September 5, 2011 at 3:20 am #140538
I was just reading a CNN article that suggests Americans don’t take a proper vacation. In fact, we lag far behind our European counterparts (by ratios of 3:1 and 2:1)…and it doesn’t really end up making us any more productive in the end!
I know I’m guilty of working way too much – probably taking no more than 5-6 real vacation days this year and not much more on the horizon beyond the holidays. And I know that a lot of us don’t actually unplug when we’re on vacation.
So when it comes down to it – if you had to be brutally honest with yourself:
How much time do you really take for vacation each year?
September 5, 2011 at 3:42 am #140622
Very good discussion point, I think we are all terrible at this. I have basically all of my time to take (and always carry my max), but a few weeks ago I did unplug (from work) and met some friends from twitter in Boston.
Need to plan some more vacation meetups!
September 5, 2011 at 8:02 am #140620
Not nearly enough. This is a very timely discussion for me. Taking month holidays to explore or unwind is not unusual for many out side of the States.
I am taking visitors from outside of the U.S. to the airport this morning. They took a month holiday to visit the U.S. They posted occasional updates on their travels and emailed friends. In addition to the month holiday, they make a practice of taking long weekends.
September 5, 2011 at 1:08 pm #140618
I never unplug during vacations, but I arrange to take about 4-5 weeks a year. I sometimes work for an hour or two while on vacation days by choice. I want my organization to operate as a lean operation, so I can’t afford to completely unplug. I think that employees with children tend to use all their vacation days. In my case, I use them to visit my grandson.
September 5, 2011 at 1:36 pm #140616
I actually take vacations to work on other projects so I can have a different life for a bit. I still check in at regularly scheduled intervals (e.g., every Tuesday and Thursday from 8 to 10). That way, everyone’s expectations are met. Luckily, I don’t have a job where I am in charge in an emergency 🙂
But I took two weeks to go to a hot springs off grid and do physical therapy and write the second part of my new book.
September 5, 2011 at 2:31 pm #140614
I just passed 15 years of Federal service and am on track to carry forward the maximum 240 hours. So starting next year, I will have 208 hours (about 5 weeks) of use or lose leave each year. I asked my boss about the possibility of using all of it in one chunk to take a mini sabbatical and wander around the Rockies. He not only said flat out no but thought I was insane to even suggest the idea. So now I have a week off planned for March and some vague ideas about how to spread out the rest. I firmly believe RE-creation improves our on the job performance and will try to use as much time as possible but foresee being in a “Lose it” situation at the end of next year.
September 5, 2011 at 3:36 pm #140612
This is the first time in 4 or 5 years that I have NOT taken a 3 or 4 week vacation in one fell swoop. BUT there is what I believe to be a relative good reason for not taking much any vacations at all this year; Going to call it quits after 40 years of civil service and plan to get paid for whatever I can as a going away present.
About 5 or six years ago, I working with several members of a team and we all started doing like the Europeans, taking a full month off. It has made a world of difference in the productivity of the whole team. Unlike the European model, we could NOT all take the month of August off. What we have been able to do is get 2 members of the team to take July Aug and Sept. (this year there will only be one team member taking Sept off) Makes the workload a tad more difficult during the vacation period but IMO that the rejunivation of the entire team makes up for any increase in the workload during the vacation period.
September 5, 2011 at 6:23 pm #140610
I have just returned to the United States from working in the United Kingdom for the summer, and I definitely realized a huge difference in productivity in the office, despite the fact that the UK’s average work week is much shorter. I felt like my coworkers and I got a lot more done in our 4 day, 30 hour week because we felt more rejuvenated after having longer weekends to get rest and enjoy the nice weather. Even short, more frequent breaks during the day (for tea, of course) broke up the workday and allowed us to clear our head more frequently, which helped keep a positive vibe in the workplace. I think the US has a lot to learn from the UK in this regard!
September 6, 2011 at 1:26 pm #140608
Never had a vacation in my life that was as easy, relaxing, and stress-free as being at work. If anything, most of my stress at work comes from other people being on vacation. Somebody seems to always be away, making it impossible to get what you need, in the way of official approval or information. My own vacation allotment is generally allocated to driving my wife to the in-laws, attending school events, religious events that aren’t statutory holidays, and waiting around to get the car fixed.
I did take 3 weeks in 2004 and drove the family 10,500km out to the west coast and back, and 6 days in 2008 to drive them 4800km out to the east coast and back. But, apart from wanting to take a week to fix up some things around the house, I think I’m kinda done with vacations for this decade.
As for “lagging behind our European counterparts”, I’m not sure that is anything to be ashamed of, given their financial state.
I’m curious. How many vacation days do farmers take annually?
September 6, 2011 at 2:57 pm #140606
I’d say I’m somewhere in the 10 day range… I normally try to keep my holidays to myself. I’d say it would be more but the damn gchat app on my phone certainly doesn’t help.
September 6, 2011 at 4:51 pm #140604
We have a ton of people here in that same situation. Most take 2 three day weekends per month and a week vacation.
IMO this is far more annoying than someone being gone for a week, in the above instance they are unavailable 10% of the time.
September 6, 2011 at 5:07 pm #140602
Did I mention I already work a 5/4/9 schedule? And currently have 58 hours accumulated comp time.
September 6, 2011 at 5:10 pm #140600
4/4/9 schedule maybe?
This is crazy, somehow we, as employees, have negotiated reasonable amounts of yearly vacation but we haven’t figured out a way to take that vacation.
Interestingly enough here a supervisor can’t force people to lose vacation. If people apply for it and are rejected the supervisor needs to work with the employee to keep them from losing it.
September 6, 2011 at 5:31 pm #140598
In past years, I’d be taking a full two weeks, then random days here and there. Last year and this year I really had no where to go, so I’m continually flirting with having too much saved up. Fortunately I have until the end of June to burn stuff down, but it can still be hard. Just last week I had been planning to take Thu – Tuesday off, ended up working Thu am because there was something that had to be done and that was the only day (and it wasn’t on me, i was at the mercy of others scheduling stuff)
I just aim for 3 day weekends when I can, and I’m taking the week between christmas and new years off. DId that for the first time last year and it was fun to just have nothing to do for 10+ days.
This job isn’t as bad as my previous one where you literally got a guilt trip for ‘daring’ to take time off.
People need to unwind. Heck, in any given weekend I spend half of it running errands, half getting yard work done and little to no time just relaxing.
September 7, 2011 at 12:29 am #140596
I like to take a bunch of 4 day weekends. Find it’s less stressful, since you still get out of the office for a bit but don’t have two weeks of work pile up on your desk.
September 7, 2011 at 11:42 am #140594
I would pretty routinely roll over one-third of my time. I tried to take a week off once per year but I usually had 3 weeks to take. I would resolve to take it each year and then reach September and realize I could not fit it in….
September 8, 2011 at 12:40 pm #140590
I used to have the maximum leave to carry over so I would have use-or-lose during the next year but I dealt with breast cancer in 2009 and that left me with no sick or annual leave by the time I was done. I’m still recovering from all those issues and starting to build up a little leave again.
I don’t usually take more than a week off at a time, and then it’s generally to visit family as both my husband’s and my family live far from us. I never totally unplug because I am an approver (no back-up) in our hazardous material program and I can get calls to review an urgent process. Alot of times I will just take a day off throughout the year and I always take a few days between Christmas and New Years to help my friend prepare for her annual New Years party.
September 8, 2011 at 1:23 pm #140588
That’s awesome that your team of co-workers are on board with that!
September 8, 2011 at 1:47 pm #140586
This is a very interesting question. My fiance and I often point out the differences between our society and Europe, as well as all the other countries that follow the European concept because they were ruled by UK/Europe for so long. I have lived in Australia and studied tourism marketing. I came to discover that most of my western friends that weren’t American were ASTOUNDED by how much time Americans DONT get off. I often wonder at what point our country decided, yes, I want to be enslaved to society, debt and life in general…therefore, time off and time off for vacation is a low priority for many Americans. In fact, America is the only country in the westernized world that doesn’t even have a National Tourism Organization to act on behalf of travel within America. It’s sad really, we count on Hollywood to do the work for us. It’s a valid point to some degree, but our country is SO AMAZING and thousands of pockets of opportunity for hidden discoveries everywhere!!
To answer the question itself, well, my fiance and I probably travel 45-60 days out of the year…no jokes. We’ve camped and hitch hiked in Hawaii, imported probably 75% of our meals on just about every vacation (almost always camping) unless it’s to someplace 2nd or 3rd world, showered on beaches fought at border crossings to only pay what is required (well I have at least) and I love every experience. Well, for the most part I love it :0) I could not imagine living without travel. It exposes us to so many things that we may have never thought about before, twists things into new ways and leads us into new directions. It’s a great misfortune how little Americans travel. If we all did travel, we might realize that maybe the things our country is having problems with could be solved by something another country is already doing. I don’t know how many generals, head officials and the likes have said we need to embrace more ideas from abroad and improve in this realm, but it seems that little is done to move forward on this. Maybe someone has a different opinion on this or more insight, that’s just how I feel. Travel is just such a big part of my life and I think everyone should open the book past the first page. Then again, my brother has never even boarded a plane and is perfectly content. What do I know?
September 8, 2011 at 1:57 pm #140584
I’m sorry to hear that. I think that would’ve been a great opportunity. It’s amazing that some people have no idea how important time off and away actually can be.
September 8, 2011 at 3:21 pm #140582
Agreed…the world is not going to end until it’s over. Until then live. I work to live, not live to work.
September 8, 2011 at 6:27 pm #140580
That’s what’s wrong with federal HR thinking….we’re not allowed to “think outside the box”. And then the European’s wonder what’s wrong with us.
September 8, 2011 at 6:30 pm #140578
You might be critical of their “financial state” but I can tell you from personal knowledge that they are definitely less stressed. Happiness is not always financial.
September 8, 2011 at 8:19 pm #140576
Isn’t it true that in America many people aren’t even given vacation time though? In NZ you are legally entitled to 4 weeks paid vacation.
But in saying that – we don’t take our leave either. I have heaps stacked up but I don’t take time off. Even with my family… I really should but going on holidays is quite expensive, even in NZ. And to leave NZ costs thousands of dollars! I’m not going to waste my annual leave sitting at home ^_^
September 9, 2011 at 2:27 am #140574
How do we adopt this “foreign” mentality?
September 9, 2011 at 2:28 am #140572
Oh – you can’t leave us hanging there…what’s the new book?
September 9, 2011 at 2:30 am #140570
That’s the rub. And then we feel guilty when we do take vacation!
Crazy….there’s got to be a better way.
September 9, 2011 at 2:31 am #140568
And I know you’ve taken some awesome vacations, Henry, as a fellow “all-50-states” badge-wearer 🙂
September 9, 2011 at 2:32 am #140566
Will you institute afternoon teas at GovLoop for us? 🙂
September 9, 2011 at 2:33 am #140564
I’m from the Midwest and farmers definitely get time off for much of the winter.
September 9, 2011 at 2:33 am #140562
Wow — and most people are impressed that I’ve hit 47!
Have to plan my next vacation…
September 9, 2011 at 2:36 am #140560
What’s been your favorite place to travel?
September 9, 2011 at 3:30 am #140558
Michelle, it depends on the state where you work. Overall, I don’t think vacation is a legal right here in the US, but most companies give two weeks as a standard package. A lot of people don’t take all their vacation though, especially when the economy gets really bad.
Some of it is a genuine perception that taking time off from work means you don’t care, and should be replaced. Personally, I’d look for another job if that was the case. But some of it is also ego: “I’m so important, this job can’t possibly function without me.” I’m confident enough in my team that they can function without me for one or two weeks. There should only be a few small fires when I get back 🙂
September 9, 2011 at 11:24 am #140556
For your boss: taking planned leave provides an opportunity for developmental assignments and improves continuity of operations for unplanned events.
September 9, 2011 at 11:36 am #140554
Congratulations on your pending retirement! That’s awesome, Henry!
September 9, 2011 at 6:58 pm #140552
According to a quick Facebook poll, most people checked their phones at least a few of times per day on vacation, and a couple of poor souls said they worked on their honeymoon and wedding day!!!!
September 12, 2011 at 2:06 pm #140550
Malaysia…Truly Asia :0) Great food, hands down and I think Kuala Lumpur is the best city ever with a good cultural blend and on the upward move. They are proud to be moving towards 1st world status with the hopes of achieving this goal by 2020. Not to mention when you get there, it’s like flying into the jungle. Great diving and natural beauty all over the place. What more could you ask for? :0)
I sometimes think about where they are compared to where we are and think what’s wrong with us. Often, it seems like America is less concerned with progression then bashing the other party so that we can all keep each other on a downward spiral with education, corruption etc. I’m not saying that Malaysia doesn’t have their problems too. Everyone does. They are, however, aspiring to achieve something as a nation and I just wonder what we as a nation are moving towards?
September 12, 2011 at 2:41 pm #140548
Some people don’t even get 2 weeks. I know of a place here where your ‘two weeks vacation’ also includes the federal and state holidays and your sick leave….in other words, sure you can take the 4th of july off, it’ll just cost you a vacation day to do so. Then you run into cases in many work places where people try to take time off but are denied. There is a very definite attitude amongst some that anyone that takes time off is a slacker and lazy, and some people are even penalized for wanting to take off time they have earned.
And practices like this are getting more and more common as jobs dry up. Workers no longer feel they have the power and ability to say ‘to heck with this, i’m going to go work…..’ and feel that they are stuck and trapped in a job. And management takes advantage of that to put down more and more draconian practices, because they can get away with it. Because there’s always someone out there that is just happy to have a job that they don’t care if the benefits suck.
September 12, 2011 at 3:17 pm #140546
Embrace and encourage it. Our media hardly recognizes the importance of it. Our government doesn’t do anything like they do in Europe for the younger generation to travel abroad. (I have heard enough examples to be absolutely dumbfounded in comparison) In Europe, it is in engraved in their culture. Most choose to travel and learn because they are raised to desire that (so I think).
Only about 1/3 of American’s even have a passport. Not to mention that once we get a passport it is good for a whopping 10 years compared to Europe where I think it is generally more like 5 years (So maybe 1/3 of the population has left the country in the past decade).
These figures are also reflected into our presidents, etc. Google how many trips abroad George W. Bush had (I’m not sure about Obama) before taking the lead in one of the most powerful positions in the world.
September 12, 2011 at 3:26 pm #140544
You know, this is the cause of the need for unions in my opinion. I’m from the midwest so I have seen the good and the bad from UAW/unions. However, unions provide that sense of security that employees need which is very important. In fact, I am waiting for the same industrial revolution unionization to take hold in some of the 2nd and 3rd world nations across the globe that are killing themselves to work. At some point, people have to speak out like we once did to the big CEO’s etc. Will this ever happen? I would like to think so.
September 13, 2011 at 12:12 pm #140542
Okay, I feel I have to give you a Swedish point of view here.
First of all, I think, there is kind of a huge difference in mentality in the US and Europe. I live and work in Sweden, and as a 28-year old, I have 6 weeks paid vacation a year. My older mates have almost 8. I consider that to be a fair amount. Everyone (over here) would like more, though. In general, wanting to spend time on vacation (or away from work – it’s not always the exact same thing) is considered to be healthy. As an employer, you want your crew healthy, relaxed and productive. There is actually some pretty recent research results, claiming that a few more weeks off would be mean even better productivity.
Yes, we also have companies and organizations pretty much demanding you to work all year around, but they are few, and in specific lines of business (law-firms i.e.). But in general everyone pretty much expects people to use their off-days. In fact, by law – as an government worker – you HAVE to use at least 20 days a year. And the national recommendation is that everyone sholud have at least 3 weeks in one go, because your bpdy and mind require that to be completely recharged.
Second, as someone noted, over here it is in most people life plans – and therefore expectations – to experience the world. A standard, Swedish middle-class family usually go abroad at least once a year (with kinds, if any around). And usually also travel within Sweden at least once, maybe going skiing for a week or visiting family. We are as well usually online during our vacations, but we do go.
Even if you don’t travel during your vacations, you do have them. Spending time with ones family is really high on our list of priorities, and I know a lot of people (myself included) that loves to spend four weeks during summer, just being at home, doin’ nothing special, really.
I know a fair share of Americans, and from our conversations about these things, a lot comes down to us simply having two very different “society systems”. Why that is – hard to say. But it’s very different. And, as always, both have pros and cons.
I’ve spent a lot of time in Japan, and – believe it or not – their system is pretty similar to the US. People are expected to work a whole lot more than we are, but they get paid a lot more in return (as are you). Perhaps some of you have heard glory-stories about the social welfare system in Sweden – and it is good (not as good as it used to be, though), and almost everything is free for our citizens (“free” – we do pay for it with our high taxes). We don’t have to have medical insurance (if I get cancer and need treatment for 200 000 $, I only pay like 200 $ of it myself) and we can go to universities and get higher education for free. Things that in countries like US and Japan can cost you a whole lot. But on the other hand – and this is from what I’ve heard from my American and Japanese friends – if you have the dollars, you get medical care without having to wait for months.
As I said, pros and cons. That goes for everything. I could go on and on about the difference in our societies, but this is not the place for it. I wouldn’t say that the Swedish or American way is better than the other – more like just different. I do, however, really believe that the US o A would be even more productive with a better system for vacation.
September 13, 2011 at 1:34 pm #140540
I’m nearing that point myself… and had the same type of issue. I even stepped down from a management position because when I asked for 1-2 hours of AL (or heaven forbid, a whole day!) I was looked at like I was nuts and asked ‘didn’t I think my team needed me here?’. I have 2 little boys (6 and 7) and to receive pushback like that when I’m trying to take leave to do things with them made me decide to step down. It’ll be a bit easier now to take my leave, especially those odd couple of hours or even a day here or there, but upper management will still frown if I try to take a whole week off, or even 2 weeks, at the same time. So I’ll spread my leave out making long weekends, and trying to figure out how to take a family vacation in those types of timeframes. When did taking your leave become such a negative on your career?
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