As this post goes up it’s Labor Day in the United States. Traditionally it’s been a day when we celebrate worker rights we often take for granted. These rights had to be fought for by dedicated troublemakers at some point. Things like overtime pay for factory workers, safety regulations, child labor regulations, sick pay, and worker’s compensation after an accident all came out of labor negotiations over the decades.
Unfortunately, one of many areas where the USA is woefully behind the rest of the developed world is mandated vacation time. There is none, which is downright sad—and in the long term, stupid for management too. But just because the government hasn’t mandated that you get time to stop producing and recharge for at least a couple weeks a year doesn’t mean you can’t take things into your own hands and do it anyway.
Poll after poll shows that many people who have time banked are still not taking a vacation. There’s a massive deficit in this country of days off people have sitting there that they have not scheduled and taken advantage of. Reports frequently note that half of all vacation days go unused in the USA, even when we have a tight labor market.
What’s wrong with you people? It’s like someone holding out a sack of lottery money winnings saying, “Go ahead, it’s all yours” and you saying, “Naaahhh, I’m afraid my co-workers will think I’m a slacker if I take it.”
The thing is, that’s a bad analogy because you didn’t win this prize—you earned it. It’s one of your job benefits. Your counterparts across the ocean are getting six weeks vacation. You’re worried about taking one or two?
We’ve Found the Problem and It’s On Your Bathroom Wall
It gets worse. We are now in a historic period where roughly one-third of the workers in America are freelancers. That stat is a bit flowed though. It throws in contract workers that are really full-time workers in every sense except their benefits and part-time workers that have no intention of working full-time. But still, even if removing those categories brings it down to a real number of 20 percent, that means one in five people can take off whenever they want. They just have to look in the mirror and ask permission.
If you’re one of those people, what’s stopping you?
I did a post a while back on how to travel more on your current income. If money is your excuse, go read that post because unless you’re truly below the poverty line, it’s a lame excuse. There are plenty of ways to travel for not much money. For most people the problem is they’re spending money in other places instead. It’s a priorities issue, not an ability issue. When that’s the case, the statement with a sigh that goes something like, “I wish I could travel more…” should really be, “I wish I liked traveling as much as I like buying (insert latest purchases here).”
If you are a company worker that gets paid vacation and you’re really using it all, but you only get a week, then why are you still working there? Again, if travel is a priority you wouldn’t put up with that.
This is not 2010 or even 2020: the unemployment rate is low and dropping. Unless you have no skills, move on to greener pastures. There are plenty of enlightened companies in the states that do care about their workers’ health and creativity. You always hear about Google and Facebook, but there are plenty of others like Patagonia, Purina, and Bose that care about filling their halls with stimulated brains. If you’re only qualified for a retail job, work at REI or Costco, not Wal-mart. (And hey, if you want travel perks, Hyatt, Marriott, Southwest, Orbitz, and Kimpton usually rate highly for employee satisfaction.)
Unfortunately, Labor Day has become a rather hollow holiday in the U.S. since all those service workers will still be manning the registers at our zillions of stores having their big Labor Day sales. Many worker drones who do have the day off will be frittering their money away on more stuff that will eventually go in their overstuffed garage.
Take another path. It’s not that hard. It just requires a change in mindset. Or a move abroad to make it as easy as flipping a switch.
You’ve put in the labor, so enjoy the fruits of it. Take a vacation already!