Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Work Burnout Threatens Vacations

The following is a reprint of a Yahoo! Hot Jobs article from May 21, 2007

Work Burnout Threatens Vacations
by Tom Musback

Despite summer's reputation for being a time of travel and leisure, many U.S. workers are not using all their vacation time and are too tired to plan a getaway, according to a new Yahoo! HotJobs survey.

Nearly half of the respondents (49%) said they feel "burned out" by their jobs, and many did not fully use vacation time as a remedy. Out of 1,800 professionals surveyed, 45% said they did not use all of their vacation days allotted in 2006, and 39% said they were too tired to take a "real" vacation during their days off.

"People don't always realize the true benefits of taking vacation time," says Susan Vobejda, vice president of marketing at Yahoo! HotJobs. "They focus more on the absence from work and related details, when in fact a vacation allows time to recharge batteries and come back to the office with new energy and increased productivity."

Why Create More Work?

There are several reasons why workers don't use all their vacation time: having too much work to do to take a vacation (36%), not being able to afford a getaway (34%), wanting to save vacation time for emergencies (32%), and worrying about coming back to an excessive workload after a vacation (15%).

"I think people have thrown in the vacation towel," says Debra Davenport, a professional mentor, licensed career counselor, and employment agent. "What's the point of taking a vacation when you're still strapped to your cell phone and laptop, and, worse, you return to the office from your break only to have 500 emails, 100 voicemails, and weeks of work to catch up on?"

Taking a “Mental Health Day”

When people do take time off, it's often used in ways unrelated to vacations. In fact, nearly a third of respondents (31%) said they use the time to run errands, such as doctor visits, and 30% said they often use vacation time as "mental health days" to cope with stress.

"The issue," says Davenport, "is making self-care a priority. Vacations are an extension of that mindset."

The Problem of Presenteeism

Liz Bywater, president of Bywater Consulting Group, which specializes in organizational behavior change, suggests that elements of corporate culture may be responsible for the work-vacation imbalance.

"Part of the problem is that our culture supports an ethic of 'presenteeism,' whereby employees show up for work even when they are too ill or tired to be effective on their jobs," she says. "There is an expectation, sometimes unspoken, that people will come to work under all but the most extreme circumstances."

Making Vacation a Priority

Bywater offers the following tips for making the most of vacations:

• Choose the vacation that best meets your needs. You may need a peaceful retreat from stress, or you may benefit from something more active and exciting. Avoid the kind of vacation that will leave you even more exhausted than before.

• Plan ahead for your time off. Take practical steps to manage your workload with your upcoming vacation in mind. Try to wrap up important projects before you leave. Don't leave behind time-sensitive tasks that only you can handle.

• Enlist help. Ask a trusted coworker to back you up while you're away and offer to return the favor. It's much easier to relax when you know someone's got you covered.

• Have no regrets. You earned the vacation, so enjoy it!


Michelle here….does anyone else see the irony in this article?

How many of you searched for just the right job with just the right perks, which included three weeks of vacation a year, and don't bother to take any of them?

If you are one of those people who are too busy to take a vacation, I hope your life insurance is paid up…..your family will need it.

Employers should insist that employees take vacations. They should also insist that the employee leave the cell phone and laptop computer at home when they do take a vacation, but it is unlikely that they will. Why let go of someone, even temporarily, when you pay them to work a forty-hour week and then have them on call 24/7/365?

Stress is causing more and more illness in the forms of anxiety, depression, heart trouble, high blood pressure, skeletal and muscular problems, and yet do people consider serious stress-relief except on the most superficial, temporary level?

Not often. Employees and employers must find common ground on this topic. Employers must arrange for a person's job to be covered when they go on vacation….remember when that used to happen? I do. A person could go away for a week and not have two weeks worth of work waiting when he or she returned.

Employers, you are not doing yourselves any favors by burning out your employees. In the long run, you will lose more in sick days and training replacements than you will gain in working your people 24/7/365.

Employees, you must take the time that is yours by right and protect your health. In the long run, that is what a vacation is meant to do, give you a chance to get away from the craziness of the work world and enjoy the rest and relaxation of the leisure world….without cell phones and laptop computers!

A great vacation is one of the most holistic methods to reduce stress!

Make your plans now, and have a Great Vacation!

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