The guilty pleasure of vacation

As I leave on a one-week vacation, I can’t help thinking about how much rarer such breaks are becoming for Americans.  Plenty of people are getting time off, but from job loss, not paid vacation.  These are obviously very different experiences.

At the same time that we’re seeing fewer employees offered paid vacation, it also seems many Americans who get it are uncomfortable taking it.  With a smaller staff doing more work, and job security shaky, it’s a real disincentive to take that week or two.  I’ve even seen proposals that employers be required to force their employees to take their full annual vacation time.

Though such a law has zero political prospects, I’m surprised that more companies don’t stress the importance of vacations more than they do.  In the short run, it’s harder for companies to cover for workers who are out and costs money.  However, in the long run, I have no doubt that taking vacations significantly increases employee productivity and makes it more likely that workers will stick around.

In my case, if I didn’t take regular vacations, I wouldn’t have the stamina to host AirTalk each day.  The prep time and constant updating create little distinction between personal and work time.  Without vacation “down time,” I think it would be hard to keep up the energy and passion necessary for hosting.

However, I have no doubt many of our listeners have more demanding jobs and take little or no time off.  I’m impressed by such stamina and wonder how they can keep up that pace year-in and year-out.

Do you anticipate we’ll see more companies encouraging their employees to take vacation for the long-term health of the company?  Is this an area where smaller companies, despite the challenges in staff coverage, might lead the way?  Where do employers who rely on staff creativity come down on the need for time away?

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