Benefits

See You in a Month: Why Americans Need to Get Serious About Vacations

Photo illustration by istockphoto.com

“See you in a month!”

I was told that by one of our executives as he stopped by HR to complete paperwork for his impending 30-day vacation. My thought was: what would it be like to take an entire month at one time for vacation?

I told him jokingly that I would not know what to do with myself if I had a WHOLE month off. He admonished me and told me that vacation is for rest and relaxation.

Another culture difference

His comment to me was that Americans have the wrong concept of vacation. “You guys take a week here, a few days there, a long weekend.” As he said this, I knew that he was telling the truth. As a matter of fact, he was talking about me.

I have never in my working life taken more than a week at one time. My wife and I would always joke, back when we would go to Europe every year, that we would always promise ourselves that next year we would stay for two weeks. The reason was that as soon as we were beginning to relax, it was time to prepare to go back home.

I have noticed that here in Saudi Arabia, every vacation request is basically for one month. However, the Americans that work here are still the same — they take just one week.

I did it myself when I took a week recently and went back to the States. I had one day travel home, five days of R&R, and another travel day returning (18 hours of flight). I felt like I needed another vacation after I arrived back in Saudi Arabia at midnight and drove home.

The end of day is end of day

When the workday ends, everybody leaves on time with the exception of us (the Americans). We tend to be the last to leave. When I arrive at my desk at 7 am (start time is 8:30), again, our cars are the only ones in the parking lot. My team members (about 20 people) basically come in very close to 8:30, and they leave on time (for the most part) at the end of the day.

Does productivity suffer? There is no discernible difference in productivity. Everybody works extremely hard but they are on top of their business. When lunch times rolls around, they all get up and go out to lunch. I have never seen anyone sit at their desk and eat lunch.

According to Expedia’s Vacation Deprivation Index, some cultures treat the concept of vacations totally different.

They do vacations differently outside the U.S.

Although I am stationed in the Middle East, I feel that the culture here looks at vacation through the eyes of the European. According to this study, Europeans treat vacation as a duty rather than a perk.

Most European workers have between 25 and 30 days of vacation time available to them each year, in addition to state and religious holidays. Workers in France and Spain report taking the full 30 vacation days off, as do their peers in Brazil. Germans take 28 of a possible 30 days off, while British, Norwegian and Swedish workers take all 25 days they’re given.

I asked one of our workers who had just come back from his home country (Turkey) what he did with all this time. His answers was simple: He spent it all with his family. Did you every check your email or call back to office while you were out? Never, he replied — I was on vacation. “I left my No. 2 in charge and he knew what to do. Outside of a huge disaster, he knew that he was not to call.”

I recalled a time when I was in Paris and the apartment that we rented did not have a strong Internet signal. So I woke early one morning, walked over to the Internet cafe, and logged into work to check and respond to email. When I arrived back home, my wife inquired where I was and I told her what I did. The look on her face told me that I was not supposed to do that again.

Would you feel comfortable being away?

There is really no such thing as rollover vacation days into the next year. Yes, it is on the books here that you can carry over five (5), but I checked and the only people that used that option were — you guessed it — the Americans.

Are we afraid of time or is it our jobs we are afraid of? Are our bosses that demanding that they make you feel that you have to stay in touch?

I have even heard it said that some people find vacations stressful. Yes, someone did tell me that. They felt that it was too much stress at work that caused them to toss and turn throughout that week that they were “off.” They could never relax.

Are we afraid of vacations, or time off?

When we do decide to take vacation time and go home, we’re excited and looking forward to relaxing and getting refreshed. On the other hand, we know that vacation could throw us off kilter because our routine has been disrupted.

In a lot of cases, we simply have not learned how to relax and just let go. We begin the worrying while going to the airport or driving to our destination. It seems our mind goes into warp speed conjuring up every possible stress or scenario. The stress levels for many start on the day we walk out of work and into the bliss of a “relaxed vacation.”

Then there are the technology tentacles, whether it is a smartphone, a tablet, text messaging or email, which makes it extremely hard to disengage completely. All this makes it hard to reach for the on-off switch, because it’s actually more like a dimmer.

“We have it covered”

One of the other differences that I have noticed in Saudi Arabia is that people aren’t tied to mobile technology. The company does not offer devices, and you know what? Everyone collaborates just fine.

During my recent week back in the States, I called back into work and spoke to my assistant. “How are things going, was there anything that I should know?

His answer said it all: “Ron, you are on vacation. Why are you calling here? Go back to vacation; we have it covered.”

As I hung up, I thought, yeah, I like this.

Ron Thomas is a Chief Human Resource & Administrative Officer currently based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He formerly was Director, Talent and Human Resources Solutions at Buck Consultants (a Xerox Company) and is certified by the Human Capital Institute as a Master Human Capital Strategist (MHCS) and Strategic Workforce Planner (SWP). He's also worked in senior HR roles with Martha Stewart Living and IBM. Ron serves on the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy. He also serves as a Faculty Partner and Executive Facilitator at the Human Capital Institute. He has received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence by the World Human Resource Development Congress in Mumbai. Contact him at ronaldtthomas@gmail.com, or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Ronald_thomas.
  • Jim Gallic

    Ron, excellent post especially as people are in the final stages of summer “vacation” mode. As a newer Buck employee (saw you were once one as well), I am pleasantly suprised at the approach they take towards work/life balance. The culture of the organization is built around ensuring that people are working at their optimal levels which includes taking time to vacation, relax and learn. I have worked at other places that only provided lip service but punished those who tried to get away from the office. It doesn’t make for a productive workforce.
    Thank you for pushing the message around what really matters in life.

  • http://www.victoriomilian.com/ Victorio_M

    I wrote a similar blog post a few years ago, challenging the assumption that PTO (vacation included) should be left to companies (http://www.victoriomilian.com/2012/11/pto-in-america-sucks.html). The argument was that if it was legally mandated then companies would lose flexibility (and possibly $$). It’s a shame that the idea of taking time time off (whether for health or for pleasure) is foreign to most Americans.

    Also, I wonder how much of that has to do with the fact that in most other countries, employment contracts (as opposed to at-will employment) is the norm?

    • Michael G

      On the nose Victorio. Plus, we Americans worry that someone will realize we are not really needed and will be asked to just stay on vacation. Yes, we have it all wrong. Companies over here do NOT value employees. A little turn and burn is HEALTHY.

      • Lisa S

        Exactly. If the company learns that all
        is fine while you are on vacation, they realize they don’t need you anymore.

        • Bruno R.

          If the worker bees stop working there will be no honey. Henry Ford once said “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business”: You will see the companies survive that value their employees and don’t confuse them with robots or think of the employee as a disposable item.

        • Michael G

          Correct. Whether it is real or just perceived….we feel it to be true…corporate America…gees.

    • paulv

      I tend to agree with Victorio, that the lack of employment contracts has something to do with the short vacations we take here in the USA. Having lived in Chile for 5 years, I noticed how employees took a month off for vacation, when I mentioned this to my friends here in the USA, they started with the argument that it must be a socialist system, and at such it couldn’t be productive.
      I found the system to be more “human” the same goes for maternity leave before and after for both parents.

      • Susha

        Yeap, I’m from Russia and our women stay home for up to 3 years with the babies and government pays for that. They are not scared to loose their job, they are scared to leave their kids at home with a stranger at such a young age.

        • kidfas

          My wife will take living in the US and her 8 weeks of maternity leave over living in Russia any day, no offense to your country intended.

          • RussianNot

            Americans live to work and other work to live is all I can tell you sir! I love this country and I would die for it, but it’s the truth. Russians figured out how to respectfully treat a new mom. We have not. On a contrary. We are far from it. Cultural norms play a role too, whether you like it here or in Russia.

          • Alex Cohn

            Paid maternity leave in Russia is 70 days after birth (plus same before birth), followed by partially paid leave for up to 18 months, followed by unpaid 18 months. Women are “respectfully” pushed away from work, because there are no affordable & acceptable arrangements for kids under 3 y.o. I’d suggest that you look for some other country as an example. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parental_leave#Benefits_in_a_selection_of_countries

          • Fromrussiawithlove

            I’m from the UK and working in Russia on an expat contract, working conditions here are much more favourable than other countries I’ve worked in (China, KSA, France, UK), an example being that woman aren’t forced to return to work after giving birth, they can take upto 3yrs to care for their children, then return. Additionally, vacation here is exactly that, vacation! Time away from the workplace, without dialling the office or checking emails each day. In simple terms, if you were to leave your current job, is the company going to shut down? It’s highly unlikely, so don’t be your own worst enemy, take the time to relax with family, you’ve earned it. I take a minimum two week break when going on vacation, partly this is due to having 45 days + public holidays a year, but mainly because 2weeks is what you need to fully relax when returning from the likes of eastern Russia to the UK or when heading to Thailand, etc.

            For those of you that wake-up in the morning and the first thing you do is read your emails, try getting up and ignoring all office communication until you actually get to the office, spend those 5-10mins over breakfast with your partner, wife, kids etc. as that’s quality time which can’t be bought! And, before you no it, you’ll have lost those moments in life to do such as the kids will have up and gone…

            Have a good one!

          • Jordan

            You no it!

        • Yomi

          Makes a lot of sense. doesn’t it? why is this not true for every country

    • HRgeek

      It is the fear to lose the job, the at-will employment, the lack of protection and the misconception that regulation would reduce employment BUT the same American corporations are investing heavily in countries with very strict labor regulations…and still making huge profit. The difference? in those countries employees are protected so they can work to live and not live to work; they can take time off, mothers can go on maternity leave, people is allowed to get sick, and family time!!

  • Tim D Gamer

    How much of our “fear of vacation” stems from the problems in our current economy? I think that many Americans feel that, if they take time off, they are falling behind, that it somehow comes off that they aren’t as dedicated to their job as someone else could be. Many people are extremely desperate for work, or desperately holding on to their current job out of fear for being replaced, how does that factor in? I would love to see time off statistics from other eras to get a sense of how usage differs in strong and weak economies.

    • http://www.jeromepineau.com/ JeromePineau

      Nah. It’s always been like that. Nothing to do with current “economy” or lack thereof :)

    • Scott Boren

      I agree with the statement about the economy. On top of that going somewhere for vacation (beach, skiing, travel to another country) also costs money. I have never been in a position to pay for 3-4 weeks of vacation.

      • nanheyangrouchuan

        Well, in American, it takes you 15 years to accumulate that much vacation.

        • Jeff

          Take the point, but I work for a large corp in NYC we get 3 weeks plus 1 week of personal Basically 4 weeks paid leave from the first day of work……

          • nanheyangrouchuan

            Is that PTO, which would include any payable sick days? Or pure vacation?

    • Arnobio

      Very little. Though there is likely some variance following business cycles, this phenomenon of American workers taking little vacation has been historically true for a long time now.

      Here are articles and research about it on pre-crisis times (up until 2007 – what was then considered a booming economy):

      http://www.law.harvard.edu/programs/lwp/papers/No_Holidays.pdf
      http://www.nupge.ca/news_2007/n04jy07a.htmhttp://www.reuters.com/article/2007/05/16/us-usa-vacation-idUSN1624829320070516

    • modelleader

      disagree with economy statement. i had a client/ customer a few weeks ago remark about how he couldn’t complete his work because i was taking a day off. it was a one-day vacation i took to make a 3 day weekend so i could drive to visit family. when i got back he even said about someone else on our team, “i hope he doesn’t take a vacation like you do.” he was not joking.

      i have experienced a lot of people in the american work force who complain about government officials or this person or that person taking too much time off. There is usually a derogatory tone whenever vacation is discussed in work circles and there seems to be a general belief that people who take vacation think they are better than others. there is so much guilt and shame around this country that people dont feel they can take vacation at all, so the general feeling is neither should anyone else be able to do so. its a vicious cycle.

      it’s ironic. we should be free and yet in many ways we are in more bondage than any country in the world. a mental bondage. we are slaves to the pyramids. it’s hard to break out of this cycle, but i believe we are called to do so. good article. thanks for writing it.

      we need to give each other grace or we are going to run ourselves ragged.

      • CarolynCO

        The reason I began working for myself was that my Dad was pronounced terminal and given from 2 minutes to 2 months to live. I had something like 40 some days sick time built up — although it wouldn’t have mattered had I had none, because I still would have been with my Dad — plus vacation time plus personal days.
        Every morning I went to the hospital. My attorneys knew that if he was worse they wouldn’t see me that day, otherwise they’d see me when I got there. I usually left the hospital at night and worked all night at the office. None of the attorneys had a problem with this arrangement. I was completing every piece of work.
        After a few weeks, the office manager who had a double major — business and psychology, came into my office, closed the door and told me that I needed to be at work while Dad was alive, because I was going to be taking off when he died!
        From the time Dad was diagnosed to the time he passed, was exactly 2 weeks. Needless to say, by my choice, the office manager and I parted ways with Dad’s passing.
        I’ve never regretted either spending the time with my Dad or leaving the firm and beginning my self-employment. And, btw, my husband and I always take 2-3 weeks vacation in one lump sum.

        • CarolynCO

          BTW, I am in the USA.
          To make one correction to my previous post — The office manager came into my office after a couple of days, not a couple of weeks.

        • C B Proud

          I understand that completely. My psycho boss in Point of Rocks, MD. Allowed me to take off time when my 89 yr-old Dad passed. Then when my 86 yr-old Aunt died exactly a month later, she got all mad at me about missing time. I was planning on taking one day off. Luckily, I too am self- employed. C,
          I Love being self employed

      • AbuseofPowerPolice

        Anyone who tells you that “they cannot complete their work because you are not there” really needs to question their own ability to plan and to stand on their own two feet.

        To me, its just a blame culture cop out on their part, so why do you feel you need to “manage” their ineptitude?

        • modelleader

          for now i’m just sort of caught in this culture of doing more and getting less. it’s almost like a disease where people compete with each other to see who works the most hours or who has the most frugal lifestyle. it is ingrained in the culture now. part of my problem is i dont believe i can break free of it with all the bills i have. i am putting money before life.

          i dont enjoy my bills and i rarely enjoy the things i spend “my” money on. i don’t have a family so vacations would be fine except when you dont have someone to spend it with, it’s pretty useless. the trap for me there is i cant see how a relationship with someone would make things any better either. the relationships i’ve been in have been pretty stressful. that is my problem though, not a cultural problem right?

          vacations are good. family is good. we’ll all learn one day. wish it could be a better learning environment in the meantime, but maybe conditions need to be this extreme to learn.

      • Max R

        You nailed it. It is the Puritan shaming that is in our roots that won’t allow us to enjoy vacation. I go on pretty extraordinary vacations, it’s how I balance work and life.

      • terry

        wow, you could not have said it better. I am unemployed after 29 years at a mfg co. I just knew the place would fall apart if I took any vacation, so I didn’t! The owners sold the business to another group, another state and I’m out of work. Another company 30 miies away has 5 people doing the same stuff I did. Bet they all take their vacations too. Next life (this is not a dress rehearsal, is it?) I will make sure to take all vacations due me, and long weekends, and sick days.

    • Jadzeia

      I don’t think so. It’s because we have alway had a different work ethic from many cultures, although partly due to our employers putting the pressure on us.

      However, some of us are simply workhorses.

    • vacation not a choice

      For many people, it’s not a “fear of vacation” as much as a denial of vacation. Supermicro (SMCI) is one company that denies vacation time for employees out of policy. After a year working at the SJ, CA Supermicro office, I asked my manager when I could take my days off. I had just heard that HR would no longer roll over unused days. My manager actually told me that management would prefer I not take any vacation. I was shocked when I was told management also did not want me missing any Mondays or Fridays. Even though I arrived at my desk by 7am every morning for East Coast customers, and worked through lunch, my manager would not let me leave till after 6pm. Although I put in 11 hour days, I only got paid on the 8 hr workday. After a year, I got sick and had to miss some work. They promptly laid me off disconnecting my work cell phone and took my paycheck back out of my bank account!

      • surprised too

        Did you know the head of HR at Supermicro (SMCI) is the CEO’s wife?

      • Vicki

        That’s why we have labor laws. Find yourself a labor attorney – you can’t be denied your vacation or required to work so many hours and then be laid off because of illness.

        • Daniel Grabowski

          I had people TRY hiring an attorney and bringing a complaint
          against their employer, the company had a large team of attorneys on retainer,
          they kept filing for extension after extension, when the case was heard and the
          verdict was against them they filed an appeal, after years of doing this, bankrupting
          the former employee, they closed their doors, filed bankruptcy and the
          ex-employee did not get one thin dime.

  • Matt

    spot on! Vacations are simply that, not a Hall Pass out of the Office.

  • LKirwin

    It is no secret that the U.S. does not treat employees as well as some other countries do and this is just one example. I don’t see it changing anytime soon, since the employment laws do not for the most part support employees. It will take a broad shift in the entire system to improve this picture!
    P.S. in many situations people stockpile as much of their leave as they can so that if they are laid off, they will get the extra money.

  • yshekster

    I agree with these. But I have also seen how other cultures work when they are IN the office. They really do it. They don’t check their twitter of FB. They don’t engage in mindless chatter. Could it be that we feel guilt when we are “at” work and at play? Doing neither well?

    • Noel S.

      Or do we check twitter and FB because of lack of adequate vacation time? hmmm btw I only check that on my lunch and even some peers who do dabble in “mindless chatter” get work done (some of us are great multitaskers) . At the end of the day its about productivity and time mgmt not if you stayed off social media and behaved well. If a company is able to remain productive and on top, why not reward workers with vacation time that is mandated, not simply there.

    • http://www.VincenzesLaw.com/ Brent Vincenzes

      Agreed. When I used to be an employee (as opposed to self-employed), I never understood why some of my co-workers would show up an hour early, leave an hour late, yet spend the entire day chatting away, playing games, etc… I think people do this for appearances. Typical philosophy: “I’ll be there before the boss arrives, leave after he leaves, do nothing all day, and he’ll think I’m the best employee!” Sad.

  • Andy

    Good topic, and here we need to change a mentality. What kind of vacation is that if I take a few days here and there to cut the grass ? This is why we are behind other countries in many respects. Isn’t anyone wondering why we complain about being stressed out and tired ? Anytime I took my full 3 weeks vacation at once, co-workers were giving me strange looks as if I did something wrong. If they didn’t understand the reason, I wonder what management thought. I think this is very sad and unacceptable. It’s all about the personal need and choice and nobody should judge.

  • Michael Erisman

    This really captures the different cultures across the world. As the HR leader for a multi-national company with the vast majority of our employees outside the USA, I am struck by the differences in how vacation is used. In the USA it has historically been a badge of honor to never use vacation, or check in all the time when gone. I have personally struggled with this ideology as well. I do believe that our employment at will status, and politically driven corporate cultures, does create fear that if one is gone for that long they will no longer be needed. We need a wake up call in this country on the reality that true vacations will actually help reduce burn out and increase loyalty and work ethic.

  • Kate McKinnon

    I really like this article. I know that a primary reason why people are afraid to take time off is often because “catching up” upon your return is insanely stressful. It is simply easier to stay connected when you are “away” to make your return seamless. Additionally, companies are doing more with less, which often leads to an inability to actually have someone who has the time to cover for you and give your work their full attention.
    I will admit that I took one three-week vacation in my career – to take a trip to Africa. I was unable to stay connected, and it was an unbelievable experience. Unfortunately, the thinking is often such that if you are ABLE to check-in and stay connected in some way, you should.
    Thoughtful article, and I do think that if we were able to adopt the European mentality, we would have a well-balanced, much more relaxed work force.

  • J-P Gaillard

    Ron Thomas is a Chief Human Resource & Administrative Officer
    currently based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He formerly was Director,
    Talent and Human Resources Solutions at Buck Consultants
    (a Xerox Company) and is certified by the Human Capital Institute as a
    Master Human Capital Strategist (MHCS) and Strategic Workforce Planner
    (SWP). He’s also worked in senior HR roles with Martha Stewart Living
    and IBM. Ron serves on the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council,
    McKinsey Quarterly Executive Online Panel, and HCI’s Expert Advisory
    Council on Talent Management Strategy. He also serves as a Faculty
    Partner and Executive Facilitator at the Human Capital Institute. He has
    received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence by
    the World Human Resource Development Congress in Mumbai. Contact him at
    ronaldtthomas@gmail.com, or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Ronald_thomas.

    …………………………..

    Ron, after seeing the above, I understand even better your idea to address this issue….. :-)

    JP

  • Tyler

    In USA we are usually doing the work of three people and we do fear for our jobs. Most people don’t even take 2 weeks off now just a week and constantly in touch with the office. It is sad…

    • Bruno R.

      Well have you considered asking your company to pay you for three people and give you the vacation time of three people then? I guess that would nicely add up to 4 weeks a year and enough money. It is an economic argument about vacation, but companies usually don’t look out for you when you are kaput before your “economic lifespan” as an employee.

      • brunosux

        Don’t be ridicuous, Bruno. Many people in this economy do the work of 2-3 people. If they were to complain, there are 1000′s of unemployed ready to take their place.

        • Lauren

          As a semi-recent graduate with two degrees from a top-tier university, I am one of those individuals ready to take that person’s place. It beats slaving for an hourly wage, working a full-time and part-time job, one of which is not relevant to my career goals (waitressing), for a total of 60-70 hours a week with no health, vision, or dental insurance. (And because it’s the service industry, no full weekends off.)

          I could request off for any amount of time–probably up to a month without any apparent consequences, but I have no idea how I would pay my rent, utilities, student loans, car insurance, car payment (I live in Texas, so yes, a car is necessary), etc. if I were to do so.

          And it’s not even entirely about the money. I would take a full-time job that pays lower than what I am currently bringing in just to “get my foot in the door.”

          I actually don’t agree with the U.S. perspective on vacation, but right now, starting my career is definitely more of a priority, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.

          This is the perspective of a “young person” with a multi-cultural background. I am a tri-lingual, first-generation American. Both of my parents emigrated to the U.S. from two different countries.

    • D_Jango

      Sorry, that is complete rubbish. I find that while most Americans spend most of the day in the office they tend to use up the time in meetings that they don’t really need to attend and tend to wait for higher ups to make decisions before acting. Europeans especially the Brits tend to work things out for themselves, make a decision and accept the consequences.

  • Felipe

    I’m a Brazilian, working in Brazil, in a american company and being managed by americans. It’s impressive how, after getting higher in the company, I started to feel guilty to leave on vacation. I started feeling that after looking how managers americans and non-americans look to each other when they mention they will take vacations. It’s like “you’re not dedicated enough”. Now, as a manager, I do the same! My wife hates that I need to stay, that I can’t leave, even though in Brazil it’s forbidden to accumulate 2 vacations. or to split it. I keep working harder and harder, but I don’t feel I’m delivering more.
    Your text is great and i’m going to keep it as a personal reminder.

  • Sean Traba

    It’s simple really. Most Americans live paycheck to paycheck and are in debt. When most of your income goes to a mortgage or housing, losing your job means you go homeless. So there is definitely a fear of taking too much time off. A fear that if you come back to work you may not have a job. Secondly, taking a month long vacation is very expensive – especially for those living paycheck to paycheck and have a mortgage.

    • John H

      Americans have avoided long vacations for decades (at least the 20+ years I’ve been working along side them) so it is a bit worrying that they are still in such fear of losing their jobs they cant slow down.

      This is not an effect of the recent global financial meltdown, this is something hardwired into the American mindset.

      • Sore Jei

        I worked at Supermicro for a year and my boss would never let me take time off. My boss said management preferred no one take Mondays or Fridays off whenever I would ask. Finally HR made the announcement that unused time off would not roll over. I asked my boss again for a vacation before my time expired and it was denied. My boss said management preffered to pay out my vacation and needed me at work (since I was doing the workload of 3 people). Finally I got sick. Within a couple days of being out, I was laid off. “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” I found out when they disconnected my work cell phone and took my paycheck out of my bank acount. There’s little point in seeking legal justice. Supermicro drags legal battles out for years and in any case I can’t afford a protracted legal battle.

  • Fred Bement

    You want a PIIGS economy? Provide PIIGS benefits, including 6 week vacations.

    • nanheyangrouchuan

      How about the German or Swedish economy? They are very generous with vacation and benefits and yet they are still beating the US economy, and their people are actually happy.

      • kidfas

        Our GDP per capita is heads better than France/UK and is better than Germany by a decent margin. Sweden/Norway are a different story, but they’re also a different breed of country than the rest of Europe.

        • nanheyangrouchuan

          Does our better GDP allow us to go on vacation without fear of coming home to a pink slip? No.

    • Samarkand

      Brazil seems to be doing kinda OK with a full month of vacation time (in which you get a 33% salary bonus to enjoy your vacations) plus all the national holidays plus you can take (paid) days off due to health needs as long as you bring in an official note from your Doctor. If any company can’t live for a month without one of their employees then 1) that guy deserves a major raise and 2) that company is understaffed and there’s not enough overlap and cross-training going on.

  • Hamed

    I was working for a local company that taking a month sometimes more than a month is a norm, however, a british company won an acreage and opened an office in oman, and i joined the company as the first local technical person to join the company. I spent before that 2 years with no proper vacation i.e a week or less, i seriously needed a long one and i filed a request 8 months aft joining for 1 month which was a surprise to everyone not just my manager!!
    They took tike till they realised that locals vacation is at least three weeks, anyway after long discussion i have been granted one month and i spend 25days outside the country with my family.
    I have now been relocated to UK and i find it really difficult to request more than 2 weeks !!!

    Managed to get 16 days once !!!

  • Dex H.

    It’s also very difficult to take a month off of work when the average vacation time allotted to the American worker is 14-17 days. If we take a whole week or two off we’re S.O.L. for the rest of the year. European vacation times are structured differently, providing a 4 to 6 week paid vacation program even at the entry level, making it possible to take such extended breaks.

  • Peter

    There is always that (little) fear of taking a ‘true’ vacation … solution: it primarily depends upon the corporate culture (supervisor) … what they prefer and expect …

    [An example: Once when one of my previous employer found out by accident that the total “vacation COST accrual” on the financials are in $$$ millions ... the ‘revised’ corporate culture expected everyone to regularly take all their vacations!??]

    A GREAT article, Ron!

  • Ken M.

    This author seems to be out of touch with the reality of the average American. Most Americans are barely keeping up with their monthly expenses, let alone have the resources to pay for a month-long vacation. Most Americans who are employed and are not hourly employees (which does not include paid leave or health insurance) cannot afford to take a month off from work. This is a good article for the upper-middle class, but for the majority of America who is struggling to make ends meet and pay down debts, this is unreasonable, inapplicable, and just poor advice.

    • John H

      I be wrong (as I am not the author), but I think you have missed the point here.

      A month long vacation does not mean you need to fly to the Bahamas and spend a fortune on cocktails. It is, as described in the text, time to unwind from work and get to know your family.

      Living in Europe, and running my own company, means I generally take 6 – 8 weeks completely off work each year. I trust my work colleagues to survive without me and, rather than spend a fortune on holidays, I spend the time with my family.

      All this means that when it is time to return to work, I am rested and fully recharged.

      It is a shame that America, with all its wonderful advances, doesn’t seem to be a place where its workers can enjoy themselves.

    • Matt Barr

      You’re making the inappropriate assumption that you actually need to go anywhere – that vacation needs to cost a lot of money. I have a feeling you’re the one who is out of touch with reality.

    • D Patel

      A Vacation supposed to be paid, and it doesn’t cost much to stay in home town to local activities and relax…

    • Amir

      Ken – With all due respect, tour reflection is simply not true. It is about taking time off. Stay home and still take the time off of work. That’s the whole point. We work too much and don’t take enough time for ourselves. All the best.

      • Sore Jei

        After a year of full time regular employment at Supermicro (California branch) I asked my manager when I could take my vacation days. Supermicro had just instituted the policy that unused vacation day would NOT roll over to the next year. My manager said management’s policy was they preferred me not to take a vacation. My manager also said not to take Mondays or Fridays off. Finally I got sick. Immediatey I was laid off, but I only found out about it when my work cell phone was disconnected and my paycheck was taken OUT of my bank account. I know many people in a similar situation. We cannot sue because of the cost of litigation and having no money cos of no job, but many of my friends have tried. Supermicro has dragged their legal battles out for years.

    • Pete

      In EU, your vacation time is fully paid. There is a law which guarantees each employee 20 days of paid vacation. However, some employers offer 1 week more as a benefit.

      • Bryan Schaefer

        That is the problem with the US economy. One week paid vaction is a joke. I would not work for a company that offers less than 4 weeks paid vacation. That is close to slavery in my opinion.

  • http://buddybest.tripod.com/index.html BuddyNovinski

    At my last employ, I was so busy in such an essential a job (that no one else did), that I dared not to take off more than one day at a time. In fact, in 2011, I was so overwhelmed with the doubling of my workload that I dared not take off until the end of the year when the work dropped off. My reward was a bad review — depreciated my dedication — and lately, my position eliminated. Now I’m on severance, hardly a vacation, in which I’m too busy searching for a job and training for advancement. My last real vacation was three days in Atlantic City. While I was on the Boardwalk, some kid was announcing that Elvis had died! I’d like to go back to 1977 and do it right this time!
    In answer to the question: YES! Americans do NOT take enough time off. Even after eighteen years, my last employ allowed only two weeks vacation and one week personal days. We do not realize that all that hard work just grinds us down and burns us out, even with the brainless and plateaued position I had.

  • CLWord77

    You know why rank-and-file Americans are skittish about long vacations? Because if you were to leave for a month and nothing goes wrong, your company may have just realized they can do without you entirely.

    • nanheyangrouchuan

      Even when you are on the job, you have to maximize visibility or be seen as a loafing gold brick who does the bare minimum (despite the fact that people who come to work off hours and on the weekend mostly surf the net).

  • Heather

    About 10 years ago I worked with British partners who had 5 weeks of vacation annually, 6 months of maternity/paternity leave…plus managers (and above) earned a 30 day sabbatical every 5 years. They used their time completely–and often planned vacations and time-off months in advance. They were efficient and dedicated, and I think–they had better than typical cross-training and coverage among peers. So, their approach was pretty effective. I have worked for US companies who quasi-officially forbid vacation/time-off during certain periods (like, say a span of 4 months) and required 24/7 contact info during time out of the office…it was not a selling point for new hires, nor did it make us especially successful. Though, it weirdly created a Stockholm Syndrome where peers engaged in highly-visible competitive personal time sacrifice. Ridiculous.

    • nanheyangrouchuan

      Because American companies see their rank and file as liabilities that they HAVE to pay.

      And many managers get off on watching the help fight for scraps.

      • stevec5375

        No kidding. If American corporations could replace us all with automation, they would! Frankly, at this point in my life, I would love to get out of this country and live somewhere else where they treat people like human beings instead of liabilities. Right now I’m on 5 months without a job and I’m coming to hate the USA.

  • iFixText

    Having recently returned from 7 years working and living overseas (Montenegro and Sweden), I’m finding it almost as hard to readjust to North American business culture as I did adjusting to life overseas. You’d be hard-pressed to find a Swede at their primary place of residence the entire month of July and typically the first two weeks of August. The culture is work-to-live, not vice-versa, and Sweden’s entire social system supports this ethos. It’s the way it should be :-).

    • nanheyangrouchuan

      Because American companies see their rank and file as liabilities that they HAVE to pay.

  • Amar

    But in the middle east you work six days a week and you only have one day off. That’s not too good for R&R now, is it?

  • Sharon Walker

    I think this piece is brilliant because it’s incredibly true. My husband and I recently took a 4-month RTW trip to 11 countries. We’re young, without children, and my husband was in a bad work environment. He quit his job, and I was fortunate enough that my boss agreed to take me back upon return. Our trip reinforced what I already knew: Americans are workaholics. Our life is work, and work is our life. No other culture we witnessed felt the way we did about vacation time. We made many friends who invited us to visit them in their home countries. We thought, “How are we ever going to get even two weeks at a time?” Going to countries like Brazil, Israel or New Zealand isn’t a one-week trip. And it really should be longer than two weeks. But I believe this idealology is highly ingrained in our culture. And I don’t think it’s going anywhere any time soon.

    • Dumass vernabc

      Question is should it be? Progress doesn’t necessarily mean “forward” or positive”

  • http://www.thehrisworld.com/ Garrett O’Brien

    The concept of only a week or two for vacation is, what?

    Universal?

    Global?

    Not!

    According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 39.7% of U.S. workers didn’t have access to paid vacation time in 2011 yet per Jet Blue, 57% of U.S. workers left 11 days on the table at the end of 2011.

    And you wonder why people are stressed out? This hasn’t been happening just recently, it is a trend that goes back decades…

    Quick list of vacation days with holidays…
    U.K. 36
    Venezuela 36
    Thailand 22
    China 21
    Philippines 20
    Canada 19
    USA 15

    For a more thorough list, here’s a list of statutory minimum employment leave by country on Wikipedia: http://j.mp/14pswdd

    As far as economics is concerned, there is a balance where too many vacation days will negatively hit the economy — in some countries this can amount to US$4 BILLION per extra day. There is a formula economists use to determine this balance but we are willing to bet that is is not geared for the everyday reader.

    Spacing the vacation out as the U.S. plans call for (but apparently rarely implement) seems to provide the minimal impact on employer, employees (someone has to pick up the void), and the economy.

    However the vacations and days off are delivered is useless, however, if the employee does not UNPLUG… After 15 years of consulting, rarely having more than a few weeks between contracts as “downtime” (which it wasn’t as I was busy looking for work as well as repairing and maintaining my computers), I finally decided to find someplace without access to internet, cell phone, even TV and radio… I was that tired…

    After 3 days, I though (1) I was going to lose my mind, and (2) I would never make my 2 weeks… After 5 days, I really didn’t care about leaving the area I was in… After 10 days, I had to force myself to focus on vacation as I knew work was calling…

    When I arrived home, there dozens of voice mails, thousands of emails, and no one died… After 2 days back at work, the voice mails were returned and by the end of the week, the important replies made for email… and no one died, no project fell apart…

    But there sure was definitely a huge amount of envious people wanting some of my time to find out where I went…

    • rb

      Lucky you ! I took my first long vacation (20 work days + weekends combined) after completing 2 years at work in a NJ company, and was laid off the day when I returned. I was told the company changed their business interest while I was away, and that I was not needed anymore. It’s been a year since then and I am still looking for the next job.

  • Diana

    People are afraid to be alone withi himself “doing nothing”. I think that is the
    problem. At same time they are looking for themselves without knowing it.

  • tcliff1

    I don’t live to work. I work my ass off for 8 hours and I’m the first out the door. I also have no problem calling out for a quiet day at home. Call it what you want, but it’s how I stay sane

  • Chris

    People keep mentioning vacations being expensive. Yes they are but my most relaxing times are when I take days off and stay home. Play golf, fish, be outside. You dont have to spend money to relax and take a staycation!!!!!

  • Zsa Ellis Frye

    8.1
    Average number of vacation days U.S. full-time employees get after a year on the job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    16
    Average days of paid vacation and holidays
    Americans receive per year. Of the 20 other rich nations in the study,
    only Japanese workers fared worse.

    Source: http://theweek.com/article/index/244771/americas-war-on-vacation-by-the-numbers

  • J-P Gaillard

    Ron Thomas is a Chief Human Resource & Administrative Officer
    currently based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He formerly was Director,
    Talent and Human Resources Solutions at Buck Consultants
    (a Xerox Company) and is certified by the Human Capital Institute as a
    Master Human Capital Strategist (MHCS) and Strategic Workforce Planner
    (SWP). He’s also worked in senior HR roles with Martha Stewart Living
    and IBM. Ron serves on the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council,
    McKinsey Quarterly Executive Online Panel, and HCI’s Expert Advisory
    Council on Talent Management Strategy. He also serves as a Faculty
    Partner and Executive Facilitator at the Human Capital Institute. He has
    received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence by
    the World Human Resource Development Congress in Mumbai. Contact him at
    ronaldtthomas@gmail.com, or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Ronald_thomas.

    ……………………………………………….

    Ron, seeing the above, I understand better your interest for this issue….:-)

  • Ralph C.

    You simply can’t accurately compare this topic with other countries. The telling comparison is from this in the author’s piece, :…Workers in France and Spain report taking the full 30 vacation days off.” These are two countries whose average unemployment rate 19% (27+ for ES and 11+ for FR) and in France, nearly 40% of the working pool sits in a government job and the work week is less hours (mandated by law), etc. Real US productivity – via reinvention/innovation and entrepreneurship – dwarfs other countries – and our vacation heritage probably plays a positive part in this.

    • Alyssa Hewitt

      The ultimate question, though, is at what cost? Unless you are part of a small percent of Americans who make enough to have leisure money after all bills and expenses (even many folks with 6 figure salaries will say they don’t) work is a way to survive and it doesn’t make people happy. So yes, maybe we are more productive, but I’m willing to bet anything that on a happiness scale America ranks pretty darn low.

      But if the value of your life is measured in $ then we simply aren’t speaking the same language and the argument is moot.

    • Bob the Builder

      Straight from of the Faux News school of journalism…… The “telling” comparison is really that Norwegians and Germans take all or almost all of their average 30 days, and their unemployment rate and productivity are way ahead of the States. Q.E.D.

      • Braz45

        What’s the net value of companies created in Norway and Germany as compared to the US? Activity, gross investment in venture, private equity capitalization? Q.E.D. ad infinitum.

    • Paul H

      Its a shame that American workers are working too hard to take advantage of all the value their productivity brings.

      Real US productivity is, as you say, very impressive – but as several others here state, it seems to rest on a work force that is struggling from paycheck to paycheck too scared of losing their job to take time off and enjoy their lives.

      You belittle workers in France because they have a high unemployment rate (11% vs 7.4% for the US) and the fact that they work less hours. Yet they are all able to live good, long lives, marry, travel, have children, have houses, eat etc. Their children go to school and they have good quality healthcare. They drive cars and wear clothes. They appear to be lacking nothing that their American cousins have.

      It seems to me that American workers are putting in more hours, more days and surrendering their lives for, basically, nothing.

  • Aaron

    I took my first “off the grid” vacation since getting a smartphone four years ago, last week. It was glorious, but required discipline, and was helped by the fact that others didn’t have a lot of cell reception. Not checking email/other smartphone notifications takes discipline but from my limited experience is very refreshing.

  • Lee Cullom

    I think I might frame it this way. There is definitely a discernible impact on productivity, but ultimately work is less important than your family life in the long-term. So, the question is, do you have the courage to accept the consequences for taking a vacation? As far as the evidence to support my claim… 138 of the Global 500 are U.S.-based companies (population of @350 million people). We have the highest GDP in the world (GDP/head is dramatically higher than China). #2 is China and #3 is Japan. Japan has only 127 million people, so they’re actually more productive than the US. China’s number is actually a bit disappointing given their population of 1.2 billion. So, are we more productive? Yes, we are. And it’s because of our ridiculous hours and the protestant work ethic that has been the fabric of our culture for quite a long time. That being said, I’m a Catholic, so I’m going to cut out for a beer and some board games with my family right now! Source: http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/global500/2012/countries/Australia.html?iid=top3

    • Dumass vernabc

      your numbers are all wrong btw…. Purchasing power is quality of life not nation GDP and USA has over 500 of the top 1000 world companies btw

    • Bryan Schaefer

      That is exactly the point. We talk about vacation time, and someone starts giving stats about the state of the economy or comparing the US to other countries. GDP bla bla,who cares. It is not a race to be the best at everything USA. I feel sorry for people who are scared to enjoy life in fear of losing something.

      Accept the consequences,what consequences? If you think there are consequences for taking time off for vacation, that is the problem. Vacation allows for you to connect with family, better health, your happiness, less stress. I do not see the down-side to any of this and frankly, what else matters in life? Life is about doing what you love,hopefully in a positive way to the environment and society. Having a good family, health and happiness. If you want to give statistics, let`s look at the lower age of death in the US, stress levels, suicides, broken marriages that result from being over worked with no time off and trying to beat everyone in the race. What race again? I can leave the ecomony and religion out of this conversation and only focus on what life should be about. Not killing ourselves at the office!

    • HRGeed

      I think you are wrong as all of those who measure a nation’s well-being on the GDP because it is certainly not distributed equally. Our GDP is greater but the money is not spent equally. In this country we just don’t like to talk about poverty.

  • Claire Jacobs

    Yep, I remember when I worked at HP in Germany many years ago–I’d looked for a colleague and was told he was “vacationing in the south of France for 8 weeks”!! He’d saved some leave from the prior year it seemed and was gone for a full 2 months! And, his job survived, his colleagues survived–he ws a new man upon his return. Really–why can’t we be brave enough to take more than a week?!

  • Jeremy Hutchings

    Welcome to the real world !

    • W

      More like welcome to America!

      • Jeremy Hutchings

        I meant “welcome” for realising that most of the west (e.g. outside of the US) has a healthy balance and realise the benefit of having de-stressed employees and living life, travel, time with friends & family etc.

  • MaineMaineMaine

    I just piled all four weeks of my vacation together and took an entire month off…first time I’ve ever done such a thing. It was AMAZING…got to visit family as much as I wanted, had plenty of fun adventures and time for relaxing. It was the first time I’ve ever taken a vacation and was “ready” to go back mentally. I couldnt completely stay away from checking work related emails and phone calls but I will say that after the first few days I did just start checking once every few days which felt really nice.

    • stevec5375

      I’ve had 5 months off. The problem is I’m not getting paid and have to pay for COBRA healthcare. I have 27 years of experience as a software developer and 2 degrees. What’s wrong with this picture?

      I absolutely love how my attitude has changed since my layoff. I hate corporate America now more than ever!

  • Tom

    I recently read an HR article which recommended people not take more than 1 week for vacation at a time, lest one’s employer see that you’re replaceable.

    So I’d say the state of vacations in North America is a symptom of the economic mind-set. Plus- it took me 5 years to get 3 weeks vacation, and will likely take another 10 years until I can get to 4 weeks, if I ever get there.

  • Jeff

    As a Brit/ Aussie now working in NY/NJ for the last 10 years, I can tell you that even the Americans that have paid time off are scared to take it, and then only one week at a time. I love the way Americans love lecturing other industrialized peoples about how free they are, yet have Zero national laws to protect & guarantee Vacation time. And are complete pussies at fighting for rights that most other countries workers take for granted…….

    • stevec5375

      You are so correct! When can I immigrate to Australia? I’m a 56 year old male. I would love to get on your universal healthcare system too. I’m sick of the attitude by most Americans that we are the pinnacle nation on the planet. We are the greediest nation on the planet and we don’t care about our own.

      • JM

        don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

        http://www.immi.gov.au/

      • Dumass vernabc

        You probably wouldn’t have half of what you have in America in Australia….. The topic is an excuse to bring up an “emotional” reaction rather than a logical thought…. There are reasons why we have what we have here….. to simply say we should decrease productivity and adopt a “Southern Europe” style work ethic or business culture for more “fun time” is immature and a reason why we are lowering ourselves to the rest of the world …. Not vice versa… (Depending on your political view)

        • Roger215

          But that’s not even “southern Europe” They’re doing that in “protestant work ethic” Germany, Sweden, and Austria. And it doesn’t look like you’ve been outside of the red, white, and blue bubble much– What can’t you get in Australia that you can get in the US?

          Besides half the vacation time?

        • Nick

          You have no idea what you are talking about here, sir. There are areas in “Southern Europe” with much better work ethic than what we have here. Educate yourself first, before you start blabbing stuff out. Have a good day.

        • cbordeaux

          I don’t think you’ve spent much time in Australia. Sydney is a pretty awesome place–you’re on/near the Ocean/harbor depending on where in the burbs, just a few hours from the mountains, a short plane ride to some beautiful islands-Fiji anyone? Not to mention the melting pot of cultures… They even have ex-pat restaurants that serve some American BBQ. If you’re missing ketchup, ask for tomato sauce, you’ll be good to go.
          To the point of this post, working there was the best experience of my working life. Work hard during the day, take the train home in the evenings and only work at night if there is an absolute emergency. Just because they have a laid back lifestyle does not mean they don’t put in the work.
          My boss took off to Thailand for 3 weeks, I was amazed and a little skeptical at the thought, but everyone picked up the slack as a team and we moved our way through the current project. The world didn’t end. Shocker.

        • Michael

          What is it exactly that you think we have here in America vs. Australia to make you so biased? Dredging along for 8+ hours a day, 5+ days a week, 52 weeks a year doesn’t necessarily make you more productive? Time spent isn’t a direct correlation to quantity or quality of output and doesn’t make you any more valuable to the company you work for.

        • HRGeek

          I think you don’t have a clue what people in other countries have!!!!!…not only material, but also in terms of rights, benefits AND their economies grow despite the fact their employers (including American Corporations) have to spend money abiding their laws and contributing to their employee’s well-being You’d be surprise how little we get in this country for our hard work and commitment working for the same corporations, but here they can get away with it.

          • stevec5375

            Americans’ lack of travel is a travesty. By not seeing more of the world people nothing to compare their current existence to. My parents, for example, have never been out of this country and their attitudes are pitiful about other nations in comparison to the U.S. If they only knew how much better off other people have it in some other nations.

        • Jennifer Keith

          You really have no idea

    • Q

      They too scared to fight for ANY rights or disagree with a government EVER. Just bunch of rams too sacred to change anything, and too busy working for “their american dream” of chasing never ending bills,loans and debts.

    • Neil

      I hate having this conversation with Americans who haven’t traveled, which is the majority. They simply just don’t know and have no real basis for comparison other than the stupid propaganda stuff they get fed.

      I’m an American who has been living in England for past few years and the quality of life is wayyyyy better than the US. You clearly don’t know what you’re talking about. Many good points were made in reply to the original post. American needs some serious change.

  • Jon

    This was a fantastic post and I agree completely.

  • Chase

    If you have paid vacations, take advantage of them. Simple enough. Or simply save up so that you can take that 3 week to 1 months vacation. This is not rocket science, and throw out the stats. You just need to have a convincing argument of why you need that much vacation time (if you’re that worried about getting fired).

  • chezmoi

    A simple advice from the Netherlands: don’t worry, don’t be afraid: just take a break! You need it! We are humans and we all need it. Ask any psychologist or doctor. And if you take a vacation: don’t read your email! Don’t think about work. At the office they can cope without you. You’re not that important. Don’t panic. The important thing is that you recover.
    I’m fully aware that this is a difference in culture.

    • Jeff

      Problem is Tom, Americans get 2 weeks if their lucky. Taking a vacation in the US is seen as some kind of sin…..goes back to their puritanical roots

      • chezmoi

        forget those roots! we did! with a fresh mind you achieve more

  • Sulu

    I think that everybody should take their vacation seriously!
    Noyhing to do job grade etc. One may not be able to give 100% at work without having “time off”; Otherwise its like pressing hard on the gas paddle while you gear is in nuetral.
    I dont realy think its related with anything but personal point of view.
    Wish you all a great summer and fantastic vacation! Whichever kind and period of time that works for you – enjoy it and do things you like and enjoy! :)

  • Saurabh Sharma

    Amazing article, Ron! I just read it today while i took my first 1 month vacation in close to a decade of career. It also is the first day of my vacation :)

  • mossonrocks

    Someday I actually hope to be able to afford a vacation – unfortunately today I am not related to the Obama family – well, perhaps that is a good thing. LOL

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=677609068 Jack White

    Vacation is just one aspect of this. In my experience with Europeans, as soon as 5:00 hits, they’re out the door. Americans in general work until they’re done what they need to do. It’s a different mind set. It’s also why America is the home of Apple and Google and Microsoft and Amazon and Facebook and Twitter, etc while Europe is the home of…..hmm I can’t really think of any company of significance that came out of Europe in the past 25 years.

    • Jeff

      Bollocks, I have found Americans are great pretenders in the office, they hang back just to look like they are doing it tough, when in reality the equivalent european gets it done with no fuss in the allotted time.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=677609068 Jack White

        So where is the Euro version of Google? It doesn’t exist. It’s not a coincidence that virtually every household name tech start up of the past 25-30 years has been American. The Googles and Yahoos and Twitters of the world were started with a few people working 100 hour weeks to make it happen. Europeans simply do not do that.

        • Paul H

          The web part of the internet is pretty European but that is joining in with your missing the point argument here. (and there are lots of non-American tech startups, some that are even successful but that isn’t the point).

          The reality is the success of Google and Yahoos etc is great for the founding few, but this accounts for a tiny fraction of the workforce who are putting in 100 hour weeks. More of a problem is the fact that this overwhelming success doesn’t translate to any improvement for the American workforce.

          The number of Americans who are genuinely in the throws of a 100 hour week to hit it big with the NextGreatIdea is probably about 0.001% of the population. The overwhelming majority are people who will never be the next Jeff Bezos but feel compelled to sacrifice their entire life to a company because everyone else is working massively long hours.

          I think the best thing you can say about the American obsession with attendance in the office (most drones do 8 hours work in 12 – 13 hours to say they’ve been in longer than everyone else), is that the rest of the world gets to kick back and enjoy the benefits Americans dont seem to want.

          • jhollon

            People working 100 hours per week? I think not. IT’s all just hype and hyperbole, as Tim Sackett focused on here at TLNT — http://www.tlnt.com/2013/05/10/i-still-dont-think-that-you-work-80-hours-per-week/

            I worked at a famous dotcom in San Francisco during the late 90s boom. I was a vice president, Employee No. 7, and worked as long and as hard as anyone there.

            Still, even with me working 7 days most weeks, I still rarely topped 75 hours or so in a week. In fact, unless you actually live in the office, I don’t think anyone can do much more than about 80 hours or so on the job without having some major life issues.

            Tim Sackett is right; everyone wants to SAY they work really long hours, but very few actually DO work really long hours, The math just doesn’t add up.

  • John

    I think you first need a job to take a vacation. And most of us are now running our own businesses. If I took off for a month I would be out of business. This article is so typical of people who are out of touch with the plight of the common man.

  • kim

    Of course they need to get serious about vacations! But good luck without a permanent, stable career first.

  • Zach Walz

    I agree.I wish more companies placed value on vacation and holiday, and I wish the government would intervene as well. For so many workers, there is no such thing as vacation. The few days they have off a year they need to spend running errands, going to the doctor, etc. I am lucky enough to work for a company with pretty good benefits that allow me to take time off.

  • Noctaire

    Although I see the same, it’s not quite as cut and dry as it might appear. :) Case in point – I do take extended time off, although not a full month, and I actually prefer my “mini-vacations” to a month straight.

    Each year, at the holidays, I take a week over the Thanksgiving holiday then 2 weeks over Christmas and New Year’s. These are core family times; we celebrate the holidays and relax. In fact, we don’t really “go” anywhere for most of that time. I have second and third in commands, but work is reasonably slow, so I don’t have to be concerned that I might be needed and that means less stress both during my time off and when I transition back to the daily grind.

    The remainder of my time off is coupled to mini-vacations. Sometimes I’ll grab a day or two alongside a holiday and the family takes a ride to a national park (Great Smoky Mountains, for example) or maybe we’ll go to some of our favorite attractions like Zoos or museums within a few hundred miles of home. During this time, I keep an eye on work but I tend not to get involved; my next-in-line has it under control, but I want them to know I am there to support them and always available if things get out of hand.

    I spread these little vacations out throughout the year so I get some measure of down time from life every couple of months and it really helps to de-stress and untangle my brain. It took a bit, but I learned how to “put it on the back burner” and relax quickly; it no longer takes the first week to really separate from work and that may be why this works so well for many of us who run our time off as such.

    To those who talk about expenses, I have to again agree – point well stated. Vacations cost a lot of $$$! However, the family “staycation” over the holidays, yearly memberships to attractions (zoo, museum), discounted admission, and spreading time out all help to make time off more affordable. Our European counterparts like to travel; many of my colleagues from overseas take a month and holiday in other parts of Europe or even here in the US. That said, we do have some benefits they do not such as inexpensive gas and a well developed interstate roadway system. There are many ways to reduce the overhead costs of hotel accommodations and admission fees to attractions, and if you enjoy nature-based activities (hiking, canoeing, photographing scenery, etc) it can be even less expensive.

  • sheri

    I’ve never held a job where I could take a month’s vacation. It wouldn’t have been approved.

  • Cyn

    My current employer only gives 2 weeks vacation for the first five years of employment. We don’t get many holidays. I took vacation days without pay in order to take a nice long trip lat year. Absolutely ridiculous. (In 1.5 years I have called off sick twice.) How is their policy an incentive to stay?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=677609068 Jack White

    Want more vacation? Be your own boss and you can take all the time you want.

  • Dawna Bate

    This article could include Canadians as well. We’re the same way – taking our Blackberries on vacation so we can answer those all important emails. Or working crazy hours before vacation to ‘get ready’ and crazy hours after vacation to ‘catch up’. I think it is the North American mentality of hiring 1 person to do the job of 2 or 3 people.

  • DisquisTL

    Ron, this is unlikely to change in the U.S. so long as benefits are tied to unfunded mandates; as far as a company is concerned, every vacation day you take is another day of per-employee overhead with no corresponding benefit.

    It’s not just the costs of hiring an employee – the employer contribution to SSI and FICA taxes – it’s also insurance costs, and opportunity costs. They still have to provide power to your portion of the office, they still have to have HR systems and other employee systems, which are sunk costs, and unless they can reuse your cubicle/desk while you are off vacating, which is often difficult, there’s per employee flooring costs, as well.

    I also agree that there is a visibility issue when it comes to reviews, particularly peer reviews… if you take time at the end of the year, or the middle of the year, you aren’t visibly working, and you aren’t at the forefront of your peers minds as a contributing member of the team.

    Part of this is the recent U.S. tendency, particularly in tech companies, to move to a 6 month review cycle, part of it is that the review cycle tends to fall in the “dead zone” when people tend to be less busy: it hits around longer duration holidays, which in the U.S. tend to be more clumped together than they are in Europe. The U.S. review process also tends to be incredibly adversarial: when you grade on a curve, you’re going to get people low-balling their peers contributions, even if their peers have contributed significantly.

    The visibility iss hasn’t become as bad in the U.S. as it has in Japan – which is why there’s the word Karoshi in Japanese, but not (yet) American English. This visibility fails to translate to increased productivity.

    Finally, companies like I.B.M. are partly to blame because they set their review criteria in such a way that it doesn’t mean what it’s intended to mean, since they give different weightings to manager and employee overall, division, and group contribution, and if you want a good review out of your manager, you value what your manager values as far as your manager getting a good review.

    Sam Palmisano really blew this when he took charge at I.B.M.: did he think his band 9 engineers were so bad at games theory that they would “do what I say I want, and not what the rules I’ve set up say is most advantageous to you”. Why would you hire engineers who were so bad at math that they could not run the numbers? Do you think you hired stupid engineers? It no wonder that, despite the stated intention of divisions and groups supporting each other, the person who wants the best pay adjustment and review rating is going to be out for their group first, their division second, and the company bottom line third: that’s the tiering you’ve set up for your managers.

    I have long since left I.B.M., but it’s part of the cultures at other companies where I’ve since worked, and it’s part of the ground rules which management has laid as a measure of success in your position.

    So I would say that the issue is not one of “Americans not knowing how”, as much as it is “Americans are not as bad at math as has been reported”.

    • LifeBalanceHa

      I’m a marketing professional, 20 yrs experience. Can’t find a perm employee gig since laid off in 2008- must work contract, when I work at all. Every hour I don’t work is $ out of my pocket. I pay for my maj medical costs, lame dental coverage. I can’t readily afford LTD or Life. I accrue no sick time. I receive no holiday time off paid. I would have to take out a second mortgage on my underwater house to afford a 30 day staycation watching cable TV! THAT IS the reality for MILLIONS of educated, highly experienced, senior professionals in the U.S. these days! My Euro colleagues enjoy their entire summers off while I bust butt. I agree this initial post and all arguments LIKE IT for the past 30 years are for those who CAN take that time off or are willing to make major $acrifices to do so. In general— in my case— just not worth it.

  • BSin2

    I would be glad to have a month off to just be home. I’d have time to train my puppy, paint the house, relax, catch up on a book. I wouldn’t go home every day and wish I had the time to do some other things. I could take up a hobby, build something. You’re more productive when you are relaxed, and not concerned with your day to day home life. With both members of the family working full time, you don’t see each other, you’re both stressed at the end of the day, and things don’t get done, or feel rushed. A month to unwind would be awesome, even if I didn’t GO anywhere.

  • Rich

    I remember my first vacation/wedding and honeymoon – 14 days off. When I got back, my president remarked, “what do you do? None of your staff called or checked in with him.” He was disconcerted and thought I was a loafer. After checking in with my team they didn’t like the responses he provided so they quit calling him for guidance and just persevered through my absence. Great self-reliance from the team but what a message from the leader of our company about.

  • Yevrah

    Good article. I’m a semi retired Brit who has spent most of his working life in the US, plus some earlier years in other overseas location. For most of my career in the US I have been able to take at least three weeks vacation a year, although I was often made to feel guilty for doing so, especially if I took two weeks or more together.

    One of the reasons for the fundamental difference is that Americans identify themselves by their work. When you meet new people for the first time in the States, it will not be very long before somebody asks you what you do. No work, no way of identifying where one fits in the social hierarchy. That same question may never
    come up if you were in the same circumstances in Europe or any number of countries because you can be pigeonholed by your accent, or where you are from,
    or even the school you went to.

    To those of you who say you fear loosing your job if nobody misses you while you are away… not a problem if everybody takes all the time they are allowed, as you all have to cover for each other. In fact it improves productivity because you are all cross trained and the work will get done even if a team member is out for an extended period of time for whatever reason, planed or unexpected.

    Finally, the US is very proud of it’s efficiency and productivity, but I often wonder how it would stack up with countries such as northern Europe if adjustments are made for working hours (hours actually worked)/vacations/holidays, and sick/maternity leave. I’m just asking?

    • Jeff

      Spot on…..

  • Whitnie

    No guilt, no shame. I started taking December off a few years ago. Best thing I’ve done other than started to enjoy time off throughout the year as well.

  • Kristen Shue

    According to a 2010 NYTimes article, “The practical lesson for an individual is that you derive most of your happiness from anticipating the holiday trip. What you can do is try to increase that by taking more trips per year. ” Read it here: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/18/how-vacations-affect-your-happiness/

  • Blake

    Quit analyzing it and just take the time off! You will not regret it. Your company needs to hire more people and/or give you a huge raise if they cannot survive without you for 14-30 days!

  • Sargent Chumley

    Fearing vacation is one element. We fear if we are gone too long, we will be replaced. Also, anyone getting a full time job with benefits is lucky. Many companies only offer 1 week vacation a year. That time is used for family doctor visits, doctor appointments and so on.

  • Sore Jei

    Forget time off for vacation, I lost my job to being out sic. After working at Supermicro for a year with no time off, I got sick and was out of the office for two weeks. Within days, I was promptly laid off. My work cell phone was disconnected. My paycheck was taken out of my bank account!

  • Coleman

    I definitely work harder after having been on a long, relaxing and adventurous vacation. If I go out and see new things in the world, meet new people, eat new food and go mountain biking, I feel like I’m living life and loving it. That makes me happier and do my job better. It also makes me an interesting person, more fun to talk to and makes me stand out in a competitive world. Vacation is a totally necessary, and if I could, I’d take a month off to go see some incredible place in the world that I would never be able to see otherwise with only a day or so at a time.

  • Louis Emmanuel

    I think its a cultural thing in North America. People take a week or two, max. Some even write . While a month off is probably not

  • Annie Inks

    Employees who take vacations have more to contribute when they return to the office than if they had never left. More often than not, new experiences breed new ideas – whether on vacation in some exotic location or simply having free time to do whatever you like.

  • Terry Friedrich

    I believe this culture in America is a direct reflection of upper management expecting this out of their employees. And as such we are afraid we will be replaced if we don’t act accordingly.

  • KwinPeterson

    Or perhaps we are too lazy to vacation. Being at work means being told what you have to do…being on vacation requires self-direction, and that can be hard.

    • Jim K

      Wow, sounds like a boring job that should have been left behind long ago…

  • Jim K

    I agree that drawing clear lines of separation from “work” for R&R is critically important and that doing so makes you a more productive and creative contributor when you are working. After 35 years of working I use every day of vacation I’ve earned and take advantage of two weeks away at a time. I put the smart phone and tablet on the counter after work and rarely touch it until I’m getting ready to return to work. I trust my team. But, I do not think the US would be a super power and as strong and economic force in the world without a strong cultural work ethic. Americans have been hard working in good times and hard times. Being driven, dedicated, hard working and self reliant is a good thing in a world where “occupying” and protesting over entitlements is becoming accepted. Personal success comes from personally contributing value. If there are interdependencies in the business process or value chain that break down because a planned vacation, that is because of poor planning, poor communication or a bad process design.

  • guest

    outside of the U.S. vacation is referred to as Holiday. please see the definition of each below. Vacation doesn’t mention not working….just a thought

    Vacation: An extended period of recreation, esp. one spent away from home or in traveling.

    Holiday: A day of festivity or recreation when no work is done.

  • straw2822

    I wish we could have vacation time like this in America. When.my.parents come to visit me in the states, the are here for at least 20 days or more. This would be a.great idea for the states to implement and would
    Make workers more productive.

  • Dave

    I took a three-week vacation the year before I retired. While I was away, my boss (born in Europe) took over my main project and completely rearranged it, changing my goals and those of my team without consultation. When I returned, he berated me for my work ethic, saying that three weeks is too long to be away, and threatened to demote me. I turned in my (early) retirement papers as soon as I was eligible. Auf wiedersehen!

  • Warren Kelley

    Here in American, paid time-off is still an expense. As long as the worker and his benefits are considered expenses, companies will minimize vacation time to what the industry, government, and society mandate.
    Employee are considered replaceable parts. “Get a new pony when the old one breaks down” My work experience has been that way.

  • Rick C

    I have kids, after two weeks of vacation I’m ready to come back to work anyways ;)

    http://www.rickcruz.info/secret/

  • Louis Emmanuel

    It’s probably a cultural thing, maybe coming from the Anglo-Saxon or Calvinistic culture. Most people take a week and a few days off here and there, but few take more than that. While Europeans might be less richer, they eat better, take more vacation, spend more time with family and friends. I think its a pity that Americans wait until retirement age in order to travel and enjoy life.

  • ML Web

    I am an American living in the UK and I was shocked when everyone started taking holiday time… I have clients who are spending 8 weeks away this summer and colleagues taking 5 consecutive weeks off. I am a part time contracted employee that gets paid by the hour (based on the number of clients I see) and I still get paid-time-off at my job. I have been at my part time job for almost 8 months and I have already accrued 10 days of paid holiday time. Not to mention I can take as much unpaid time off that I want. I don’t know of any contract, hourly jobs, in the States that would give paid time off. My husband works part time at a pub for hourly wages and he also gets paid time off even though he only works 2 days a week. I don’t care how good or bad the economy is, this would never happen in the States. It’s sad and makes it hard to want to come back home.

  • Denise

    I completely agree with this article, this is a uniquely American behavior. As for the some of the comments about the economy and having the time and funds to do it, that ony reinforces that American based companies do not promote going “on holiday” in either vacation time or money to fund it the way companies around the world do. It is healthy to get completely away and well as have the confidence in your co-workers etc to do the job while you are away. Employers should support this; there are many studies showing that American’s quality of life is unbalanced versus our International counter-parts. We can learn from this.

  • Bård Olav Olsen

    1. when you leave the office door. Turn of the lights in your head. It’s private time!
    2. When you leave for a vacation…Leave your computer at work, and lock the door behind you.

    Otherwise, you might as well never go home after work, or take a vacation.

    Vacation = Non Work time.

    Respect your recuperating time.

    • unlucky in career

      Many people don’t have the luxury of “leaving the office” – EVER. I worked for a year at Supermicro (SJ, CA) where management discourages any vacation time. There was no rollover of unused days at the end of the year. My boss told me specificaly that I couldn’t take any Mondays or Fridays off per management policy. Not only were we denied vacation days and sick days, we were required to work 50+ hour weeks without overtime. Even though I arrived at the office at 7am every morning to take care of my East Coast clients and worked through lunch, my manager wouldn’t let me leave till after 6pm. Putting in 11 hour days made me very productive. I never check personal email at work. I don’t even have FB. When I finally went home at the end of the day, I was exhausted. But my manager would call my nights and weekends. If I didn’t check in with my manager’s convenienc 24/7, I got reprimanded. No promotion,no raise. My manager cited my poor work ethic as a reason. After a full year of 55 hour weeks with no overtime, I got sick. I was promptly laid off. Within days my cellphone was disconnected. They even took my paycheck back out of my bank account. Sure I’d like vacation. The sad fact is I was not allowed to take it. It has been challenging to grow my career in this economic environment.

      • Sore Jei

        OH, the head of HR at Supermicro is the CEO’s wife….

  • Ben

    Liked the post but wish you had
    provided support for the question posed. Other than “other
    countries do it”, why do you think Americans “need” to get
    serious about vacations?

  • Joe

    I work for a private equity turnaround fund that focuses is Europe and its crazy to me that while we’re looking at one of the worst economic environments in Europe in the last 50 years, you’d consider advocating for the same policies that led to much of their economic distress. Aside from the argument about American greed, the leaner operating structure of US companies (which often functionally prohibits long vacations) means that when US companies face revenue contraction, they are more prepared to weather the storm. Conversely, rich benefits and strict work limitations make it nearly impossible for businesses in Europe to adjust to austere times. Protests and work council reviews over a 10% RIF led my firm to be forced to close an entire R&D facility in France. We didn’t want to, but had no choice given the laws an employee attitude towards what was a company in distress

    I’d charge you to try to get something done in Europe in August. Form a company, notarize merger documents, call a work council meeting to announce a RIF — its impossible. No one works.

  • Bryan Schaefer

    Agreed. Europe has been doing it forever, offering 4-6 weeks holidays and encouraging people to take them all at once. Canada is also much better it offering holidays and not making employees feel guilty for taking the time they need and are entitled to. It is called work-life balance. The US should learn from these countries. Ask
    yourself this question. What can really go wrong if I take an extra week off?
    Whatever you fear will happen, will be waiting for you when you get back, no
    matter how long you are gone. When you are on in your final days of life and
    looking back, are you going to be thinking “I wish I worked more and took
    less vacation”. Relax and enjoy life!

  • Alex Cohn

    Oy vey.. Compare the American working/vacation habits with South Korea – you are on vacation 365 days a year, by their standards. And their vacation may be as short as one week in a year!

  • Kate

    I wish that I had the wisdom and financial security to deal with that situation that way. When my mom became terminal last year I had only been at my company two months, and it was my first full time job out of college, at a marketing firm. I found out she was terminal in early July last year, and she passed two weeks later. I didn’t understand how serious it was, but I wish I had taken that last week off to be with her instead of being afraid to confront my boss. After she passed, I took a week off. My father passed away when I was younger so as a 26 year old I was left to manage the estate and pack up the condo within the month. I took two days to mourn then got down to the business of clearing out a condo. I couldn’t believe that after my week off work my HR person threatened to fire me for taking to much time off work. I thought I was called in to the meeting to be congratulated for holding it together that week at work, but instead I was told over and over again I had missed 26% of the month, that I had an attendance issue, and that if “this was a planned vacation it would be okay.” I was told if I missed any work in the month I would immediately be terminated. After a year I developed a work comp injury, announced it, and was laid off ten minutes later (illegal, but I consulted attourneys and it seemed that suing them would have been near impossible). So…. that’s my take on business. I’m trying to go back to school and get into medicine. It’s very very frustrating looking back, and if any employers are reading this I hope to God that you have some compassion when someone’s family member dies, especially when they are so young and left completely alone and without family. That week they claim back is worth much more to them than it could ever be in productivity.

    • Will

      Welcome to the real AMERICAN world. It’s as cold, nasty, hypocritical and dysfunctional as it gets. All I can tell you is be smart with your money and put yourself first. Financial security allows you the ability to have options. In life, it’s all about OPTIONS. Good luck.

  • Kate

    I cannot edit my comment, but it was in response to CarolynCO

  • Cody

    Well, I am a contractor…so if I wanted to take a month off of work, it would be on my own dime since I do not get any vacation time. At my last job, which I was layed-off from, I had to be at the company for about a year to accumulate my 5 days of vacation time (no additional sick time), which would then roll over into the next year. You usually do not get paid for holidays either until you have been with the company for at least a few months, and paid vacation days (as well as sick days) are considered a privilege that you have to earn here (in the US). Health Insurance is also very expensive, and the employer does not cover a very large percentage of the monthly rate if you decide to go with their plan (I have no insurance), so that can hinder your ability to take time off.

  • Jay P

    What do you do if you are self-employed with a small company (2 bay auto repair centre – my partner and myself are techs and a secretary)?

    Taking paid time off doesn’t just cost the business my salary but also the income to cover expenses – gas/electricity/phones, taxes, mortgage, etc. that is lost while I am away.

    • Jeremy Hutchings

      I’ve been a contractor for many years, what I charge when I’m working takes into account what I’m not earning when I’m not working.

      • Jay P

        I wish we could do that in the auto trade.

    • Will

      Find a “go-to” auto tech that you and your partner can rely on as kinda like a “vacation relief” for both of you when you need to take a few days or a week off. In your business since it’s really just two of you it would be tough to take too much time off but there’s ways around it.

  • YoggerMan

    I have a vacation going…IN MY BRAIN…BRAIN….

  • Mark Stouse

    As a major league Type A, it took me a long time to really “get” this. The pivot point for me was a couple of years ago. I was leaving a large company to join another one. My wife asked me to see if I could take some time off in between, and as things turned out, I was able to take 90 days.

    I’d never done anything even remotely like that in 20-plus years of intensive work. The first two weeks were really hard — my wife told me I was going through “withdrawal” after years of Crackberry addiction. But soon I was living a different life, at a different pace, very little screen-time, lots of family time. It was spectacular. I felt free to be me like at no other time in my adult life.

    Towards the end of my “sabbatical,” I looked down one day and realized that I had a tan line across the tops of my feet from wearing flip-flops all day for three months. Not from “sunning myself” but from just normal walking around.

    Those white chevrons on my feet became a symbol to me of what I had learned. Even today, after two years with the new company, I still wear flip-flops outside on weekends to maintain my touchstone. And this summer, I did a very un-American thing — I took two weeks off, locked the office smart phone in the hotel safe, and enjoyed myself thoroughly. I took another device to be able to post photos to FB etc. so I wouldn’t be “tempted” to look at email.

    The greatest thing that money can buy is FREEDOM to do what you’re called to do, which is to live. I’m glad that life includes hard work, and I’m fortunate to love what I do and be very good at it. I see myself working for a long time, mainly because I enjoy making a contribution and helping people to reach their potential. But life does not EQUAL work. Any employer who insists otherwise is not someone you should work for — at least not for very long.

    At the end of the day, life is a collection of social contracts. Your spouse, your family, your employer, your customers, your friends — all have some legitimate claim on you, your heart, your mind and your time. But don’t forget the social contract with yourself. The greatest tragedy of all is to get to the end of your life, only to realize that your preoccupation with “what everyone else wanted” meant that you missed what you were really alive for. That’s about a lot more than just vacation. That’s about learning to be the person you’re supposed to be.

  • sbird

    In 1888, people in NYC went to work in the blizzard of the century, all because they knew if they didn’t go, they’d lose their jobs. Over 400 people died because of it.

    I guess we still haven’t outgrown the fear or the possibility of being replaced.

  • Will

    The American way is to stress, work, stress, work, and see who can be the first one in and last one out, while America is close to last in productivity when compared to other countries.

    The America worker has been devalued to the point to where they’ve been told they are easily replaceable and tend to work as such, like a hostage afraid they’ll be walked to be beheaded. Everyday is an attempt to keep the job that provides food and shelter to your family.

    When it comes to vacation and understanding one can have a job, be productive and still take time off the United States is far behind.

  • beyondleviathan

    Ask any child in the US “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and the answer is always a profession/vocation. In the Anglo-American culture, a person identifies with, is defined by, and (unfortunately) judged upon by what they do. This is a part of the protestant work ethic that many others have already commented about. It seems especially strong on the east coast. In DC for example, when meeting a new person, I’ve often been asked “What do you do?” before I am even asked my name. If we take a whole month off to just relax and do nothing of great significance, we lose that fundamental element of our identity, giving way to an internal sense and external perception of uselessness.

    • beyondleviathan

      Sorry for the continued rant, but while many people may be justified in their paranoia of job security, thereby afraid to take time off from work, the fault may not always be the employer or the economy. America and American people are extremely competitive in everything, especially in pursuing their own economic ends (and even more so when jobs are scarce). To maintain a position, one must make him/herself irreplaceable in the workplace. This does not equate with working the longest hours or taking the least vacation. Rather as opposed to simply going through the motions of the workday, as I know many of us (myself included) are often guilty of, demonstrate worth by high-quality work, innovation, and initiative. Additionally, collaboration, leadership, and empowerment (which is possible even at the bottom of the totem pole), helps create a team that is well-prepared to cover you while you’re gone. Unfortunately, most people cling to their power and hesitate to empower others in fear of their jobs as well. On the contrary, this practice actually makes a better, more productive team/organization that will value you and will “have it covered” when you’re relaxing. In most cases (though not all), these traits will weather any downsizing and/or economic downturns, and help secure a comfortable frame of mind for the well-earned vacation.

  • jdsonice

    Our culture and our fear of becoming obsolete will never allow Americans to take a decent vacation. As companies have become more mercenary and the only goal is to cut costs we all fear that if we are not missed we will be history. Most of us carry our laptops, cell phones and keep “in touch” with the office so no one forgets we exist.

    Take vacation – you have to be kidding.

  • jamie d

    I just saw something about time off for the birth of a child (for men and women). I seems that America is behind on this too. People fear that their positions are in danger, while they are away. I, personally enjoy checking out of reality and taking in the environment around me and the new relaxed schedule. Thank you for this article.

  • AnnieGirl822

    My husband and I quit our jobs in December 2011 and took all of 2012 off and took our 12 year old kids around the world. Best thing I EVER did and we are both back to work. And yes, I am an American and even stranger from the Midwest where you don’t see many risk takers. ;-)

  • David

    First, is it 25 work days (not including weekends) of vacation that one would receive? if so, that is 5 weeks. That can equate to a full month off and still have 5 vacation days remaining for the rest of the year. I’m curious if sick and personal days are included in the 25 days of vacation.

    As an American, I’d love to take a month off from work for a vacation and I would know exactly how to spend it. 2 weeks of travel & 2 weeks at home relaxing (and organizing to some extent).

    • Peter

      The amount of vacation days differs from country to country (generaly above 20), but if we take the 25 then:

      25 paid vacation days, national holidays and weekends excluded, so if you take 20 days of vacation, this makes up to 28 days total+

      I’m not sure what personal days are, but if you mean a 1 day off if you need to take care of something, then this goes from your vacation days, but you can decide to take it 1 day before you need it (you need to plan vacations).

      Sick leave is limited by your doctor (if you need 1 month rest, you get 1 month off – you still have all the 25 days of vacation left) and is paid, for 2 weeks by the company and then by the government (up to 80% of pay i think).

  • Carrie

    I’ve read studies that say that the more time employees are given to rest/relax, the more productive they are in the workplace and, therefore, the more successful the organization. I wonder how smaller companies in Europe deal with the growing pains of not having enough people to cover someone when they decide to use their 30 days at once. How does an organization handle that?

    Additionally, it boggles my mind that American companies have not figured out that to have an engaged, productive workforce, they should consider the benefits they give their employees. Still, after many organization behavior and HR studies, companies don’t get it. I fully believe in taking every day off I’m given and some people think I’m crazy. If I don’t, I get burnt out. I’m less productive and more scattered. But this article is spot on – I’m one of those folks who takes a day here, a day there to make long weekends which in turn are exhausting. So how much am I really benefiting from it? I’m not sure – I think I could be more productive if I took a few weeks off in a row vs the onesie twosies. But in my current role, I don’t have someone who can back me up for an entire month.

    I hope that American work culture catches up to Europe’s seemingly more developed work culture: From vacation time to time off for new parents.

  • CincyCat

    Well, when your company only gives you two weeks of paid time off per year, it’s kinda hard to take a full month.

  • Kevin

    Ha! Try Japan, where many people work at companies where you can only take a full week’s vacation once in your life — your honeymoon!

  • Daniel Grabowski

    The small company where I work has the attitude that if the
    company can get along without you for two (2) weeks, they can get along without
    you permanently; if your assistant can handle your job (at a much lower cost),
    they don’t need you. This extends to the owners’ themselves: the majority owner
    only took off four (4) HOURS, not days, not weeks, to get married. (There was
    no honeymoon, he even made up the four (4) hours by coming in that Saturday.)

  • Julio Lema

    Good post. One minor thing though. Here in Spain we usually get 22 days of holidays per year; when I worked in Greece I got 20; in Denmark I got 25+5 (courtesy of my employer)+ the possibility to “buy” days off.

  • KEC56

    You have obviously never met any Asians. I work for Hyundai and the Koreans don’t believe in vacation. They never use any of their PTO even though we only get paid out for 40 hours tops at the end of the year They come in early and stay late and make the Americans look like slackers.

    • http://www.thehrisworld.com/ Garrett O’Brien

      Have met many Asians who migrated to the USA as well as other countries… And to quote what they say, “You never know what you don’t have until you have experienced it, so who wants to go back to that!.”

  • David Litten

    The fact of the matter is Americans are too busy trying to be Number 1 wait I think that number has shifted down to number 10. This country would be a whole lot more productive if everyone took a month off for vacation. Instead of constantly feeling burnt out. And for what becasue you are basically a cog in the machine that is making CEOs and shareholders rich while you’re basically living paycheck to paycheck. It’s time for Americans to wake up and ask themselves if they live to work or work to live. If it’s the latter take a damn vacation. You’ve earned it. In 5 years are you going to be able to remember the deal you closed, emails you sent or the time you spent in the Bahamas or wherever with your family.

  • voice_reason

    unless you own the company or a significant piece of it, then there is no reason why you should not take some extended time off since in the US, 99.9+% of all our bosses cold not care less about you, your needs or your families needs. It’s all about the money for most of them, and if you are not there, you aren’t producing for them. Unfortunately in this country the business scenario has deteriorated into “what have you done for me lately”.

  • Brett Davis

    Just take a look at how much time in the USA members of Congress take time off, approximately 239 days per year!

  • LAOKC

    In my corporate world, an employee has only 10 days per year until the 7 year mark. At 7 years of employment, we are allowed an additional week, total of 15 days. This is typical American Corporate thinking. Its awful. I am 53 and totally burned out from lack of proper vacation time, and I guarantee, if I was given 25-30 days annually to get away, I would certainly not hesitate to take it! Unfortunately, many Americans in the Corporate world believe that “hard work” and “dedication” equates to severely limiting their recoup time. Some can handle it, I can’t. If I wasent’ so tied to home and family, I would leave this country in a heartbeat.