At a recent hotel stay in the Dominican Republic, my wife and I began chatting with another husband and wife while at dinner. It was friendly small talk and we spoke about various topics over the course of the meal.
Near the end of the meal, the wife mentions that she was happy to be spending the last few days of maternity leave on the beach before returning to Canada. <–This is where the conversation took a turn.
“Oh wow! Congratulations. I agree, this is a nice place to spend a few days” I responded.
Typically, I don’t ask many questions when it comes to personal matters but I blurted out “Wait. Are your kids here…in the DR?” because I didn’t see any kids.
“Oh, no. They’re at home with grandma. We’re just celebrating the end of my year on maternity leave. I return to work next week” she responds.
DID YOU CATCH THAT?
She said the end of her YEAR on maternity leave. Of course, I just glossed over it and said “oohh..gotcha! Well enjoy the rest of your trip.”
But her response sent me down a rabbit hole!
I had not done any research on maternity leave around the world but I was fully aware that other countries had different standards. However…a year??? Wow! That is A LOT more than the US! So I started thinking “are other aspects different too? For example, do other countries receive more vacation days that Americans?”
Well, it’s apparently no secret that workers in many other countries get significantly more vacation days than Americans do. It’s all over the internet. If you were aware of that but didn’t find it surprising, I trust you will find this shocking…despite having fewer vacations days than most countries, Americans fail to use all of their annual vacation days.
In fact, in 2017, Americans who earned vacation days wasted a record-setting 658 million of those vacation days, according to a survey from the Washington, D.C.-based initiative Project: Time Off.
The survey found that 55% of U.S. employees left at least some of their vacation days unused last year and roughly 33% of workers took absolutely ZERO vacation days during the last year.
THE AMERICAN WORK MARTYR
My jaw was on the ground while researching for this blog post. I found this surprising. I mean…if you have paid time off, why would you someone not use it?
Well, it appears that over the last year, there has been some positive progress. This past year, only 52% of Americans left vacation time unused.
Interestingly, 84% of Americans say it is important to them to use their time off to travel. Yet, workers used less than half of their vacation time to travel.
I think it’s apparent that I LOVE TRAVELING! I also recognize that I’m at the far end of the spectrum…closer to “obsessed with travel.”
I understand that not everyone shares my passion for seeing other countries but I do recommend taking time off to, simply, stay at home for a day – with your kids, significant other or just yourself. Those days will be just as memorable as flying to another country.
However, I beg that you please DO NOT let your days go to waste!
It may sound counterintuitive but when you do take a break (e.g. no work email, work phone calls, or thinking about work, etc.), you’ll find yourself happier, more creative, and even more productive at work.
We live in a busy world, so “finding time” is impossible. However, being intentional and “making time” is not.
So who’s ready for a break? Better yet, who’s going to actually take a break?