This chart published over on The Atlantic shows how out of kilter the US is in not requiring companies to give their staff paid annual leave. Almost worse than that is the fact that, according to a JetBlue/Harris Interactive study, no less than 57% of Americans ended up not using all the holiday time they were actually given in 2011. Most of them averaged about 70 percent of their time-off left unused. And Americans also work longer hours than just about any advanced country.
But bad as it is, I don't think this is something unique to the US. I've done a bit of work in the Far East this year and people I spoke to out there told me that they not only get comparatively few days holiday, days off sick eat into their entitlement, and most of them seemed to be working ten or more hours a day. Long-hours culture seems to be all around us in the UK as well. Technology blurs the divide between our work and our home lives of-course so even when we're out of the office, we're often not really out of the office. It feels as though work is slowly creeping into an ever-increasing portion of our lives.
The answer is of-course to switch off. But this is easier said than done. As Johnanna wrote on the Undercurrent blog, we've evolved into making use of not just one or two versions of out-of-office, but three:
- You are out of the office, but still working – from home, a coffee shop, across an ocean, take your pick;
- You are out of the office/on vacation, but still “connected” – regularly checking and responding to emails;
- You are out of the office/on vacation, and completely off the grid
Too often, sadly, I think we intend to be 'off-the-grid' and end-up still 'connected'. And my sense is that this is becoming more common.
Running my own business gives me the luxury of setting my own rules, so I count myself as fortunate. I'm about to take a short summer break and I shall be without a connection/reception for most of it.
I'll be back soon enough but in the meantime, this is my plea for everyone to fight the creep of work and take some real time out. And if you're about to embark on a holiday, choose number 3. You know it makes sense.