Why aren’t you taking your vacation days, Minnesota?
The Star Tribune reports on a developing cultural trend among us — working when we should be vacationing.
“It was a bittersweet kind of deal,” Brett Mathiowetz said of his three-week trip to Guatamala last year. “Whenever I take time off, it’s hard not to feel like I’m just abandoning the company and my responsibilities.”
So this year he didn’t take any time off.
The average American only gets about 10 days of paid vacation if they get vacation at all. For many, it’s a use-it-or-lose-it proposition and as 2014 is in its final days, many are willing to lose the vacation time.
What’s wrong with us?
Some workers get signals from their supervisors that a break would be unwelcome. The No. 1 reason people say they don’t use their vacation time is that their “work schedule does not allow for it,” according to a recent survey from travel booking site Expedia.
“This data seems to say more about employees’ bosses than employees themselves,” said Expedia spokeswoman Sarah Gavin.
But much of the time, the decision to skip out on vacation is self-imposed — a psychological legacy, perhaps, of the economic recession.
“You’re afraid of missing out, of stepping away, that somehow that’s going to weaken your position,” said Anne Weisberg, senior vice president of the Families & Work Institute, a research group. “You’re afraid to take a break, even when taking a break makes you more productive.”
That fear includes what might happen when one returns from vacation, namely the deluge of e-mails and other backlogged work that await people’s return.
CNBC reported in October that unused vacation time is at an all-time high. That means we’re leaving about $52 billion worth of benefits on the table.
But working more also makes people more money, a University of North Carolina study says. Researchers said working 47 hours a week on average results in about a 1 percent increase in pay.
The same dynamic is why your workplace is full of wheezing, coughing people today, writes Daniel Engber in today’s New York Times.
If overwork can be taken as a sickness in itself, then America is a bastion of infirmity. We clock in some 1,788 hours a year, 120 more than our counterparts in Britain, 300 more than our counterparts in France and 400 more than our counterparts in Germany. (Workaholism is most acute among people with at least a college education — i.e., the office type.) America, notoriously, does not require employers to offer paid sick leave. Employers grant new employees just eight sick days, on average, down 20 percent since 1993, and that’s only what we have on paper.
n other words, the American workplace has gotten tangled up in endless searches for a dose of extra credit. Since we’re all in competition — if I slow down, you get ahead — no one has an incentive to untie the knot. When we see a colleague with a runny nose, it only makes that conflict more explicit. We act as if we’re worried for his health, or troubled that his work-life balance might be out of whack, but in truth we’re just as driven by the mania for overwork. We’d prefer for him to take his sick days now only so that we won’t have to, down the line.
Engber says the person who works while sick is still getting more done than you are if you stay home in the interest of protecting the workplace.
No pressure, though.