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Make the most of your vacation benefit in 2018

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As we settle into the winter quarter, it's a good time to start planning ahead for vacation. Perhaps 2018 is the year to escape to a far-off land or find relaxation somewhere close to home. The Office of Human Resources can help you make the most of your vacation benefit. 

According to a 2017 "Project: Time Off" study​, Americans used more of their vacation time in 2016 when compared to the previous year. This is a welcome trend.

Research shows overall health can suffer if we don't take a break from work. Vacation time is proven to shrink stress and anxiety. We need a break from deadlines and a timeout from technology.

The famous Framingham Heart Study was a long-term ongoing cardiovascular study that began in 1948 to analyze adult subjects who were at risk of heart disease. When the study looked at the effects of vacations from following subjects over a nine-year period they found a positive correlation between more frequent vacations and longer, healthier lives. Vacations also allow us to enrich our relationships with our families and friends. 

Make the most of your vacation benefit

In 2013, DePaul changed its vacation carryover policy from two weeks to one week. This carryover policy may be a good reason to think more strategically about utilizing vacation days throughout the year. A common complaint or misunderstanding regarding the change in the carryover policy is that it prevents employees from taking their full vacation allotment because of the university's vacation accrual method.

DePaul accrues vacation on a bi-weekly basis throughout the year. This accrual method gives some employees the impression that they cannot take a significant amount of their vacation time until later in the year when their vacation accrual is greater. However, as the illustration below suggests, significant amounts of vacation can be taken starting in the first quarter of the year and  throughout the year when coupled with a week of carryover from the previous year, a week or more of accrued vacation earned, and an additional "advanced or borrowed" week. The university's vacation policy allows staff employees to borrow up to five days against their future vacation earnings.

Plan your vacations and maximize your days. It's a win-win. Carve out more time for leisure and travel, and realize the important benefits of taking advantage of your vacation days and leaving less unused. 

To better help you maximize your vacation days, we've created an example: Our employee 'Dee Paul' has 10 years of service with the university and has earned four weeks of paid vacation. Dee and her spouse are going on a three-week adventure to New Zealand in April 2018. The chart below illustrates that Dee could use three weeks of vacation on April 1 (one week carried over, one week accrued, one week borrowed/advanced). If the carry over and advanced week are not used in April, they would continue to be available throughout the year resulting in Dee being able to use all of her vacation before the end of the calendar year.

Example: Dee Paul's 3-week New Zealand Vacation

​​ ​Jan. 1 April 1​ ​July 1 Oct. 1​
​Accrual week(s) ​0 ​1 ​2 ​3
​Carry-over week ​1 2 ​2 ​2
​Advanced week ​1 ​1 ​1 ​1 (Advance of Oct. - Dec. accrual)
​Total weeks ​2 weeks ​3 weeks ​4 weeks ​5 weeks
 Start Planning Now

To get a general idea of workforce availability for the year, HR encourages all managers to start the year by inquiring about vacation plans for employees. Not every employee in a department can be on vacation at the same time and certain departments have "peak periods" when it is not feasible for employees to be away from work. Getting a sense of vacation plans and work demands early in the year ensures that vacations are used and avoids frustration for everyone: employees, managers and department colleagues.

Once that's done, the fun part begins: deciding where to go and what to do.