City Personnel Blog

Are American Workers Starved For Vacation Time?

Finding the balance between work and play.
July 26, 2017

According to a recent Huffington Post study, 30% of Americans took absolutely no vacation time during the past year. But is this really the best way to be productive? Some people say that a well-deserved vacation allows them to come back to work relaxed and refreshed, while others point out that this is a privileged view of work-life balance and not everyone can afford to simply “take a break.” We think we may have figured out why Americans don’t take enough vacation.

Work will just pile up while we’re gone

 A lot of folks feel that if they took a break, their work would pile up so much during their absence that it’s not worth the headache that awaits them when they come back. But isn’t this a management issue? If a specific area demands more work, surely a firm cannot afford to have only one person that’s capable of fulfilling that role. What if that person had to suddenly leave under non-vacation circumstances, such as a family emergency, or extreme illness? If there’s strain on a certain department, that department should be staffed accordingly in order to spread the workload. That said, it’s easy to blame management when in fact there may be other factors like downsizing issues or other budgetary constraints that prevent workers from sharing the load.

 

We feel bad about strapping our officemates with extra duties during our absence

 Such constraints lead to another factor in the work-vacation equation: guilt. Many of us may be able to finagle some time off, but we feel too guilty about burdening our coworkers with the extra workload to stay away for long (or at all). Even though it’s important to cultivate healthy work relationships with our colleagues, people who work together within a single company’s culture often share similar values about work-life balance and understand each other’s needs. So as long as you’re willing to help out your cubicle neighbor with her workload while she’s gone, she’ll likely be happy to return the favor when you need a getaway yourself.

 

We just can’t afford it these days, so we compromise...

 Many Americans blame their lack of vacation time on travel expense. Vacations are too expensive, and our nation’s rising cost of living makes it hard for us to pay our bills and student loan debt, let alone take a trip. Because of this, many folks take a “staycation” in place of going out of town. But the only way to have a rewarding staycation is to avoid work emails and the urge to telecommute. That’s why actual vacations often work better for taking a mental break: being in a different environment takes us out of our own minds and helps us resist the urge to check in with work. And ditch your devices as much as possible--taking simple breaks from emails and social media streams makes a successful staycation more doable.

 Another popular compromise we make with our inner workaholic is to take quick weekend getaways where we frantically race to a popular weekend destination and practically spend more time in transit as we do at the actual venue. A good solution to the stress of paying for high priced weekend hotel rates is to take some weekdays off and take advantage of off-peak pricing. But does taking a quick jaunts really do the trick, or is it just long enough away from work to make it that much more painful when it’s time to go back?

 

What can we do to vacation more and stress less?

 Overall, we need to change how we relate to work and stress. Busy professionals should stop using crazy long work hours as the benchmark for success. Plan ahead as much as so that you can get big projects done before taking time off and avoid the email backlog. To relieve the cost of vacation, check out Groupon and Living Social. Got friends who live out of town? Ask if you can take them out to dinner in exchange for putting you up for a few days. And try to leave your work at the office, if only for a short time. The work will always be there when you get back, whether you’re breaking away for a month or only a minute. There’s always more you can do, and we will always find reasons to stay at the office later and later every day. Life happens when we’re not looking, so let’s challenge ourselves to work a little less -- not more!