In just a few weeks, millions of American kids and teenagers (not to mention, teachers) will be able to enjoy a well-earned respite over the next few months – why? As that old song goes, school’s out for the summer.
Summer vacation. For many, growing up, it was the favourite time of the year. The sun shone longer, and the classroom-free days meant we could spend hours on youthful adventure with friends.
Sure, many of us worked summer jobs or found ourselves occupied with more structured pursuits but it was summer vacation nonetheless. That time away from school allowed us to decompress and recalibrate after the stresses of making the grade; which might now feel relatively trivial next to those that many adult Americans now face daily in the workplace.
So why is it that so many working Americans are placing less importance on their need to take a vacation?
The answer might not be so obvious. According to the U.S. Travel Association (USTA), it can’t be blamed on job insecurity or economic anxieties alone. In a 2016 study, USTA researchers found no correlation between unemployment rates and vacation habits or found any evidence that vacations increased with higher consumer confidence rates. One of the culprits, according to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is technology. Our greater connectivity has made the world much more accessible, but it’s also become a tether back to our desk and workplace responsibilities. AARP’s survey found that one-third of respondents worked while on vacation.
While in some cases this might be because of a sense of obligation rather than duty to our employer, in the end, it’s likely to cause employees to burn out faster: A Nielson poll found that 71 per cent of American workers who regularly take vacations are satisfied with their jobs, compared to 41% among those who don’t.
Dissatisfaction is one thing but what if not taking vacations meant that ultimately, you might have less time to take them in the future? The longest-running study of cardiovascular disease, the Framington Heart Study found that women who went six year between vacations “were eight times more likely” to develop significant cardiovascular problems, like coronary heart disease or experience a heart attack versus women who vacationed twice a year. Researchers also found that vacation time can also help rebalance sleep patterns, resulting in 80% improvement in reaction times after just two to three days of time off with quality sleep.
Vacations aren’t just for kids. While much of this post has focused on encouraging employees to speak up, plan and take time off, we must recognize that America can do more to ensure employees feel confident and are able to take vacations. According to CNN Travel, unlike every other developed nation in the world, the U.S. provides no required days off for employees. To the north, Canada’s provinces all provide for a minimum of two weeks paid vacation. Across the pond in the U.K., it’s a full 28 days. Employers that value their employees wellbeing – both mentally and physically – should provide adequate paid vacation time for workers to relax. They’ll likely see better performance out of those workers because of it.