Work-Life Balance: When Did a Vacation Become Un-American?
CNN Money recently dubbed America “no vacation nation” after a study by Harris Interactive for JetBlue found that about 57 percent of working Americans had unused vacation time at the end of 2011. The average number of leftover days among these employees was 11.
Without laws that require companies to offer paid vacation time to employees, the U.S. already lags behind most other developed nations in time off. (Workers in the United Kingdom are guaranteed at least 28 vacation days.) So why do American workers waste the precious few days they are given? Reasons can include:
- Too much work to do
- Too difficult to catch up upon return
- Office culture
- Fear for job in a tough economy
- Not enough money to travel
But workers who neglect their entitled benefit may want to reconsider, even if just to spend the day with a good book. The rejuvenation that comes from a mental and physical break from the workplace may actually make you a more productive employee in the long-run.
Unsure how to approach your boss about vacation time? Joseph Grenny, co-author of the New York Times bestseller Crucial Conversations, offers these suggestions:
- Ask for what you really want. If you understate the importance of your vacation, you can’t blame your boss for giving a lukewarm approval. If you fail to express your wants candidly, you are part of the problem.
- Define: Vacation [vey-key-shuhn]. Talk about what it truly means to take time off. If you are required to take the office with you in the form of emails and conference calls, you never truly leave the office.
- Be inflexibly supportive. When asking for time off, be clear about what is negotiable and what is not. If the timing of your vacation is flexible, say so. But if the amount of uninterrupted time you want off is not, make that clear as well. Be willing to do all you can for the boss and the company short of compromising vacation goals.
- Maintain boundaries. After getting agreement to your vacation plans, be prepared for niggling encroachments. At the first sign of infringement, hold others accountable to the commitments they made while being “inflexibly supportive” of their needs and concerns.