I was chatting to an old friend that lives overseas a few days ago and she mentioned that she had got her 4 week vacation approved from the HR department; what on earth is she going to do for 30 days I wondered to myself. She added "you should try it". Ha! 30 days? Surely the world would come to end if I wasn't at my desk or available at a moment’s notice?!
She went on to berate me about how Americans take a day here and a day there, maybe a week if we're lucky. I think she was talking about me.
I have noticed over the years how our European cousins revel in their lengthy vacations, often taking two or more weeks to explore the country or city of their choosing but here in America, a week is the normal. I've done it many times, packed in what should be a 14 night trip into 7 nights, just so I didn't miss the Monday morning meeting and get into a lengthier backlog of paperwork and customer calls. I would get home, unpack and be ready for a real vacation. A trip where I didn't need to look at my watch, or be concerned about time (except for happy hour of course).
What is this vacation guilt we suffer from and where did it come from? Who knows? Your guess is as good as mine. I do know one thing; American employers need to acknowledge that when we are burnt out, we are not productive. In fact, we are downright unproductive at work and destructive to ourselves when we are frazzled. The standard of one to two weeks per year (average full time employee paid time off) is not enough time to recharge our often depleted batteries.
Another trait I see of the hard working American is finding it hard to leave your desks at 5pm and those of you that might get away on time are probably answering emails, text messages and possibly meeting clients. It doesn’t take an expert to tell you that you can only maintain that way of living in a state of constant stress and it certainly won’t be long before everything suffers. Health, relationships and work are so closely entwined, a balance must be achieved. Any doctor will tell you that rest is a necessity, not a luxury. Be kind to yourself. Make relaxation a priority and don’t let your job dictate your life after 5pm or before 8am!
Until that time comes, the most that you can do is make the very best of your time off work. Early in the work year schedule your holiday time for the forthcoming 6 months. It’s better to schedule early and have to change when necessary, but if you don't schedule well in advance and someone else takes the only week that you can take with your partner or the kids, then you're going to be quite upset! The other advantage to making arrangements well in advance is that there’s just less chance that things can go wrong at the last minute! With that said, some of my favorite vacations were thrown together at the eleventh hour.
Whatever you decide to do, be it negotiating extra vacation time with your employer or really finding the best way to relax in a short period of time, I hope you do take the time to make some change and reap the benefits of time away from work with yourself or your loved ones. You will thank yourself for it!
Peace, love and relaxation my friends! Thank you for reading.