Breaking Bad

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Employers in the United States are not mandated to provide paid vacation or holidays to their employees thus contrasting sharply with any other industrialized nation in the world. In view of this, I believe the logical mental leap here would be to think that those of us who get paid vacation would put it to good use. Not so. US employees perform rather poorly in the vacation department and as many as 60% of us end up working during the breaks we do take.  How did we end up with a workation culture?

Technology undoubtedly plays a role.  Not that long ago a person on vacation was simply unreachable but now with “the world’s most reliable network” at our disposal, and our geographical whereabouts readily available publicly, it is certainly harder to get off the grid. Still I believe that technology is merely an enabler and that we are the true workation transgressors.

My personal reasons for workation transgressions can be categorized as follows:
  • Career-> The perception management as the highly dedicated and over-achieving employee
  • Ego -> The inability to relinquish control
  • Practicality -> The overshadowing stress of post vacation catch-up

As it turns out vacation is good for business; employee burnout is not. When we are removed from our day to day routine, exposing ourselves to new sensory experiences and catching up on sleep allows our brains to function in new and exciting ways. It leaves us refreshed and inspired.  Furthermore, the people we leave behind are given an opportunity to grow and shine in our absence assuming we set them up to do so. That means we have to relinquish control, which in return illustrates our faith in coworkers as well as a willingness to build company talent. Bottom line, employees who take real breaks contribute more long term to company value than those who do not.

That leaves me with the practicality. Around 50% of employees take a workation simply because of the stress associated with the post vacation catch-up.  That dread can turn even the best margarita watery; no inspiration is found in a watery margarita!  So what is the right balance?  That answer I believe is entirely individual but my personal goal for my upcoming vacation is to make it exactly that, a period of extended recreation. Will I bring my laptop, check email, and carry my phone? Absolutely!  However, I vow that I will only answer work calls and not make any, I will only check emails once a day, and the rest of the time my thoughts will be work free.  So with that let the chillaxing begin! 

"For fast-acting relief, try slowing down." 
— Lily Tomlin

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