Summer. If you ask most of us what summer means, chances are words like vacation, relaxation, recharging, family and fun will lead the conversation, evoking thoughts of beaches, pools, palm trees and umbrella drinks.
It's ironic then that Americans are one of the only countries in the world to have no mandated days off. That's right, zero. We share this distinction with only five other countries: Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau and Tonga.
Thankfully a large majority of US employers (75%) give their employees days off, with the average being 10 days per year. However, even when we are granted those days off, 54% of us leave them on the table year after year. The popular belief as to why Americans are so woefully "bad" at vacationing is that we just don't have a strong vacation culture; our parents and grandparents didn't vacation and so therefore we never learned to value something we didn't have. Or it could be that our nationally collective Type-A personality sees rest as a weakness. We are always the early birds catching the worms!
Turns out taking vacation is good not just for our minds, bodies and spirits, but for the overall productivity of our nation as well. The 1992 Framington Heart Study[i] (it still considered the best long-term health study), tracked workers over a 20-year period and found that "men who don't take vacations were 30% more likely to have a heart attack and for women it went up to 50%." Taking time away from the stress of commuting and working have real, positive benefits to our overall health, even when other risk factors such as obesity, diabetes, income levels and cigarette smoking get factored in.
And that's not all. According to CNBC "data shows more time off doesn't have to translate into lower productivity. Nine of the top 10 most productive countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2015, measured by GDP per hours worked, were in Europe. The United States ranked sixth."[ii]
A research group called Project: Time Off funded by the US Travel Association found that "employees who forfeited vacation time were less likely than those who didn't to have been promoted within the last year and to have received a raise or bonus in the last three years. All this is on top of the $62.2 billion in benefits they lost by forfeiting time last year."[iii]
As we approach August, we here at PWM want to hear about your vacations this summer, and if you haven't made any plans yet...consider it your patriotic duty to do so!
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