Are you working too much?

my cubical
Image by Vik-Thor via Flickr

“In 2013, Americans only used 10 out of 14 vacation days, leaving more than 577 million days untouched, according to an Expedia survey of 8,535 people across 24 countries. That’s more than twice as many as the year before,” writes Lauren Davidson in Quartz.

What’s their excuse? More than a third of Americans said they had to push off planned vacations due to unforeseen work, while around a quarter claimed to be saving up their allotted holiday for a big trip in the future. They can’t blame their offices, though: the survey found that 76% of bosses in the US are supportive of their employees taking time off, compared to the global average of 65%.

Today’s Question: Are you working too much?

  • Jim G

    The Bosses say they support employees taking their earned vacation days, but they don’t back it up with deeds. They have reduced employees, and expanded job descriptions. When returning from vacations employees are rewarded with a pile of accumulated work and must work even more hours to catch up. The solution is to hire more employees and spread the profits around to people who need it and will use it to spur growth in the perpetually underperforming labor sector of the economy.

    • Ralfy

      I would also add that there is frequently an expectation that the employee on vacation take a lap-top, check and respond to email and phone mail. In reality it’s not a vacation, it’s just working out of the office.
      The skinny workforce (I work for a very large corporation, but I am the lone employee left of a one-time team of 8) means there is no one to pick up when I’m out.

      • JQP

        I work for a company of roughly 5000 staff in a tech support, development and testing unit of 8 people. It’s comprised of 3 former units that used to have 28 employees. We have 11 new applications for a total of 32 that we now “manage”. these are separate and unique applications with separate servers, databases, user groups and service requirements and access rights.
        We’ve hired consultants – but all they know is the technology – not the business – so they end up providing cute solutions the infuriate the business staff and eventually management. We wind up “fixing” the mess that the consultants leave – which is more work.

        Management needs to understand that stock holders are not their most critical concern – now. if they continue to under-invest in coherent, well run, well organized business staff and processes … they’ll have nothing to show the stock holders in about 5- years and will lose the ability to be “agile/nimble” in a marketplace.

        Maintain the business engine … or the next time you hit the accelerator … all you’ll hear is … silence.

  • Heather

    I’ll be rolling 6 days of PTO over into next year….this was my first year on the job. I used less than half of the “vacation” allotment. This is partially because I have taken on quite a few duties that were not part of the job description, but also because we now have more “bosses” being out of the office more hours a week. They may be working, but they can’t answer incoming phone calls on all 4 lines from their cell phones.

    • Jim G

      Bosses like PTO. It saves them money. They count on responsible employees to save their hours for later. However, later never comes. Then when this accumulation becomes an issue, a policy is written that announces employees cannot accumulate over “X” amount of hours. Suddenly, employees over that amount lose it. These policies affect employers’ most responsible and profitable employees.

      • Sue de Nim

        …which then fuels resentment by those “most responsible” employees against those who do manage to use PTO, which then creates peer pressure not to use it.

        • Jim G

          I accumulated 180 days of PTO and then retired. I think I’ll use one of the accumulated PTO days today. I am “off” to my volunteer job. Have a good morning, Sue de Nim.

  • Scott44

    Sort of a funny question. This year I took a whole week off from work!! The first time in about 5 years that I have taken more thenn a couple days at a time. Where I work we had 4 engineering techs when I started, me being the 4th, now we are down to 2. During the winter months i work 40 hours a week but during construction time I have worked up to 16 hour days.
    Jim G, I agree with you, my boss says use your vacation time, it is for you to use and relax. But I had to pull teeth to get a week off during the “Down” time.

  • Jenn

    I’m saving my vacation from this year for when baby arrives next year, so I can extend my maternity leave.

  • Rich in Duluth

    I’m recently retired and glad to be out of the rat race. I was an engineering tech for 47 years. When I started, there were 3 or 4 guys on the survey crew and we had 3 or 4 draftsmen drawing plans for 3 engineers. When I retired, last year, the survey “crew” was one guy with a $50,000 “robot” and I was the only draftsman in the office drawing plans for 3 engineers.

    Company policy was, officially, “family friendly”, and encouraged time off. However, we were kept informed of our “utilization rates” which showed how many hours we spent working on billable projects. There was pressure to be fully utilized. In addition, hours per project was set by the boss and seldom was enough to do all of the work, so there was always pressure to work harder. Quality of work deteriorated. My boss always said I could take my vacation as long as my work was done. Catch-22…

  • PaulJ

    If I don’t work too much [regardless if it makes Jack a dull boy (which it does)], they’ll off shore my paycheck. On the other hand, low interest rates demonstrate that there’s little competition for capital. It sort of makes you wonder who is setting up the system.

  • david

    I haven’t taken more then a day or two off for vacation since 2006. Since then I’ve had to use any vacation days for temporary shutdowns or cancer surgery.

  • Adam

    I recently moved to Hawaii to volunteer on a coffee farm in exchange for room and board (and trips around the island).

    Though my former employer “encouraged” time off, a luxury often used in full by the executive team, the reality of my job was prohibitive to vacations. It ended up being more work to prepare to take time off and reconcile whatever went wrong in my absence, and I was frequently phoned while away to boot.

  • Rick Ellis

    I work for myself as well as do freelance writing and the answer is “Yes, of course I work too much.” Generally a full-time work day and more hours after my wife and son have went to sleep. Last night I worked until 3:30 am and was back up with my son at 7. But I like this scenario better than the alternative.

  • John

    Shame on us all! We’re all workaholics. And if anyone takes their full vacation without laptop, email and cell phone, a different workaholic shows up wanting our job. Europeans all have “holiday” for a full month in the summer. They have it figured out better than we do.