Am I really still at work?

Photo by star5112

Every now and then you hear a travel story that makes you sit up and take notice. Like the backpacker who has been traveling non-stop for five years. Or the travel writer who decided to fly around the world without a singe piece of luggage. Or the adventure-seeker who’s traveling with no money. That kind of thing.

Well today I heard another travel story that really got my attention. It was about a man who hasn’t gone on a holiday in 10 years.

Yes. 10 years.

It’s not that he doesn’t want to go on vacation – it’s that because his company expects him to be switched on and checking in all the time, he can’t.

“I really would like to take a real, decent vacation and travel somewhere, but it’s almost impossible to take a long vacation and to be out of contact,” said Don Brock, a software engineer who lives in suburban Washington. “I dream of taking a cruise or a trip to Europe, but I can’t imagine getting away for so long.” The running joke at Brock’s company is that a vacation just means you work from somewhere else. So he takes one or two days off at a time and loses some vacation each year.

From Why is America the ‘no-vacation nation’? at CNN

Brock’s problem might seem unique, but unfortunately it’s not. Many people are foregoing their annual leave, with only 57% of Americans using up all the vacations days they’ve been given.

That’s pretty paltry considering most Americans only get 2-3 weeks of vacation per year in the first place (compared to countries like Finland, Brazil and France where workers are guaranteed six weeks of holiday time).

The ironic part is, if you get 2-3 weeks per year, you should consider yourself lucky, because a quarter of all working Americans don’t get any leave at all. Not a single day. Nada.

Why? As it turns out, there’s no federal law that says employers have to provide paid vacation days – so not all employers do.

This raises so many questions, not the least of which is why do we all work so much? Is it because we are so afraid that if we take a break, we’ll come back to the office to find our boss has realized he can do without us? Or are we so passionate about our jobs that we can’t bear to be away from them?

Surely, if we stepped away and looked at the situation rationally, we’d realize that we would be better workers for having unplugged for a bit – both in terms of productivity and motivation. No doubt Mr. Brock would discover a newfound enthusiasm for his job if he had that two-week cruise to look forward to, after all.

What do you think? How much vacation time do you get and how do you use it? Are our employers to blame for holding us back, or have we simply forgotten how to unwind? Sound off below!