No vacation nation”—and it’s about what you think it’s about. We American workers are starved for vacation. Our European counterparts laugh at our lack of vacation time and travel plans."/>

All I want for Christmas is a vacation

By Kathryn Mayer


I’ve had a pretty enjoyable weekend. It’s the perfect kind of Christmas-themed weekend I like to have this time of year. It’s involved some corny Christmas movies (like one involving Tim Allen in his finest role to date), Christmas music, Christmas shopping, Christmas cookies and a Christmas party.

I’ve actually just returned home from my friends’ party (yes, it’s a Sunday night—haven’t you heard that schedules around Christmas are tough?), and what did I do? Not cozy up in bed to read the book I’m eager to continue. I opened my laptop to do some work. For all you eager fans out there, I have to hit my Monday morning deadline. (Am I writing this while wearing a sweater with a giant Santa Claus on it that jingles when I walk? Why, yes I am.)

All evening I wasn’t thinking about how much I enjoyed my time I was spending with my friends—I was thinking about the blog I needed to write, the meeting I have scheduled tomorrow and all the other various work I have to do this week.

Suffice to say, I could use a vacation.

Work’s been busy recently—too busy. We’re short-staffed and have had to finish (and I suppose begin) three magazines in a short period of time due to the holiday schedule. I’m launching two new newsletters, have to learn a new web system to create them on, and of course, write and edit—a lot.

I know, of course, I’m not alone. We’re all busy at work—and it’s the holiday season, which launches all new sorts of timing issues and commitments.

I recently wrote a story called “No vacation nation”—and it’s about what you think it’s about. We American workers are starved for vacation. Our European counterparts laugh at our lack of vacation time and travel plans.

But the story has an uplifting aspect: It focuses on some employers who are embracing nontraditional time off for their employees. More companies are thinking more vacation when they think about benefits. Some offer unlimited vacation time; some force their employees to take weeks at a time off; some force them not to check in with work at all during their off time; and some even fund their employees’ vacation.

It’s an easy concept to understand: It’s a way to instantly boost morale without any extra cost. Employees who take vacation are less stressed out, they’re happier and healthier. Plus, by taking days off, employees actually are doing their employer a favor. Stressed-out workers are twice as likely to leave their job as workers who aren’t stressed.

But speaking to John de Graaf, who runs Take Back Your Time, a group promoting worker protections in the United States and Canada, he laid it out on the line: These are wonderful examples, he told me, but they’re very few and far between. He’s actually seeing far more of the opposite. In the economic warzone we’re experiencing, more employers are actually stripping people of the benefits and time off they already have.

And if that’s not enough, the United States stands alone among industrial nations in providing no legal guarantees of time off or holiday pay—not even for Thanksgiving or Christmas, de Graaf says. Talk about holiday blues.

Vacation, and simply time spent away from work, is vital—so vital it seems ridiculous to even argue about. Though it sometimes seems impossible to spend time away from work, we just have to. Because at the very least, not doing so isn’t doing anything to help our health.

And if you’re an employer, please consider revisiting your vacation policy because without doing so, all you will ensure is a bunch of disgruntled workers.

As for me, I’m about to swallow up the remaining hours of my sick and vacation time (I just love PTO) during a long weekend to Boston this week. And considering I’m paying for this little getaway out of my own pocket (no thanks to my employer), I surely will do my best not to contact work, not to check my work email and not to even think about work. And if you think I’ll be writing a blog while I’m gone, think again. There’s a much better chance of me wearing this sweater again.

Originally published on BenefitsPro.com