August 10, 2009
Is the American vacation in danger of extinction?
John de Graaf thinks so.
"One of the things that bugs me most is that right now vacations are seen as a luxury we can't afford in this economy," said the co-founder and executive director of Take Back Your Time, a Seattle-based non-profit that takes aim at our culture's workaholic tendencies and has been holding a National Vacation Matters Summit at Seattle University this week.
Not that de Graaf is advocating that we all rush out and book ourselves a $5,000 luxury cruise. Even spending a week off in your backyard would do.
"It's actually a common finding in epidemiology that health goes up during economic downturns," he said. "It very much has to do with people having more time. Working hours are down."
Although financial stressors have increased for many Americans in the past year, so have exercise, healthy eating, quality time with loved ones, and perhaps most important, time away from the office, de Graaf noted.
"We ought to be able to learn from this. When we get back to a normal economy, we don't necessarily have to get back to one where we work all the time," he said. (The same way we don't have to return to being so spend-happy once all this economic angst is behind us.)
But de Graaf doesn't just worry about the hours we've been logging at the office.
He worries that so many of us feel guilty taking a vacation from work in the first place. He worries that a third of Americans don't even use all their paid vacation days. He worries that only 63 percent of employers in Washington state offered paid vacations in 2008 (down from 73 percent in 2007). Most of all, though, he worries that if we keep working at this frenetic pace without taking a little time off to recharge, we'll become a nation of burned-out zombies.
For this reason, Take Back Your Time has championed the Paid Vacation Act of 2009, which would mandate a week of paid vacation time to employees at companies with at least 100 people on staff. According to Take Back Your Time, the United States is the only industrialized national without such a paid vacation law.
Of course, this bill likely will take a backseat to economic recovery and health care issues in Washington this year. Still, the more people who speak up about the fact that too many of us are working ourselves silly, the better.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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