By: Beth Slagle
Do you suffer from vacation guilt syndrome? Any type A personality knows what I’m talking about — feeling guilty for leaving work to take a vacation. Having just come back from a week long trip to Ireland and Spain, where the nonstop blackberry messages told the tale of mini explosions, I questioned whether it was worth it as the guilt pangs sharpened with each “ding” of a new message. I found it difficult to enjoy even a delightful lunch of fish & chips while stressing as the emails poured in. Horrified to look; horrified to not. I’m a 24/7 blackberry girl, and it takes a toll, which will be an excellent article for another day.
United States employees don’t take a lot of time off. Perhaps that’s why we stress while on vacation — we’re just not used to doing anything other than working. And that makes sense. You can’t work like crazy for 50 weeks out of the year and then automatically turn the “work switch” off when you leave for a few days.
On average, the United States affords significantly less vacation time to employees in comparison to other nations in the world. Most U.S. based companies give a standard two weeks of paid vacation, whereas most European countries start at four.
A survey by Expedia.com revealed that the U.S. is dismally at the bottom of the list when it comes to average vacation days received.
USA – 13
Japan – 15
Canada – 19
Australia – 19
New Zealand – 21
Great Britain – 26
Germany – 27
Austria – 27
Spain – 30
Italy – 31
France – 38
The Expedia.com survey also revealed that a full 34% of U.S. workers don’t use all their allotted vacation time, leaving on the table an average of three days off per year. 24% of people on vacation check their voicemail and emails, and about 30% often have trouble coping with stress from work at some point during their time away. 19% report that they’ve cancelled or postponed vacations because of work.
What does this tell us? Well — pretty simple — we’re just not great at taking vacations and prying ourselves away from the stronghold of work.
We need to change that because we deserve to enjoy life, time away from the office, our toes in the sand and a delightful lunch of fish & chips.
Some tips to make your vacation stress free (who am I kidding?) — rather, less stressful:
- Schedule your vacation well in advance and give everyone plenty of notice that you’ll be away — your boss, clients, colleagues. Also remind them 2 weeks before your vacation that you’ll be away and remind them AGAIN 1 week prior to your departure.
- If you’re the boss at work, create the team at work and empower them to handle any matters that arise while you’re away.
- If you know that a big project is due or it’s a huge crunch time during a particular week or weeks — make it easy on yourself and your colleagues — don’t plan your vacation during that time.
- Before heading out on vacation, wrap up all loose ends and inform a trusted colleague of the status of any matters that you think may be problematic while you’re away.
- Try to “unplug” while you’re away — no computer, blackberry or cell phone. If you’re required to check in or have a serious addiction to your gadgetry — set a particular time per day that you’ll check and catch up and then “unplug” again.
The bottom line is we need to enjoy ourselves. It’s a no brainer that vacations are meant to be relaxing and rejuvenating, and there’s no reason to be robbed of that time when others are capable of pinch hitting while you’re away. I’ve always said that if you can replace the President every four years, none of us are indispensable. So, enjoy yourself, try to unplug, relax and rejuvenate. And I will try to do the same.