Let’s ignore the numbers for just a moment – we’ll get to them soon enough. Instead, let’s paint a picture: there you are on vacation with your family, enjoying your children laughing at Mickey Mouse and Goofy, posing for pictures, when you get an email about the merger going through.
Of course, this merger is what’s paying for your vacation so you have to answer it which then leads to a call which then leads to your heading back to the hotel to catch up on some quick paper work. Meet the wife and kids for dinner tonight?
Okay, let’s take it back a step further: you’re packing for your vacation. Laptop, check. Smartphone, check. Extra battery, charger, check and check. Wait, did you just take everything that you need to do your job with you on vacation? Let’s look at how silly that sounds in the 1950s: large wooden desk, check; roladex, check; typewriter, check; ten dollars in dimes for the payphone, check; secretary, check.
Worcations are the Worst
Now, we understand that the laptop and smartphone can be used for pleasure and getting around, but what it really does-even innocently-is keeps us plugged into our office. Our bosses can reach us in emergencies and let’s be honest, most of us are so scared of losing our job or weakening our position on the promotion or raise that we’ll jump as soon as the call comes…or email, as it were.
But what’s wrong with this picture. Really. It’s time for some of those numbers:
• The average American worker gets 18 days of vacation but only takes 16
• The average French worker gets and takes two times this amount per year
• There is no law requiring employers to give vacation to their employees
• There is no other country with an advanced economy that doesn’t require vacation-America is alone
• 59% of employees admit to working while on vacation
• Over 50% of all employed adults check work emails before and after work and on the weekends, let alone vacation
• Close to 40% of workers blame technology for increasing their workload and making it harder than ever to get away from work—even to stop thinking about it
• 82% of all workers admit to connecting to the office while on vacation, 42% of them doing it twice a day, 41% once a day
These numbers are staggering. A vacation isn’t supposed to be a work from the beach day-it’s supposed to be a time when the mind, body and soul can step away from the stresses of work in order to re-energize. Vacations are essential to productivity. When you don’t recharge and take enough time off of work, you become under-productive and sluggish-be it from lack of caring to just good old fashioned burn out.
Why Vacations are Important
Before we move on to a remedy for this, a few more numbers that will disprove the thought that companies make more money by eliminating vacations or that workers “shore up” their jobs by working on vacation or taking less days:
• Reaction time, memory retention and employee production all go up after a vacation
• Vacations can increase employee productivity by up to 80%, their alertness by 40%
• Lack of vacation—or true vacation—leads to higher stress, chronic fatigue and burnout. Combine that with the presenteeism that occurs when an employee is never vacationing and it’s easy to see why these people aren’t helping their cases for promotion by working on vacation
In short, it benefits both the employer and employee when vacations are given. In fact, the benefits are so great that some companies actually require vacation while still others are offering unlimited paid vacation if defined results are met and/or bonuses for using up all vacation time.
Ways to Make Your Vacation More Effective
So, since it seems we have forgotten – or been forced to forget – how to take a vacation, here are some tips for the modern worker, specific to the modern job market:
• Don’t check your voicemail or your emails – tell relatives that if they need to reach you, they can text you
• Set up an auto-responder for your email saying when you’ll be back in and who they can contact for work emergencies (not you!!)
• If you have a tablet, laptop or smartphone that is specifically for work, leave it at home
• vacation with co-workers since the urge to talk shop will be there
• Take your vacation in large chunks rather than short bursts so you can completely wind down and relax
• Bring novels that have nothing to do with your line of work
• Spend all of your time with your family, friends and loved ones. If you do need alone time, make sure it’s for you and not prepping for work or catching up