Do you know where your vacation days are? If you're like many Americans,
you've allowed unused time off to either collect dust in your employer's file
cabinet, to roll over until next year, or to disappear into a black hole.
Or you might have already made your escape earlier in the year, but you
squandered some of it checking work email, voicemail, or fielding job-related
The good news is that you've got plenty of company. A 2006 Expedia.com
survey revealed that 23% of Americans have checked work email or voice mail
while on vacation. The survey also showed that one-third of U.S. adults do not
always take all their vacation days.
The bad news: You join many hardworking and vacation-deprived Americans who
experience burnout, reduced productivity, diminished creativity, failed
relationships, stress, or stress-related
ailments such as depression, heart
disease, or stomach ulcers.
In the U.S. the growing demand for more work hours and the corresponding
loss of leisure time in the last two decades is a big crisis, says John Weaver,
PsyD, a psychologist and owner of Psychology for Business, a workplace
consulting firm based in Brookfield, Wis.
"People are staying at work longer to get ahead more," says Weaver. "To a
large degree, there's been an expectation by business owners that this is, in
fact, the way that it should be, rather than looking at it and saying that this
is somehow out of balance."
Weaver and a few other mental healthmental health, travel, and career experts talked
with WebMD, sharing their thoughts about the state of work and vacation time in
the U.S. They explained the consequences of having so little time off and gave
eight tips for workers in need of a break.
Compared with other industrialized nations, the U.S. is known to be stingy
with vacation time for workers. According to Expedia.com, Americans receive an
average of 14 vacation days per year, while the citizens of Canada get 19 days,
Great Britain 24, France 39, Germany 27, and Australia 17.
To make things worse, the Expedia survey found that, on average, Americans
did not use four days of their vacation time, giving an estimated $76 billion
back to their employers.
The top three reasons why survey respondents did not fully use vacation days
were as follows:
They needed to schedule vacation time in advance (14%)
They were too busy at work to get away (11%)
They got money back for unused vacation days (10%)
Another analysis showed other reasons for reluctance to take time off. A
2006 CareerBuilder.com survey reported that 16% of workers feel guilty about
missing work while on vacation, and 7% actually fear that time off could lead
Technological advances, the transient job market, competition, and
globalization have made people seem dispensable in today's corporate world.
Weaver says people want to work more in order to prove their effectiveness.