Friday, August 22, 2014

Do you take vacations?

Did you see this article about how bad American's are at taking vacations? It's kind of upsetting, and in my opinion true. Recently I've realized how burnt out I am. I haven't taken a real vacation in almost a year, and the last time I took time off was Christmas. So that's over 9 months without time off from work. And I can feel the toll it's taking on me. I hate to admit it but I'm not being as productive or efficient at work these days because my mind is a little overloaded. It needs time to decompress, reset, and process all the information it's been taking in. And I haven't taken the time. This is partly because we like to take vacations after the summer rush as it does make things more affordable. But there are other cultural factors that create this situation.

My company works with resources all over the world. I have hired people in Switzerland, Canada, and Ukraine. The biggest difference I see when working with people from other countries is their relationship to and their expectations around time off of work. First off, they expect more of it. When hiring a resource in Switzerland I knew I had to give them the 20 paid days off of work a year required by Swiss law. But, this person actually expected 25 days off a year as this is what most Swiss companies provide. I felt bad giving him "only" 20 days off but I explained that this was already twice as much as his US colleagues received. I'm so jealous that many other countries provide more paid time off. Part of the reason we can only take one vacation a year is that if you only have 10 days off a year you can't plan a lot of trips. That's one week-long vacation and then some days off in case you get sick, need a personal day, or to celebrate the holidays. But a year is a long time to wait to get way a from work and really have a break.

The other thing I've noticed is that when my international resources do take time off they really take time off. In my experience here in the US we're always working. For example, one of my US employees emailed something over Thanksgiving, and I responded! We both told each other to go back to enjoying our holiday but there we were emailing on our work accounts. As a comparison, if one of our Ukrainian employees gets sick, they are out of  contact for a week. It gets challenging at times when someone disappears but if they are sick shouldn't they be resting and focusing on getting better? Aren't they entitled to that? And we are always able to make it work without them somehow and continue (though we are thrilled when they return). We always survive. And they take the time they need to be healthy and return to work at their best.

What I appreciate about my international team is that they don't feel guilty for expecting time off or taking time off. They see it as a necessary part of life. If they are happy and healthy in their life they will be better workers and they will produce better results. They will have energy to be creative. They can respond quicker to needs. They can be focused and efficient.

I hope this country can move towards a company culture that is more accepting of time off. I think we do worry what others will think; that we will be deemed "less" for not working. But it's important to take the time and to feel ok about it. I know that when my vacation comes up in a few weeks I'm really going to try to enjoy it and disconnect because I know it will allow me to come back to work refreshed and better than ever.

Do you feel you take enough time off of work?

Image from our vacation last September. The Pepper was a chubby 6 months old!

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