Vacation Facts and Figures

Now that the summer has come to a close (I say this as it’s been barely hitting 60 degrees and raining in Providence), do you still think about vacation? Are you a summer only type of traveler?

What happens come winter and fall, are vacation days left on the table?

Where I work we operate on a July to June fiscal year. But, we are allowed to carry over 5 vacation days to December. Come January 1st, if you haven’t used those 5 carry over days, they are gone.

Last year, many people in my office were scrambling come December, taking days off here and there, and being resigned to the fact that they would lose vacation days.

This concept baffles me. Sure, at my job we are lucky in that we get a lot of vacation. But, just letting days go is something that I just can’t get my head around.

When I asked a few people (both co-workers and friends in other jobs) why they had vacation days left the answers varied: lack of funds, no where to go, no one to go anywhere with, worried that if they take vacation it will look bad, worried that during a re-organization they shouldn’t take vacation, a lot of static on taking vacation from managers, feeling guilty about taking vacation, not being able to ‘unplug’ from work while on vacation so what’s the point, trying to get a promotion, etc.

Do you spend more time here than home?

I don’t like any of these reasons. People say, Americans work a lot, but we have the best and most productive workers. Do we? Or do we have some of the most burnt out, guilty feeling workers?

I won’t pontificate on my feelings too much here, but when I saw this post by Fareed Zakaria on CNN.com earlier in the week it once again struck me the amount of people who don’t take vacation, and more and more the reasons why.

In it, he writes the following:

The consulting firm Ipsos gives us numbers on the percentage of paid vacation days that were used up by the end of the year. The French predictably lead the pack, taking 89% of their vacations days. But Germany, which is growing briskly, takes 75%. Indonesia, which has been booming, takes 70%. And the U.S. – just 57% – and it has fewer paid vacation days than almost all major countries. But even with those 13 days off, only 57 percent of Americans take them all.

The comments on the story basically echoed those above in my informal poll.

Could it be that culturally Americans don’t value time off? Are we a nation that perceives those who take all their days of vacation as weak employees or un-motivated workers? Because I take vacation do I have to worry about losing my job when I return?

In my view, these are all major problems. But, unfortunately, I don’t see a solution anytime soon. With the economy in a virtual standstill and millions of Americans who want to work unable to find jobs, my prediction is that this phenomenon will only get worse before it gets better, if of course, it gets better at all.

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