Should Americans Be Getting More Vacation Time?

It seems like recently I have seen quite a few discussions and articles on the matter of American workers and vacation time.  First there was this discussion on the New York Times between Gail Collins and Timothy Egan, and then this Room for Debate piece, and now BBC News picks up on the tend.  So the big question is the one that I propose in the title of this post.

I believe (though I may be mistaken), that nobody would turn down getting to take some additional vacation time every year.  I sure as hell know I wouldn’t say no.  But the question isn’t whether we’d take it if offered, it is whether it should be offered at all one way or another.

I feel pretty lucky with my work situation and vacation time.  Working essentially as a type of government employee I feel like I receive pretty reasonable vacation time every year (as well as a number of paid national and state holidays).  However, even with this reasonable accommodation, I have to first make sure I accrue it (it isn’t just a set number provided at the beginning of each year).  It does carry over year to year, so if I know I want to take a big longer break I can work to save up my hours to spend at a later date.  However, in the three years I have been employed by my job I have pretty much saved my time for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and a few other random times throughout the year (I am actually taking off this Friday to have a four-day Labor Day weekend).

Do I think, from a purely objective standpoint, that being required to take a set number of paid vacation days a year would be beneficial for my working life?  I have to respond that yes I do believe this (and not just because I’d love more non work time).  I admit that my job is certainly not the most strenuous and stressful one around, but it does have its challenges and frustrations, and I certainly am very often exhausted by the end of the day and especially the end of the week.  Working a general 9-5 M-F schedule, with my weekends off means that I am often forced to fit a lot into my Saturdays and Sundays and do not often get all that much relaxation or rest.  I hear people lament that Sundays are no longer like they were back in the day when most places were closed and people took it easy at home with friends or family.  Well, from my personal experience I think that the gone Sundays are hugely a product of our busy working lives and the need to have both weekend days available to accomplish things outside of our working lives.  Increased and forced vacation time might not be used for rest or relaxation (there will always be people who have a hard time getting their R&R), but it would certainly provide more opportunity for it.

I have written before ( I think.  I know I have at least thought about it a lot) that I think many modern humans are stuck in a rut of existential exhaustion.  I see this exhaustion as being a product of both general physical fatigue mixed with a vast mental lethargy.  I think that much of the existential exhaustion is a product of not being in full control of our lives and minds because of our busy work demands.  Sure we can find time here and there, after work, on the weekend, on the few days we take off a year, but more often than not, many of us are products of routine function and utility without the opportunity to reflect and pursue more desirable leisure.  I look around my at my fellow working colleagues (both here where I work and else where in the “working world”) and I witness a lot of general drain.  Sure there is still happiness and good times and stuff, but mush of that is overshadowed by a creeping malaise of overwhelming tiredness, not just physical, but of the routine.

So yes, I think increased and require vacation could offer some real benefits to the U.S. population.

However, like Mr. Goldfarb (from the BBC article) I heavily doubt that any of us are apt to see it any time soon.  With a bad economy, a high jobless rate, and companies across the board looking for ways to cut costs, I do not foresee there being an overwhelming drive to compensate workers with more vacation time.  This is unfortunate, because the benefits of happier and healthier employees would probably be steady, if not increased, productivity, but as Americans tend to be so good at seeing the most immediate future this is bound to matter little.  How sad, but so it goes.

I however look forward to my short four days off, and hope that I can find some time to just get away from it all, maybe do some good reading or drawing, take a nap, and gain that mere moment of respite.

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~ by Nathaniel on September 1, 2010.

One Response to “Should Americans Be Getting More Vacation Time?”

  1. […] to the Nap Perhaps some what in the same vein as my recent post on whether Americans should be taking more vacation time (and certainly in regards to my piece “Contemplation: Lay Back, Take a Nap” written a […]

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