Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What? No Vacation?


Seriously?  I read a WSJ article today about folks refusing to take their vacations. That’s unimaginable to me. We’ve all known those who can’t seem to leave their work behind, and carry their blackberries and laptops to the mountains and the beach—but not taking a vacation at all—when the company offers paid time off?  What’s that behavior all about? 

Perhaps you don’t like to travel or you have family obligations or financial constraints, so take a staycation instead. Apparently, though, those aren’t the reasons people refuse to take vacation.  According to the article, there’s more to it: 

 A heavy workload and fear of returning to a big backlog are major reasons employees don't take all their vacation. Some may feel vacations simply aren't worth it. A person's sense of health and well-being rises during a vacation of two weeks or more but quickly sinks to pre-vacation levels in the first week back on the job, according to a Dutch study published in 2012 in the Journal of Happiness Studies. 

My co-workers and I joke about having to pay for vacation the weeks before and after with an increased workload, but that hasn’t driven us to give ‘em up. I haven’t taken many two week vacations, but do often take close to that for my cycling trips to Europe, simply because you can’t get to Europe and bike for a week without extra days on either end. And, I have to admit that the longer I’m away, the harder it is to go back to work. Our active vacations make it nearly impossible to worry about work or wonder what’s happening on a project.  All that activity contributes to complete decompression, so jumping back into a heavy workload seems more difficult—but not so difficult that I’d stop taking my trips. 

For others, it’s something else entirely: 

Working nonstop is a way some people build self-esteem."They wear it like a badge of honor, and they brag about it: 'I haven't taken a vacation in years," says Cheryl Heisler, president of Lawternatives, a Chicago career-consulting service for lawyers and professionals. 

That line makes me think of my five month stint flying to San Francisco and back every week.  I worked with folks who bragged about taking the red eye home and going into the office on Friday mornings. Thank goodness I had a boss who would have been horrified to hear that any one of us did that.  So, I leisurely flew back on a morning flight every Friday and headed back out to the West Coast on Monday mornings. 

I’ve never needed any encouragement to take my vacation, but if you do, perhaps this data will change your mind: 

The ill effects of refusing to go on vacation, documented in research, include fatigue, poor morale, heart problems and reduced productivity. Some 15% of U.S. employees who are entitled to paid vacation time haven't used any of it in the past year, according to a March survey of 952 employees for the job and career site Glassdoor. 

Me? I can happily say that to date, I’ve experienced none of those symptoms and don’t plan to take any chances. I’ve already planned my September, October and December vacations and am pondering how to use my two remaining vacation days.  No siree! You won’t find me leaving any vacation days on the table at the end of the year.