I’m on Vacation!
You know the commercial where that guy is sitting on the beach sipping a Corona beer? His chair is sitting in the white sand, clear blue water licking at his feet? That’s what I did last week. Well, almost.
Although I was sitting on the beach last week taking a vacation, I still found myself responding to emails and text messages from clients. I was actually feeling guilty for taking a vacation — even though I hadn’t had a serious vacation for nearly three years! I actually spoke with a couple of clients while on the beach and disguised the fact that that I was on vacation. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great week — I didn’t want to be anywhere else. But I was definitely still on a leash.
What’s wrong with that picture? I take a one-week vacation for the first time in three years and I’m feeling guilty? Not only that, but I couldn’t leave the cell phone behind and take a PURE week of rest and relaxation? Unfortunately, I’m not alone in this feeling.
The U.S. has the dubious distinction of being one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t mandate vacation time. I know many people that never disclose that they took a day off or that they went off on spring break with the family. In our culture, we want everyone to think that we work 24/7. And many of us come close to this perception of an idealistic perpetual work machine.
But is it really “ideal?” The idea that we should spend some quality vacation time unwinding and/or relaxing is something that is somewhat frowned upon in most of North America. In fact, a couple of studies I read show that the U.S. and Canada rank at the bottom of the list relative to how many vacation days are mandated.
Brazil was actually at the top of the list with 30 days minimum leave, along with Austria with five weeks vacation time. Many countries require anywhere from 10 to 20 days. Here’s a short list from Wikipedia:
Argentina 14 Calendar Days
Austria Five Weeks
Belgium 20 days, premium pay
Canada 10 to 15 days (by province) and five to 10 public holidays
Cyprus 20 working days
Ecuador 14 days
Germany Four Work Weeks
Netherlands Four weeks
Romania 21 working days
U.K 5.6 Weeks, including eight public holidays
Vietnam 10 working days
But the truth about vacation in the U.S. is that although vacation isn’t “mandated,” many of us are entitled to take vacations as part of a benefits package that we get from our employers. Additionally, we have 10 public holidays which are not mandatory. The problem is that too many of us find excuses not to take the vacation time that’s offered to us. And when we do vacation, we do it poorly — taking along work assignments and/or staying in touch through our electronic devices.
So why take vacation? Reduced stress, improved mental health, increased productivity, inspiration and many other health-related benefits are among the benefits listed by physicians and mental health professionals. Who doesn’t want more productive employees? Who doesn’t want to be more productive and happy?
Employment professionals also suggest that employees “declare” their vacation time far in advance. Don’t ask for time off — let your company and coworkers know that it’s on your schedule and you’re working to get things done to accommodate your vacation! According to an article on www.lifeclever.com, advance planning gives your employer time to make staffing changes and lets everyone know that your vacation is concrete. The site also recommends leaving your computer/data-enabled device at home (some advice I should have taken).
My daughter recently interviewed for a job and was told that one of the benefits is a required month-long sabbatical with a paid trip every three years. It’s good to know there’s at least one company in the U.S. that understands the value of a well-rested employee!
The bottom line is that if you haven’t taken a vacation lately, start planning today. You, your employer, your employees and your family will all benefit.
So the next vacation I take, I’m going to give advance warning. Then I’m going to turn off my Motorola Droid, put on my swimsuit, and declare with gusto, “I’m on vacation!”
Yes, someday that will happen.
Greg Napert, Proud to be an A&P