Having just returned from taking a few days of vacation (or staycation to be more exact) feeling more relaxed and focused, this seems to be a good week to explore the wellness factors associated with taking a time off. I’ve spoken with friends who worry about taking vacation – feeling ashamed to ask for it, guilty for having colleagues lend a hand while they’re out, or the need to constantly check work emails on their cell phone. Additionally, research shows that Americans on average have less vacation time in comparison to the rest of the world. In a New York Times article by Thomas Geoghegan, “The Vacation Gap Between the U.S. and Europe Is Wider Than We Think”, he states:
They put us Americans at 1,841 “average” hours a year and the Germans at 1,473 hours in 2000 – and then put us at 1,804 hours a year and the Germans at 1,436 hours in 2006. (Geoghegan, New York Times 2013)
The 368 hour discrepancy between Americans and Germans translates to an additional 9.2 weeks of full-time work for Americans, compared to German counterparts. In looking over data provided in a CNBC article by Zack Guzman (2018), titled “This chart shows how far behind America is in paid time off compared to the rest of the world”, he shares that:
A total of more than 30 days of vacation time allotted to workers in France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom stands in stark contrast to the 10 public holidays in the U.S., which are not guaranteed to come with pay.
And even though some companies provide paid time off for employees in the U.S., the average vacation time (15 days a year, according to CEPR) does not meet the minimum amount required by law in 19 of the world’s richest countries. (Guzman, CNBC 2018).
What does this mean for American workers? The World Health Organization (WHO) found that people who work over 55 hours per week have a 35% higher risk of stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease, compared to those who work between 35-40 hours per week. (Castrillion, Forbes 2021). In exploring information from these resources, it seems there is a cultural bias toward workaholism: limited paid time off compared to other countries worldwide, paired with increased health risks associated with increased hours worked.
My personal take away: don’t be afraid to unplug and take vacation time! Sit with your dog snoring on the couch while binge watching a Netflix show, travel to visit friends and family, read a book at the lake, go to the amusement park and ride the roller coaster!
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Castrillon, Caroline. “Why Taking Vacation Time Could Save Your Life.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 23 May 2021, www.forbes.com/sites/carolinecastrillon/2021/05/23/why-taking-vacation-time-could-save-your-life/?sh=8b71e9324de0.
Clemence, Sara. “5 Reasons You Need to Take a Vacation, According to Science (Video).” Travel + Leisure, 24 Feb. 2020, www.travelandleisure.com/trip-ideas/yoga-wellness/why-vacation-matters-the-science-of-taking-time-off.
Geoghegan, Thomas. “The Vacation Gap Between the U.S. and Europe Is Wider Than We Think.” NY Times , 2 Oct. 2013, www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2010/08/04/why-dont-americans-have-longer-vacations/the-vacation-gap-between-the-us-and-europe-is-wider-than-we-think.
Guzman , Zack. “This Chart Shows How Far behind America Is in Paid Time off Compared to the Rest of the World.” CNBC, 15 Aug. 2018, www.cnbc.com/2018/08/15/statista-how-far-behind-us-is-in-paid-time-off-compared-to-the-world.html.