When you read that over 40% of Americans do not take their allotted vacation days, does it shock you? Does it lead you to think about how the corporate culture in your current job/last job might contribute to this phenomenon? We decided to take a look at how this statistic fits in with our careers by looking at practices we have observed and experienced.
We work for the same company, literally 2 rows from each other. This means that our experience is similar because we follow the same corporate policies. The differences lie in the different management styles of our bosses.
In our office, 6 weeks of annual leave can be saved. This has positive and negative consequences. Typically, the people that earn the most amount of leave have been in the company/position for many years and are often in Senior analyst/leadership positions. Many of these people are also self created workaholics. They typically work long hours, earn credit for the additional time worked, and only take the time off that is over the 6 weeks that can be saved. If they happen to be driven by the need for control, many will work even when they are on leave.
Now not all people are obviously workaholics. Others, are planners. They take only the leave earned beyond the six weeks to ensure they are never without any. They realize leave is limited and feel that saving it is the best way to plan for a future event.
The less Senior workers typically earn less leave and have less leave to take. This is the category we fit into. Many take as little as possible so they can build a reserve balance. The caveat to this is that they are the ones often left in the office while the Senior ones are out and they generally have less available time to take leave.
Then, there is the management and corporate culture factor. It’s the nature of many corporate cultures to drill into their employees psyche that “everyone is replaceable”. While that does have some truth to it and may lessen the blow of losing any one person, it often has other ramifications. It leads to thoughts of “It’s easier to go to work than take leave” and “there is never a good time to take leave”.
One of our bosses makes comments about how he has to live through our stories and comments that we are never there because “we are too busy traveling”. His career is the most important part of his life and likes others to have the same goals he has. The other one encourages employees to take vacations and is more than happy to fit in work around family life.
We both grew up taking vacations and realized when we started working full time and had a “real, grown up” job that taking time off and traveling would remain a priority in our life. Taking time off to us 95% of the time equates to taking a trip. These trips are not always to somewhere new. There is comfort in returning to somewhere you love and are familiar with. The important thing is to get out of your hometown and spend some time with different people and experience another place.
With the positive experiences travel has brought us, we know that the U.S. has got to do a better job encouraging work/life balance. It is our opinion that corporate culture as a whole must shift to more companies allowing telework on a routine basis and openly speak about the health risks associated with not taking time off. Most people like to work and make a positive contribution to their workplace & maintain cordial relationships with their coworkers, but companies have to do more to foster this.
What is your experience with working and vacation time? Does your company have policies that encourage the use of peace and work life balance?