How often do the words “I need a vacation” escape your lips? How often do you follow through? As we reach the end of summer, when most people go on vacation before the kids go back to school, I thought it would be best to discuss this fascinating, under-used and oft-misunderstood bit of culture. The vacation is supposed to be a time to relax, get away, spend time with the family, see the world and, most importantly, forget about work. I would venture to say that, though we are pretty good at seeing the country on vacation, we fail miserably at the rest of that list. Why is that?
It’s a part of the American culture to work long hours, check emails and voicemails at night and during the weekend, come in on their days off and check in with the office while on vacation, all for no additional compensation. We call it “having a strong work ethic” as if it’s some sort of justification for subjecting ourselves to voluntary slavery. Yeah, I know, that sounds harsh. But think about it. How much do you go above and beyond, then complain about how under appreciated you are?
“The man who is so run down that he needs a vacation can never adjust or reform himself in two weeks..”
– Elbert Hubbard, Philistine: A Periodical of Protest, 1905
A strong work ethic can make sense in the right context. If you get bonuses based on productivity, profit, new account retention, or some other perk that can be influenced by the amount of time spent on the job, it makes sense to give up free time in exchange for more money. But it still begs the question: what good is the money if you’ve got no time to spend it?
Now, think about when you actually do go on vacation. How long do you take? Do you take an extended weekend? Maybe a week off? Some of you adventurous ones might take two weeks, am I right? Then, as soon as you get in the car or are about to board the plane, the panic kicks in, and you begin to think of everything that can go wrong while you’re gone. By the time you get back from your brief stint of panic away from the office, you’re ready for another vacation.
It becomes a vicious cycle created by the effects of not being able to let go. You’ve got to trust that your department won’t incinerate itself while you’re gone. Don’t worry, your team has it covered.