honest tone that can’t be misconstrued, it also eliminates your boss or supervisor’s ability to consider the request. No one likes to be put on the spot. Of course, offering to speak with them in person is a great addition to the email.
  3. Ask as early as possible: If you know your boss will be at their desk an hour before you are expected in the office, then you know you can provide the request at least an hour in advance. Of course, that isn’t ideal, and it is important to remember that the sooner, the better.
  4. Inform your boss what you have accomplished: Providing a look into what you have been or hope to be accomplishing throughout the week or the days leading up to your proposed time off will allow your higher-up to plan their own time. A run down on tasks will also offer insight into what will be completed by the end of the week or what may not be in on time.

Sometimes, you find yourself sick with the flu the same week as the ramp up to that big presentation. It just happens that things boil over at the worst of times. In December, this is especially true: it’s the most popular time of the year to call in sick. Whether you have sick days or not, you know what your body can handle. Don’t forget that it is healthier to be honest with your capabilities, especially in the busy world of HR and recruiting. Your co-workers — who undoubtedly do not want to fall ill as well — will thank you for it.

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