If you’ve ever come back from vacation to overflowing email or a stack of mail and other documents on your desk, you might understand why half of Americans don’t take all the time off their employers offer.
Multiple studies in recent years have shown that many Americans let vacation days go unused, and some say it’s because they’re being afraid they’ll return to a mountain of work or will fall behind on goals. Those who do take vacation often don’t disconnect completely, keeping one eye on their emails and responding to those they deem critical. Aside from the fears of unpleasant repercussions, some think declining to take time off demonstrates dedication to their jobs.
Not all U.S. workers even get vacation time, unlike in some countries where time off is mandated. According to a recent MarketWatch article, “Workers in the European Union are legally guaranteed at least 20 paid vacation days a year — and 25 or even 30 days a year in some European countries.” Workers in Australia and Brazil get four to five weeks off. In China, workers are guaranteed at least one or two weeks off, but almost three-quarters of them haven’t taken a vacation in at least three years, according to a report by the state news agency.
Some companies are taking a new approach, allowing employees unlimited vacation time, as long as they’re present for big project deliverables. While the unlimited plan might not work for many businesses, one executive recently told Forbes magazine why his Seattle software firm insists that employees do take time off.
“People are more productive when they’re able to work in a long term, sustainable way,” says Noah Callaway, co-founder and partner of Apsis Labs. “Giving people the time to take breaks and get separation from their company and mentally recharge helps them when they come back to be productive and focused.”
It reminds me of the story productivity guru Stephen Covey tells about a hiker who comes across a lumberjack trying to cut down a tree. Try as he might, the lumberjack isn’t making any progress. The hiker points out that the saw appears to be dull, and suggests the lumberjack might do better if he stops to sharpen his saw. “I don’t have time for that,” the lumberjack replies. “I have to keep sawing or I’ll never get through this tree.”
Covey takes the concept of sharpening the saw further, in his well-known book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:
Sharpen the Saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have — you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual. Here are some examples of activities:
· Physical: Beneficial eating, exercising, and resting
· Social/Emotional: Making social and meaningful connections with others
· Mental: Learning, reading, writing, and teaching
· Spiritual: Spending time in nature, expanding spiritual self through meditation, music, art, prayer, or service
It may be easier to just keep sawing, but if you don’t take time off at least a couple of times a year to be with family and friends, to travel, or to pursue a favorite pastime, you’re not doing yourself or your employer any favors. Each of your FAA staff members did just that over the summer, and came back energized and ready to bring you the best possible learning and networking at the 2017 FAA Annual Conference & Trade Show. We look forward to seeing you there.