Published: May 30, 2023

Scheduling vacation time offers many benefits, yet stepping away from work responsibilities can feel challenging for many people. Research shows that over half of workers in the U.S. leave vacation time unused each year.

CU Boulder leadership encourages our faculty and staff to take time off to recharge. While leaving work for a time can add extra stress and effort, there are steps you can take to ease the burden and feel confident and prepared to enjoy the break.

The benefits of taking time off

During the pandemic, it was harder to travel. As remote and hybrid schedules became the norm, vacation time may have fallen through the cracks for many people. We want our faculty and staff to feel comfortable taking their accrued vacation time and enjoy the benefits of time away.

Studies have shown that vacation time promotes wellness in many different ways, including

  • Reduced stress.

  • Improved physical health.

  • Increased job satisfaction.

  • Better sleep.

  • Improved mental health.

  • Increased motivation and learning capacity.

Prepare to leave the office

Set yourself up to feel good about leaving the office. You can prepare your coworkers and ensure things flow smoothly while away.

Organizing your calendar: Give your team advance notice about your vacation time. Start by submitting a request for time off with your manager. Once approved, mark your calendar showing you will be out of the office. The earlier you can communicate your time away, the fewer meetings you’ll need to reschedule. 

Rescheduling meetings: For the meetings you already have on your calendar, reach out to the person who planned the meeting to let them know you can no longer attend. If you are an essential participant, kindly ask if they can reschedule. Contact the participants for the meetings you own to let them know you will reschedule to a different time.

Calling for backup: Ask your manager or a team member if they will be your backup for questions and emergencies that may come up while you’re away. Schedule time before you leave to update them on any pressing issues or projects that may need their attention.

Creating automatic replies: Set up an out-of-office email notification before you leave. This communication lets people know who to contact in your absence and when you will return. You can also include information about when people can expect a response to their email. For instance, you may say, "I will get back to you within five business days of my return.” Remember to turn off or schedule the end date for the notification when you return to work. 

Leave work behind

Allow yourself to enjoy your time away from work. Resist the urge to check work email or other messages. If you must stay connected to work, set boundaries with your supervisor and coworkers. You can set the expectation that you will only check messages during certain times. For example, you could set aside time to check messages for one hour each morning. It’s also important to remember that you can lean on your team and designated backup person for support. You don’t have to do everything, especially when you’re on vacation or taking time for yourself. It can also be helpful to turn off your notifications for Outlook and Teams on your phone and other devices to help you resist the urge to respond to every incoming message.

Prioritizing work-life balance helps prevent burnout and allows you to reap the benefits of the time away. You should not feel obligated to work during your vacation time. 

Make the return to work smoother

You don’t have to feel overwhelmed or anxious when returning to work after a vacation. Give yourself a buffer day to catch up. For example, you could block your calendar for your first day back and not schedule meetings. This will give you time to make the transition from vacation mode to work mode without overexerting yourself.

Take some time to make a list of essential tasks to accomplish. For example, catch up on email, respond to messages and review the status of your projects. If you have a hybrid schedule, plan to work remotely on your first day back to allow yourself space to catch up.

You can also schedule one-on-one time to reconnect, prioritize issues and get back on track with your direct reports and manager. Remember that it is okay to ask for help. Clear and ongoing communication can reduce frustration or confusion for you and your team.

Find support

The Faculty & Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) offers free support and resources for faculty and staff struggling with burnout, anxiety or other emotional and psychological issues. Check out their resources below to learn how you can get connected.

Please note: The following services are free to all faculty and staff. Additionally, employees do not need to take PTO or sick time to utilize these services.


  • Employees may receive confidential short-term counseling with a licensed FSAP therapist or one of our clinical interns. 
  • In addition to one-on-one counseling, FSAP may provide relationship counseling for partnerships and family counseling for employees.
  • We offer both teletherapy and in-person counseling. Phone-based counseling may be available as well.

Drop-in hours

Let’s Chat is a service that allows employees to check in for an informal and confidential consultation with an FSAP provider in person or virtually. This service is available to in- and out-of-state employees. Schedule a Let's Chat session.

Advising for managers and supervisors

  • Managers and supervisors may seek support and guidance in handling workplace conflicts, concerning employee behaviors, major transitions and other workplace stressors.

Wellness workshops

  • FSAP has partnered with local community experts to offer a wide array of workshops and seminars designed to support employees with mental wellness, parenting, self-care, imposter syndrome, healthy lifestyles and more.

Counseling with FSAP is only available for in-state employees. If you are vacationing outside of Colorado or would like to speak to a counselor after normal work hours or on the weekend, consider using Academic Live Care for free and unlimited teletherapy, psychiatry visits and urgent care.

Leave sharing

If you aren’t able to take all of your excess vacation time, CU Boulder offers the Leave Sharing Program, where employees can donate days they would otherwise lose due to maximum accrual limits. 

Donate your excess vacation time before it expires on June 30, 2023. You may donate vacation leave days to the program anytime during the year.