Americans are good at a lot of things, but taking vacations is definitely not one of them. Culturally, we’ve been programmed to go-go-go, equating productivity with success and thinking of downtime as wasted time. According to Expedia’s annual Vacation Deprivation Report, U.S. vacation time is at a five-year low. American workers received 14 vacation days on average and used 10, meaning 653.9 million days were left on the table in 2018. 63 percent of Americans go six months or longer without a vacation, and 28 percent have gone a full year without taking a vacation. And 25 percent admit to checking work email/voicemail at least once a day while on vacation.
But in reality, vacation is so much more than "wasted time". Countless studies have proven that taking time off is incredibly beneficial for employees of all ages and levels, as it allows us to decompress and disconnect from daily work stressors and come back relaxed and rejuvenated. After taking a vacation just two days in length, people reported liking themselves more, feeling more confidence in their ability to solve problems and feeling more hopeful and outgoing. 91 percent of Americans feel taking a vacation lets them hit the reset button on stress and anxiety. And 82 percent come back from vacation with more patience for their coworkers and clients.
It’s clear that taking time off is hugely beneficial, but depending on your workplace, you may not get a ton of paid vacation time each year. And that’s why the holy grail of PTO occurs when you’re in the process of switching to a new job.
Think about it: so many professions require employees to be connected constantly (which is a different story for another day), so at what other point in your career will you truly have no work responsibilities — no office to commute to, no email to check, no boss to report to — calling your name?
The thought of asking your new boss to delay your start date may be intimidating, but it’s important for your overall health and wellbeing. Plus, some companies have a PTO probation period, meaning that it could be months before you can ask for even a day or two off.
So, how can you negotiate a delayed start date without appearing like a slacker?
1. Suggest a start date that allows you buffer time.
The simplest way to give yourself time off between jobs is to suggest a first day that’s a few weeks out from when you wrap up the job you’re leaving. You’re not required to tell your new employer when your last day of your old gig is, so simply saying, “I was thinking about X date for my first day. Would that work for you?” can be all you need to give yourself the vacation (or staycation) you deserve. If your new boss pushes back, think about what this says about him or her from a bigger-picture standpoint. While some professions do have true urgency to get new employees in by a certain time, most have some wiggle room. And if your new manager isn’t budging on a start date without a legitimate reason, chances are this won’t be the last tricky conversation you have about taking time off. It might cause you to rethink your decision to make a move.
2. Cite your desire to start your new job energized and refreshed.
Employers want their employees to be engaged, and chances are that engagement levels will never be higher than the first few days and weeks of a new job. What employers don’t want, on the other hand, are employees who are burnt out from day one. If your new boss suggests a start date that’s sooner than you want, try saying, “I’m eager to hit the ground running, and I know I’ll be able to perform to the best of my ability if I take a little time off before I start. Could my first day be X date instead?” Engagement levels aside, employers want to start work relationships off on the right foot, so a respectful request can go a long way.
Thinking this is easier said than done? Consider this success story from Lisa Barone, chief marketing officer at Overit, a creative agency in New York:
“In 2012, I quit the agency that I had co-founded 3.5 years earlier, left the team I had helped staff, and did so without another job lined up. At the time, I didn’t know what I wanted to do or even if I would stay in my chosen marketing career. I just knew I needed a break – I was burnt out, unhappy, and unhealthy.
“Quicker than I imagined, a new opportunity presented itself. It was the team, the opportunity, and chance I needed to reboot my marketing career and to take things in a new direction. I met with my new boss and the team and had long, in-depth conversations about the position and what it could it mean for everyone. It all sounded great. My boss made me an offer, and I accepted—but with one big condition. I wanted to take six months off.
“I was direct about the ask. I told him outright that I believed in what he was doing and that I thought this could be a good fit for both of us—but that I needed to get healthy first. I left my last agency because I felt like I had lost myself. I needed the time to decompress from that experience and to put myself on a better track. That’s the only way I’d be the best employee for him.
“I remember him chuckling a bit initially but, to his credit, he was accommodating and told me to take the time I needed. He's someone that values work/life balance and the need to put people first. I arrived at the office six months later and, six years later, I’m still here.”
Asking your new boss for a breather before you start a job doesn’t have to be scary or complicated—it simply requires the confidence that you deserve time off. And trust us, you do.
More on taking a breather:
Kaitlin Bitting is a content creator, PR consultant and a certified health & wellness coach. She's passionate about helping people find the motivation to create lasting, positive change in their lives, whether personal or professional. Learn more at kaitlinbitting.com.