Getting a grip on vacation

Photo swimming poolThe first thing I read on Monday morning, back on the job after a weeklong vacation: An article on why Americans need to get serious about vacations. According to this article, the average, private sector US worker receives 16 paid vacation days and holidays, but only takes about 12. USA Today reports that the US is the only developed country in the world without a single legally required paid vacation day or holiday.

Chart paid vacations by country

Courtesy of CEPR.net

Workers in France, Spain, and Germany, however, are guaranteed 25 – 30 paid vacation days per year, and report taking all the time they’re given. These countries have higher unemployment rates than the US, but continue to offer generous paid-vacation time, combined with paid-national holidays, despite struggling economies.

According to the TLNT article, I upheld the all-American vacation stereotype: I took one-week. And I was stressed.

Vacation Deprivation by Country

Chart vacation deprivation by country

Courtesy of Expedia

Not the whole time. Not even half the time. But I woke up each day with a compulsive need check my messages, to tie up loose ends, to send just one measly little tweet.

I completed a few tasks that would have done if I were working. I sent a few emails that felt pertinent at the time, but probably could have should have waited until I got back. Even my boss told me, on my day-five attempt to stay in the loop:

 Why don’t you just hold this for a week and do everything next week. You’re on vacation after all.

Why did I feel an overwhelming need to work, while on vacation? Why did I feel guilty for even being on vacation? I don’t feel especially pressured by my job, nor are my bosses particularly demanding. This was all me, convincing myself that I’d dropped the ball on something, without ever actually letting go.

This is not to say that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy my vacation. I had a jam-packed week of catching up with family and friends, eating my favorite foods, seeing my favorite places.

Photo Citizen's Bank Park

Photo Philadelphia skylinePhoto Philly "LOVE"But I think this is a moment where I, and the rest of the country’s working population, need to be honest with ourselves: Is it better to have the appearance of an overachiever, or to actually achieve something? The US is the second-most productive country in the world, but only marginally better than Germany and France –who also offer the most vacation time. If productivity isn’t suffering as a result of more vacation time, it sounds to me like we could all benefit from a little break.

Either way, it’s great to be back in Boston, falling into routine once again. Even if we Americans aren’t awarded the maximum amount of time off, it’s important to maintain a work-life balance. Keep your schedule filled with weekend plans, dinner dates, and time for relaxation. Whether we’re working, on vacation, stressing, or relaxing, we only have so much time. Take a moment to enjoy it all.

Ladies night at L’Espalier

Photo blue crab appetizerPhoto cheese platePhoto dessert