Summer is in full swing. Some days it leaves us running from A/C to A/C, other days we roll the windows down and let the breeze fill the car. We breathe a sigh of relief when we take the accidental turn to go by the neighborhood grade school and remember that there won’t be a crossing guard and kids clogging traffic. Then we think back to our days in school and reminisce on one big difference: we no longer get three months off from our regular gig. Instead, if we’re lucky, we have paid time off (PTO) or vacation days that allow us a brief respite from the daily grind.
The average amount of vacation taken by Americans in 2015 was 16.2 days. That number sounds ok; it allows for a little more than two weeks of R & R. Does anyone want to guess the average number of vacation days that Americans took from 1976 – 2000? 20.3 Days. We have developed into a society that has given up almost an entire week of time off. That’s valuable time we could be spending with family and friends, exploring someplace new, or experiencing a different culture on the other side of the globe. Vacation is something that is critical in our lives and we should be taking advantage of every single day.
A study by Project Time Off gives us some possible explanations for this decline, one of which is the improvement of technology. The more ways one is accessible, the less that person is truly on vacation. How long has it been since you took a trip and not checked email at least once? Our culture has turned into one that expects instant results, and that is thanks in large part to technology. Email, texting and calling on cell phones, and the ability to remotely access your system all make it difficult for us to disconnect and fully enjoy the value of a vacation. Customers, clients and coworkers have been conditioned to expect a speedy and well thought-out response, and if this is not achieved then it can create trouble down the line.
You also see people taking less time because they think it will give them a negative image at the office, or they have too much work to do, or they don’t want to be swamped when they come back. If this is true at your office or business, it may be time to rethink how vacation is handled, and the small tweaks that you can do to make vacation easier to both enjoy and handle on the home front. Plan ahead and set time aside to go over the vacationer’s work and responsibilities so you can delegate and keep the ball rolling. Communicate with those outside of the company who may be impacted. During busy vacation times, you could choose to close the office so everyone gets the break.
A break, or mental refresh, is critical to job performance. PTO is how businesses avoid burn-out among their employees. Employees will be more productive, and it’s a step toward effective work-life integration. Home life and work life should not be at odds with each other; they should coexist in a way that supports success in both areas.
Allow your employees and coworkers to take time away from the often toxic workaholic culture that’s prevalent among the American workforce. Prioritize time off for the entire team. The best way to effect change is to be the change that you want to see. So enjoy your summer fully, and use your time off.
Kevin Rasp began his HR consulting career with MCM in 2014. In his role as associate, Kevin assists the HR consulting team with employee handbooks, HR policies, and assessment services.
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American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
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