Why Americans Take The Least Time Off


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Taking time off from work is a great way to recharge your batteries and approach your job with a renewed passion. However, the United States is famous for failing to give appropriate vacation time to its workforce. Why do Americans take so little time off?

One of the interesting features of working in America is its distinct lack of valuing genuine vacations. Nearly twenty-three percent of all working Americans receive zero paid vacation time. Out of twenty-one developed nations, twenty of them mandate paid vacation time. The U.S. is the only country where such vacation is not guaranteed. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average number of vacation days in the U.S. for workers who have been employed for one year is a mere 8.1 days. After working for twenty-five years, that number jumps up to 15 average days.

U.S. unique in wealthy countries

A. Pawlowski, a reporter for CNN, suggests that one of the main reasons the U.S. does not participate in vacationing very much is due to the lack of government regulation, “A big reason for the difference is that paid time off is mandated by law in many parts of the world.” The countries which require the most time off are Finland, Brazil, and France, with a required six weeks of paid vacation for all workers.

Although there are no federal laws requiring paid vacations to be offered by companies in the U.S., many companies still do. Pawlowski claims that the companies that do provide such benefits use it as a method to attract new employees. It encourages potential employers to seriously consider working for a particular company.

Vacation challenges

Some Americans avoid taking time off for fear of losing their job. Although officially they may be able to take time off, doing so could have negative consequences on either keeping their current job or future possibilities of advancement. In some fields, it just isn’t practical to take time off.

For some companies, employees are not permitted to take more than one week off at a time. Others expect those on “vacation” to still be reachable via phone and/or email. These sorts of expectations discourage Americans from participating in much-needed vacations.

While it’s common for workers in Germany to take three consecutive weeks off from their jobs, workers in the United States struggle to get just a few days. The fear surrounding job security for many United States workers frequently leads employees to fail to take all of their offered vacation time. In this case, although the company officially offers vacation time, the employee is so concerned about what will take place if they are not on hand that they do not take up these benefits.

A right in Europe

Nicholas Nehamas, a reporter for Latitude News, puts this difference in attitude toward taking a vacation in Europe and the United States this way, “In America, a vacation is a privilege. In Europe, it’s a right” given that so many European countries have clearly stated laws demanding that companies provide paid vacation, one might conceive of it as a right in Europe.

Nehamas goes on to point out that there is a stereotype about the relationship between productivity and vacation time. Many people seem to believe that those who go on vacation will produce less at work overall. However, this is not accurate. When people have time to rest and relax, they are able to produce more and better quality products at their workplace.

When you are entirely focused on working every day, for every day of the year, the other parts of your life begin to suffer. You may have more family issues or household issues that may not have arisen if you had taken some time off.

Take time off

If you can find a way to be economically stable and take time off from your work, you should do it. Your quality of life will benefit you in addition to your overall productivity. Most of the large to medium size companies maintain a leave management system for their employees. You can read how a leading stable company achieves success using a staff leave HR tool for their team.  Although Americans do not yet think of vacation time as a right, there is still clear evidence that it is beneficial to take a rest. You do not need to succumb to the fear and anxiety surrounding vacations.

There are lots of different ways to maximize your vacation time. Commit well in advance to taking a set amount of time off. By making plans ahead of time, you will be able to manage projects and timelines so that you can be there when it is essential. If you work more independently, consider finding companies that can find you competent temporary replacements. There are similar services for other businesses as well.

In order to take care of yourself and your life, do whatever you need to in order to ensure you get the time off you deserve. It is definitely worth it.

About the author

Louise Williams has traveled all over the globe. Through her travels, she has experienced the hassle of taking vacation days and why many Americans have a hard time acquiring and taking the days they earn.

Photo credit: The feature image has been done by Allan Donque.

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