Vacation doesn’t work
We need them emotionally and physically, yet we reject them. No, not our spouses. Our vacations.
Americans not only get the least amount of vacation in the Western world, we don’t even take all we’re allotted. On top of that, we don’t have any legal guarantee to vacation, which is unheard of in Europe — worldwide, 137 countries have guaranteed paid vacation.
This year, we plan to leave at least three of our 14 paid vacation days (on average) in limbo, according to a recent survey by Expedia.com. Combined, Americans will give back 460 million vacation days in 2008.
What’s wrong with us? Why are we rejecting freedom?
The answer is complex. It has to do with everything from cultural heritage and laws to workplace mentality and money (or lack thereof).
“We have a Puritan work ethic. We want to be seen as hard workers,” says Tim Kasser, associate professor of psychology at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. “We’re afraid of being perceived as slackers.”
Not only that, our identities are so closely tied to what we do — as opposed to who we are — that for some it’s hard to leave the professional identity behind, even if just for a week or two.
“Vacations can make people with A-type personalities feel worthless,” says Joe Robinson, author of “Work to Live.”
We’re also afraid that if we take a long vacation — say more than a week — we’ll just come back to desks and computers packed with snail mail and e-mail, creating more stress than it’s worth, says John de Graaf, author of “Take Back Your Time,” to which Mr. Kasser contributed a chapter.
“Work has become a lot more demanding,” Mr. de Graaf says.
“The level of stress and the pressures on productivity just keep increasing,” he says, adding that people have a hard time completely disengaging even when not in the office.
In fact, according to the Expedia.com survey, about 24 percent of workers reported they check work e-mail and voice mail while vacationing. That figure was up from 16 percent in 2005.
“We have a cultural attitude that glorifies work and productivity,” Mr. de Graaf says.
It’s not just cultural, however.
It’s monetary, too. There’s talk of a recession, gas prices are up, and personal debt is sky-high. Who can afford to take a vacation, particularly the 28 million Americans who, according to the Washington-based Center for Economic Policy Research, don’t get any paid vacation?