The HR office's policies were the same every year about vacations, but the end of the fiscal year seemed to arrive faster as the years went by. The policy allows for minimal carryover of accrued vacation days from one year to the next, but the reality is this: If you go over the allotted number to carry over, those days disappear from your hours bank.
I wasn't the only one finding the end of the fiscal year looming ahead in a few weeks. And I wasn't the only person caught in that situation. We all get into the mode of being vacation day savers so that we're not caught at the end needing vacation time but having none to draw from.
Squeezing several earned vacation days into a few remaining workdays before the fiscal year ended took some creativity. Who are those people who take elaborate trips throughout the year and balance everything successfully between work and home life? Or maybe it just appears that their lives are balanced.
Anyway, I chug along at my work desk for the fiscal year's remaining days when I'm not taking vacation. I email a few folks as usual and get the "out of office until ..." messages in response. Great — he or she is taking time away. But wait — why am I receiving an email directly from Miss Vacation? "Yes, I'm technically on vacation so don't call me but no, I'm really not on vacation because I'm finishing up a few pesky items."
Over the course of a few days, these messages aren't unique. They're more the norm. After receiving three similar emails I conclude that, for folks who work outside the home, there's no such thing as a vacation where you vacate your usual work. It's just work time spent in different places.
I sure am glad I won't be a slave to working as I squish in some precious vacation days ahead. I've got too much to do to stay very far away from work.
[Nancy Linenkugel is a Sylvania Franciscan sister and chair of the department of Health Services Administration at Xavier University, Cincinnati.]