Summer is looming, and with it thoughts of summer vacation. Yet as U.S.News & World Report points out, workers in the United States are lousy at taking vacations. And the last time we checked with our readers, the consensus was that web workers are even worse. […]

Summer is looming, and with it thoughts of summer vacation. Yet as U.S.News & World Report points out, workers in the United States are lousy at taking vacations. And the last time we checked with our readers, the consensus was that web workers are even worse. It can come as a shock to American readers to realize that in some parts of the world three to five weeks of vacation are required by government or corporate policy.

It all comes down to work/life balance, one of our favorite topics here at WWD. The traditional argument is that a month-long vacation leaves you relaxed and refreshed, ready to approach work with new vigor and new ideas. Some people argue that web workers get this without a formal vacation: we can just grab the laptop and a plane ticket, and tomorrow be in a coffee shop in Paris or Peru, still doing our jobs and soaking up the benefits of a new culture in our off hours.

And yet, how many of us ever schlep the laptop any further than the nearest coffeeshop, where we stake out the same table we had yesterday and the day before that? There can be a difference between having a freedom and using it. If your email will give you a few minutes off to think, this might be the year to consider whether a real vacation is in the cards.

By Mike Gunderloy

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  1. Mike

    I am guilty of not taking vacations myself.
    I used to when I lived in Europe.
    As I was reminded while reading a copy I just received of ‘The 4 Hour Workweek’ in the US we tend to focus too much on face time and how hard we work (how many hours).
    Maybe we need to reconsider and think about ‘smart’ work instead and unplug from time to time.
    As for the length of a vacation, you really need at least 2 weeks, one to decompress, one to relax and rest.


  2. Given the size of our company, every vacation is a working vacation, so while we do get out and away, we’re limited to locations with wifi. Thankfully, a lot of rental properties are hip to this and we’re seeing it being touted more regularly in rental adverts. That being said, I can’t wait to take my kids to the beach later this year.

  3. I think many people are afraid to vacation. Sadly enough, I’ve been laid off twice immediately following a vacation. I also had an ex-coworker who was fired last week. He had taken a vacation earlier in April. Coincidence? Probably not.

    Sure, they give us two weeks a year, but many companies don’t want you to ever take ‘em.

  4. I hear what the first couple of comments are saying, but I really think you owe it to yourself and to your team to take some time off every once in awhile. A cranky employee is an unproductive employee. Maybe all it takes is a 3 or 4 day weekend but everybody needs to recharge the batteries now and then. I’m pretty sure your work world won’t collapse without you and if they want to fire you for taking the time, maybe that’s not a place you want to be anyway.

  5. rick gregory Wednesday, May 2, 2007

    OK, the 2nd comment first… depending on the laws in your state, that may be illegal. Even if not, I simply do not believe that a good, valued employee will be fired for taking a vacation. There’s more there I think.

    To the first comment – if you’re starting a company, yeah the first couple of years will be at best working vacations. But if that’s a year in and year out thing, something is wrong. Either you’re not delegating, you’re understaffed or you’re kidding yourself about your need to always be in touch. Look at it this way – what if you got hit by the proverbial bus? If the company would really fail or badly flounder, you need to take a hard look at things.

    Mike – I think web workers are bad at this because of the always on nature of our work environment, plus the social pressures… “you’re NOT on Twitter? Maybe you’re not as on the edge as you think.” … “You DO update your blog from your Blackberry, right? No? Hmm…”

  6. I’ve moved from working in an understaffed office to working for myself. And while I could take paid vacations at my old job, there rarely seemed to be a good time to do so without having a huge stack of work waiting for me when I came back.

    Now that I’m a freelance writer, if I don’t work I don’t get paid, so not only is it hard to find time to take off for vacation, I often find myself working on weekends.

    The funny thing is, I’m making more money than I did at my full-time job, so I probably could afford to take some time off, but I can never shake the feeling that when I come back in a week or two there won’t be any work waiting for me.

    Maybe in a few years I’ll get used to this freelancing lifestyle and learn how to manage my time a little better.

  7. I used to live in Canada and was taught to ‘feel bad’ about wanting time off, and not to take even more the two weeks consecutively as that was just indulgent. North America is really wrong about all of that attitude.

    I now live in Australia where I get 4 weeks minimum and I am a lot happier with life and with putting more effort into my work on a daily basis. Work is not all there is out there, but when you are there you should feel like your life is balanced enough that you can get into it and enjoy or be good at what you do.

    Not just burned out and bitter.

  8. Like many others, I find it hard to take time of since that means NO PAYCHECK. Plus, there’s no one to pick up the slack with my clients — I’d feel bad abandoning them for anything more that a week. But I’m definitely of the opinion that a week is not enough — it takes me that long to decompress.

    It’s really quite sad!

  9. I’m on the opposite side of the spectrum. I NEED time off completely away from work. I am lucky enough to get 4 weeks paid each year in the 4 years with my current employer, I have taken all my time every year.

    Aside from the fact that travel makes me feel like a more well rounded individual, I find that it really does recharge my batteries. I come back excited to dive back into the field, sometimes with new ideas or a new perspective. Just to make you jealuous in the last couple years I’ve gone to Mexico, Costa Rica (twice), England, Ireland, California, backpacking in Southern Utah (twice) and New York (yes those are all exotic destinations if you live in Central Ohio ) :)

  10. Sorry! I did not mean to plunge everyone into the depths of despair with my first comment. That was definitely during the recession in 2000 and those WERE startups that did the laying off. I guess what I’m saying is, if you are afraid to take time off from your company because you think you will be seen as non-essential, then you are definitely NOT at the right place. I know many people that are afraid of taking vacation or think they are heroic (?!) because they are at work all the time. That sort of mentality is encouraged in the work place. Another issue is that we don’t necessarily get two weeks a year, as it’s whittled down from various three day weekends, etc. I’ve taken a nice long vacation in between jobs. As long as the economy is good, you can just jump back into things when you are done relaxing. :-)


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