[I could've done without that last line, but still a cool article.]
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Take a long holiday
Say what else you might about the French, they sure know how to enjoy a vacation.
Full-time employees in France take an average of seven weeks of vacation per year. Italians take about eight weeks.
Americans take fewer than four weeks a year. But before you start complaining about this obvious leisure gap, are you using all the vacation time you've got coming? Last year, 37 percent of American full-time employees said they did not plan on using all of their vacation time, according to the Families and Work Institute. And 43 percent of respondents in a Gallup poll last May said they had no vacation plans this summer.
Employees who don't use all of their vacation time are more likely to feel overworked — 55 percent of workers who didn't use all of their vacation time said so, versus the 27 percent who did use all of their vacation time.
It's an obvious connection to make — certainly one that didn't really require an official study — yet we continue to torture ourselves by working hard and rewarding ourselves with more work.
This "shrinking-vacation syndrome," as The New York Times called it, has reached the point where some companies are forcing their employees to take vacations. The accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, for instance, shuts down its offices nationwide twice a year — around Christmas and Fourth of July holidays — to drive employees out of the office for some much-needed vacation time. Its New York offices even have "posters evoking lazy days away from work," the Times reported.
Why don't people take all of their vacation time? Some are anxious about losing their job. Others worry about the work piling up while they're away. Still others wonder whether the company will be able to function without them. They shouldn't flatter themselves.
Companies can benefit when employees take time from work. Overworked employees are more likely to make mistakes, lose their tempers, even resent coworkers for not working as hard as they do. Also, they can suffer physical and emotional distress and strained personal relationships.
About one in five Americans works during vacation. Living in an era of laptops, Blackberries and cell phones means workers can take all of the gadgets to the beach or the mountains, and be constantly interrupted with messages and more stress.
Experts say people need a full two to three days to just unwind when on vacation. That means a six-day vacation is really only two days of relaxation, because the last day is spent fretting about the vacation ending and having to go back to work.
But only 14 percent of Americans take vacations of two weeks or longer. Most Americans take what experts would call a two-day vacation.
So, take a break. It's good for you; it's good for your family, your coworkers and your employer. But don't forget to come back.