How to ask for a day off (with examples)

Updated on September 13, 2023
how to ask for a day off

You are wondering how to request time off work, but you are worried that your request will be denied and even frowned upon?

Well, this doesn't have to be the case. Employees taking time off work when they need to is expected and perfectly acceptable.

However, it is best to make a time off request for a period when your absence will cause the least disruption at work.

Here you will learn about when and how to ask your boss for days off work in a way that actually increases your chances of having your requests approved in 99% of cases.

Common reasons to take time off

Giving your boss a good reason why you need time off work will actually increase your chances of having your request approved.

Here are some of the most common reasons why usually workers need time off work.

  • Family-related matters
  • Medical reasons
  • Travel outside the city
  • Time-specific events
  • Personal matters
  • Going on vacation

There is no need to go into details when telling your boss why you need time off work.

However, offering some kind of explanation for your request will be seen as a sign of trust.

Therefore, your boss will be more likely to return the gesture and approve your request for time off work.

How to ask your boss for a day off

how to ask for a day off

There are well-known good practices that you can follow when it comes to requesting time off work. Here is what it is advisable to do.

1. Follow company procedures

Before you rush into your boss' office to make your arguments about why you deserve a few days for yourself, make sure to learn about your company’s procedure regarding time off.

Also, consider the order in which leave is granted within your team, and make sure to check the number of paid days off you have left until the end of the year if you have any at all.

And of course, take into account the workload of your colleagues and the consequences your absence may have on your team. Ask them if they are fine with you taking a day or two off work.

2. Make sure the timing is right

Beyond the company technicalities, make sure the time is well chosen to take a break.

Are there any events, projects, or important deadlines planned during the time when you will be off? If so, can you postpone your projects without hesitation?

3. Test the waters first

Unless it is a definite event in time, like a wedding or the arrival of a friend who lives abroad, do not ask for specific dates.

Maybe tell your boss something like "I have ten days of vacation left, and I would like to take some time off work in the next few weeks. Does this seem possible to you?"

This way, you are giving them all the possible heads-ups to grant you some time off work.

Even if all the planets seem perfectly aligned, avoid claiming victory until you have first obtained the approval of your boss.

4. Plan your time off before or after a busy week at work

If you're looking for a longer break, like a vacation to another country, or spending a whole week watching Netflix shows, getting your approval will be much easier if you time it before or after a busy period for your company.

However, this can only be effective in a workplace where monthly activities are more or less scheduled and predictable.

For fast-paced jobs, you can tell your boss in advance that after completing a specific project, you are taking time off.

By doing this, you are still prioritizing work, which is all a boss could ask for, and you will most likely get your time off.

5. Have a productive week

Bosses tend to ignore the little things but pick up on the bigger ones. I am talking about your achievements.

Your daily accomplishments may seem like they're not impressive enough but if you keep a list of them for an entire week, perhaps you will gain enough confidence and reasons to impress your boss.

Try to say something like:

“Hey, I’ve been working really hard recently and I accomplished X, Y, and Z. Would be it possible for me to take a day some time off work soon?”

6. Ask your boss – don't tell them

When you deliver the news to your boss, it is very important to phrase it as a request. Even though you are fully in your right to ask for a day off, don't ignore proper company etiquette.

At most companies, direct managers are usually the ones who have to approve time off work requests. So don't try to bypass the authority of your boss.

7. Give your boss enough notice

The key to successfully planning time off work is to give your boss and coworkers enough notice. This way measures can be taken to minimize the impact of your absence.

A good rule of thumb is to give at least 2 weeks' notice for 1 to 3 days off work, and 3 to 4 weeks' notice for 1 whole week of absence.

8. Assure your boss you will compensate for your absence

Tell your boss (and your coworkers if you must) that you will make it up to them by working extra hard before and after your time off work in order to compensate for your absence.

Usually, you shouldn't have to resort to this type of promise in most cases but you could use it as a last resort in case you’d like to take time off during a busy period for the company.

9. Don't argue in case your request is denied

Even if you have scrupulously followed all of the above advice, you should also be prepared to be refused.

Always remember that no matter what decision your boss makes, you need to be accommodating in order to stay on good terms and make another request later on.

However, if it seems that your boss is never willing to give you even a day off, then this could be a sign that your workplace is actually quite toxic and exploitative.

How to ask your boss for a day off on a short notice

How to ask your boss for a day off on a short notice

Asking your boss for some time off work gets even trickier when it's done on short notice. Not to mention this might be in violation of company terms.

Regardless, here are a few tips and tricks you can try to increase your chances of getting what you want.

1. Ask your boss to talk privately

If possible, meet your supervisor privately and ask them in person. While this may seem counterintuitive, the idea is to be able to witness their initial reaction and diffuse any resistance.

Consider this; it would be a lot easier for them to deny your request in an email than to have to do it in person and witness your disappointment.

Generally, most people want to avoid conflict and social pressure. But who knows, your boss might be a complete sociopath who doesn’t care the slightest how you feel and what you need.

That is why this next step is so important.

2. Don’t be discouraged if they deny you initially

Don’t give up just yet. Simply apologize and ask them nicely again. Use the words “please” and “sorry” a lot. Make sure to remind them just how much you need this or how important this is for you.

3. Use the most persuasive word

The most persuasive word in the English language is this.


And that’s simply because it is usually followed by a good reason. But make sure to use it regardless of whether or not you have a good reason for your request.

Even if you say something vague like “I need this day off because it is important to me.” you are still applying a powerful persuasion technique.

4. Promise that you will compensate

As explained above, this is probably something that you should keep as a last resort.

When all else fails, pull out the “compensation” card.

Tell your boss that when you return, you will compensate for your absence by working extra hard.

This might mean staying an extra hour or two after the end of your shift. But it all comes down to how badly you want to get that day off in the first place.

5. Ask a coworker to work as your substitute

Finish all the important tasks that you are responsible for and ask a member of your team to take care of the rest of what you are leaving during your break. This way the work will continue even if you are not around.

In most companies, bosses focus only on getting tasks done, so they won't mind if you leave for a few days as long as the work progress isn't affected.

You can say something like:

"Hey boss, I don't have any urgent tasks to deal with right now, and I've already asked Simon to take over some of my duties if my vacation request is approved. So is it possible to take some time off? Perhaps next week?”

Just make sure to make it up to your coworker when you return!

6. Pull out the "You can still contact me by email or phone" card

If your work revolves around doing something on a computer, then you can easily take it with you.

And this works perfectly because, even if you're not there, your boss won't be worried if something urgent comes up at work, or if you are suddenly needed for something that only you can provide the answer to.

It's actually that simple; there are no tricks behind this. You just have to think ahead of your boss’s concerns.

How to ask for a day off in an email

How to ask for a day off in an email

Asking for a day off in an email is not as personal as a live conversation.

And your superior on the other side has all the time they need to come up with a reason to deny your request if they want to.

But it all comes down to the reason for your request.

Of course, you won’t be denied if something urgent comes up in your life and you have to deal with it immediately.

So here are a few tips and tricks that will be helpful if you simply want some vacation time. Here is what you can do when you request time off through email.

1. Craft your subject line carefully

Unless company policy specifically requires such emails to be labeled, don't mention anything about days off in the subject line.

Instead, go for something like "Can I ask you something?" or "There is something I want to tell you".

These are very suspenseful phrases that will put your boss on edge. The created tension will be released when they realize this email is a simple vacation request.

Their relaxed state will make them more agreeable and more likely to approve your request.

2. Start your email with a good reason

Here is a couple of how to ask for a day off example sentences:

“I would like to take two days off work to recharge my batteries because I have been working really hard recently on X, Y, and Z.”

“I have been working really hard recently on X, Y, and Z so I would like to take two days off work because I need to recharge my batteries.”

Even though both sentences consist of the same words, they have different effects on the reader.

In the first example, the vacation request is the very first piece of information that the reader learns. "I want a vacation" becomes the frame of the entire sentence.

This will have a negative effect if your superior is resistant to the idea.

In the second example, "I work very hard" is the frame of the sentence. This will have a more positive effect, and it increases your chances of approval.

3. Mention how you are preparing

In your email, you can mention how you are preparing (and compensating) for your future absence from work. Mention if a coworker will take care of some of your responsibilities while you are away.

This is an important step because it shows your boss that you care about the progress of your work.

4. Mention they can always contact you

Of course, it would be quite unpleasant to receive a call while you are in the middle of something fun during your vacation.

But “hustle culture” has its own rules. If your company culture is this harsh, then this is just something that you will have to accept. So make sure to include your phone number.

5. Be polite and respectful in your writing

No matter what your work relationship is with your boss, always be polite, respectful, and professional in your emails.

Remember that these emails are considered official company documentation, so don’t cross any boundaries.

Day off request email example

Here is a simple template that you can use when you send your time off work request to your boss

Subject: Can I ask something of you?

Hello [name of your boss],

I've been working really hard recently on X, Y, and Z so I wanted to ask you for some time off work.

Do you think it would be possible for me to take a whole week off next month?

I’ll make sure to finish all my ongoing tasks. Also, [colleague name] said he’d be able to cover for me.

Thanks in advance and let me know what you think.

How to ask for a day off when you just started

How to ask for a day off when you just started

Oh, this is uncomfortable. It’s only your second work week, you are still a trainee, and here you are asking for a couple of days off work because you want to go to this music thing or whatever.

You probably shouldn't do it if you really care about this job and you want to impress the people you work with.

But if you are going to do it anyway, then here is how you can approach this.

1. Acknowledge the fact

Don’t ignore the elephant in the room. Instead, acknowledge the fact that you just started this job.

This will show your boss that you are not a self-absorbed person who is clueless about their surroundings.

Acknowledge that it is awkward and that you feel bad for asking. This way, you will look trustworthy and reliable.

2. State that you will compensate for your absence

As mentioned above, this card is one of the few bargaining options that you have.

However, it is important to truly follow through with your promise. When you get back to work, make sure that you are giving it all you’ve got.

3. Apply the persuasion tactics I’ve taught you

The persuasion and negotiation tactics described above are simple and subtle, but they make all the difference.

So use the word "because" as much as possible, make promises, and stay calm and respectful.

This way, you will condition your boss to approve your time off work, even though you just started.

My experience asking my boss for time off work

With my current manager, I noticed that he was more likely to accept my days off request if I told him why I needed it.

Even when I asked for paid leave on short notice, if I stated the reason, 9 times out of 10 I would get it.

Here's an example of how this works: "Hey boss, I'd like to take 2 days off next week to take my family on a little road trip. I will make sure no tasks are left behind."

However, If you are new to a job, you probably shouldn't ask for time off work before you build rapport and trust with your boss and fellow coworkers.

It would be best to give it at least 3 months of hard work and dedication to show the people that you work with that you are a capable and trustworthy professional.

After this time, it would be perfectly acceptable to request some time off. You’ve earned it.

Here is how to tell your boss you won't be able to come to work in case something unexpected happens.

Frequently asked questions about requesting time off

What should I do if I've exhausted all my paid leave but still need a day off?

Discuss with your supervisor about the possibility of taking unpaid leave or compensating by working extra hours on other days.

How can I handle repeated denials of my time-off requests?

Schedule a meeting with your boss to understand the reasons for denials and find a mutually agreeable solution for future requests.

How frequently is too frequently when it comes to requesting days off?

It varies by company and role. However, frequent requests that disrupt workflow or burden colleagues might be considered excessive. It's best to balance personal needs with work responsibilities.

Can I ask for a day off even if I've recently taken a lot of time off?

Yes, but be prepared to provide a valid reason and ensure your responsibilities are covered during your absence.

What should I do if my boss asks for proof or more details about my reason for taking a day off?

Be honest and provide the necessary information or documentation, if possible, while respecting your privacy boundaries.

Written by:
Office Topics Logo 2 White
galin office topics square
co-founder / office worker
Alex has been an office worker for more than 10 years. He is dedicated to helping other office workers to achieve the perfect life-work balance through well-being, effective communication, and building productive habits.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Office Topics

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram