There’s an evergreen story at the end of each year, we hear over and over that Americans don’t use all their vacation days at work. We get fewer paid vacations than employees in other countries, too. Look, tradeoffs. Required vacation, severance and the difficulty firing employees is also why it’s difficult to get a permanent position in the first place in places like Australia. It’s common there to be on fixed-duration contracts without the same coveted protections.
Still, I agree that most people don’t get the most out of the vacation time they do use and could do more with their weekends at least, approaching each opportunity with abandon.
But now that we’re again seeing stories about Americans not using their vacation days again in 2020 can we at least say, sure, this year I get it?
- The government was telling people to stay home.
- With uncertainty, recession, and high unemployment people were rationally focused on showing up for work and demonstrating value.
This year was stressful. People felt cooped up. It would have been nice to get away. I just did a weekend at the Texas beach adding on a couple of vacation days in addition.
Sure, it may be true that “the average workday lengthened by nearly an hour.” People no longer had to commute. And people have “shortened, postponed or canceled their planned time off” as well.
But when I read that “[j]ust 42% of companies said they are making changes to vacation policies to boost flexibility, including increasing carryover limits for unused time off” I want to punch air. Just? 42% of companies said they are making changes to vacation policies because of the pandemic, isn’t that sort of amazing?
I want people to take more trips and better trips, though I also think Jeff Bezos is right that the phrase “work-life balance” suggests a tradeoff which doesn’t have to exist, and also that you’ll enjoy vacation more if you work while you’re away.