JUST about every time I plan a vacation, I worry I won't be able to go. You can't leave, my boss might say, because we're just too busy to spare you.
Maybe this isn't really a fear, but a fantasy - that I'm too valuable for the company to get along without me for even a week. Well, clearly that's not the case, because I've always been allowed to go.
Other people's vacations can make me anxious, too, because I often have to fill in when they're away. As peak vacation season begins, it's time to worry about those left behind.
Employees should practise good pre-vacation hygiene, by doing as much of their work in advance as possible, and making sure their replacements have the tools and knowledge to hold down the fort.
But, ultimately, it's up to supervisors to set vacation policies that are fair and cause the least amount of disruption, says Mr Jay Jamrog, senior vice-president of research for Seattle-based research firm Institute for Corporate Productivity.
Did you just find out today a co-worker will be gone this week and you need to take over for her? That's poor planning. Too many managers wait until the last minute to approve vacations, he adds.
Vacations should be agreed upon far in advance as part of a team effort, so managers can find out as early as possible if too many people want to take the same weeks off and seek a solution, he says.
In many industries, certain times of the year are off limits for vacations. When scheduling vacations, "protect your business interests, but in an equitable manner", says Mr Richard I. Greenberg, a lawyer for Jackson Lewis, a law firm specialising in employment issues. If you have to turn down someone's request for a particular vacation week, try to give that person first choice another time, he says.
An employee's perception that a vacation policy is unfair can lead to a sense of distrust and a lack of commitment, he warns.
Vacation policies should be consistent and clearly communicated, says Ms Margaret Fiester, operations manager for the H.R. Knowledge Centre at the Society for Human Resource Management. Sometimes it may be best to set up a bidding system in which employees submit vacation requests by a certain deadline, so that managers can accurately project staffing levels, she adds.
Deciding vacations on the basis of seniority is one way to try to be fair, but that can also be hard on a new employee who must forgo a summer vacation with school-age children, or a homesick worker who can't spend the holidays with family. Still, such a policy has the advantage of being clear. If a policy is unclear, and managers appear to be granting time off inconsistently, it can create the impression they are playing favourites, Mr Jamrog says.
It's also a manager's job to ensure employees are properly trained to fill in for vacationing colleagues, he says. Present a vacation as a way for workers to develop new skills, and reward them for stepping in, he advises. "You can't feel like you're punishing your employees because someone is taking time off," he says.
More than once, I've seen workers excel in their fill-in roles and receive promotions because they proved they could handle more responsibility. So try to view a colleague's vacation as an opportunity, rather than an occasion for resentment.
And if you've been lucky enough to go to the beach, or to a European capital, be sure to thank the people who filled in for you. Because not too long from now, they might be off on their own vacations, and you will be the employee left behind.