6 Rules You Must Know About Vacation Time

You started your new job with a great salary, benefits, and two weeks of paid vacation!

Before you start booking your cruise to Mexico, it’s important that you understand some important workplace dynamics regarding your vacation time.

First, this may be a harsh reality for some of you:

In most cases, especially in agriculture, your vacation time is NOT yours to use whenever and however you would like.

“But it’s in my contract!” you say. Yes, and you will likely receive all of your owed vacation time without a hitch IF you learn some of these basic principles about REQUESTING time off.

One important note is that every company’s vacation policy is different. While these are very good rules of thumb, it is possible that your company handles vacation time in a way that negates some of these principles. Nevertheless, I strongly believe these principles to be very useful in most workplace environments.


  1. Do not request vacation time when you have only been on the job three months or less. Just don’t. This means that if you have been with your company for 90 days or less, you don’t even MENTION your vacation time. Even if it’s ok according to corporate policy, don’t do it. These first few months are critical for you to learn your job while proving your value and reliability. Like it or not, your bosses and co-workers are watching your actions to determine your priorities and abilities. You need to focus accordingly.  
  2. Always request your vacation at least one month ahead of time. This is a courtesy to your boss and co-workers. Keep in mind that this is a REQUEST, so don’t book that trip until your request has been approved. Since you’re not even going to breathe the word “vacation” in the first three months (see #1), and you have to request your vacation at least one month ahead of time (#2), don’t even consider your vacation time until at least after month four.
  3. Provide reminders two weeks prior, and again one week prior to leaving. You don’t want to keep bringing it up incessantly, but it is important for you to remind your boss that you will be out of the office so that he or she does not forget and feel blindsided when it happens. I find that two reminders approximately two weeks prior and then one week prior seem to do the trick.
  4. Make sure there is some sort of documentation of your approved request. If there is no company policy for this, make sure that your request has been approved over email. This provides a paper trail so that if your boss were to forget your request (they are very busy people), you can remind them with documentation. A great way to use this is when you are providing your reminders (see #3), you can just reply to the original request reminding them that you will be out on the given dates.
  5. Be mindful of your timing and your request. If you work on a farm or at a grain elevator, do not request time anywhere close to harvest. If you work for a company that delivers crop inputs, do not ask for vacation time during the times of the year those inputs are needed. Also, do not try to take all of your vacation at once. This is unpractical for you to expect your co-workers to pick up all the slack for this large of a chunk of time. If it’s your first requested vacation, I recommend no more than two business days.
  6. Do not ask for more than you are technically allowed. Even if you have a lax boss who “never seems to care”, you are asking for trouble down the road by abusing your vacation policy. This is part of keeping your word. If you say you will take two weeks vacation, don’t try to take more. The time to re-negotiate vacation would be an annual review.


There are companies, typically in more creative fields, that offer unlimited vacation. However, I very rarely see this in agribusiness due to the demanding nature of the job. If you have a job that offers you unlimited vacation: good for you! Just make sure you’re managing your workload in a way that gets it all done effectively and on time.

Hopefully those principles help. To take things a step further, I’m going to borrow an email template from Ramit Sethi of the “I Will Teach You To Be Rich” Blog. Ramit provides a great outline for requesting time off via email:

Subject: Vacation request (October 2nd through October 6th)
Hi (Boss),
I’d like to request vacation time from Monday, October 2nd, through Friday, October 6th because I’ll be taking a family vacation over those days.
While I’m gone, I’ll be reachable by email but not phone. I’ll be making sure that we have coverage in the support queue while I’m gone, and I’ll also be distributing a playbook to my team so it’s clear who owns which issues.
Is this OK?

This template is very well done because:

  • It acknowledges that you are making a request. There is no tone of entitlement here.
  • You provide a “why” (“because…”), which psychology has proven to increase compliance. Make sure you are giving the real reason.  
  • You’ve shown that you already have already thought through how your job could get done while you’re gone and a way that you can be reached.

Taking some time away is essential for you to be productive at your job over the long haul, but make sure you are taking your vacation time in a way that shows concern for your company and co-workers. Following the above principles and tips will help you make a great impression on your employer while still getting the time off you need to be happy and productive.


Tim Hammerich

Tim is a strategic communications consultant, founder of AgGrad, and the host of the "Future of Agriculture" podcast. Originally from California, he is now based out of Boise, Idaho.