Taking Back Your Vacation Days

When was the last time you went on a vacation? If you are lucky enough, you might be recalling the long weekend camping trip you took in August to escape the city, or that all inclusive vacation to the Caribbean this past winter. Doesn’t sound familiar to you? Unfortunately it does not ring a bell for thousands of Canadians who work all year long without taking a well deserved break.

We have highlighted the importance of taking shorts breaks at work. Taking longer breaks (known as vacations) are equally, if not more important, but thousands of Canadians are not using their vacation days. According to a TD bank survey, “93% of Canadians think vacations are important to be ‘happy’ but only 43% report using up all of the days they are entitled to” (Marr, 2014).  As the third last nation in terms of mandated vacation days (CBC News, 2013), it is a little embarrassing that we cannot even make use of the very few days that we are allotted.

A more recent article published online in The Guardian discusses the main factors influencing people to stay at work and skip out on vacation:

  • Our workaholic culture: it is not news to us that North American culture has instilled the belief that we should always be busy and working towards climbing the corporate ladder.
  • Guilt: we feel bad about taking a vacation because we should really be working like the rest of our colleagues back at the office. We feel as if we don’t deserve a break, especially if we have not been performing our best at work. However, a drop in our productivity might be the greatest indicator that we need a vacation.
  • Fear of falling behind: taking time off from work is difficult, but taking time off from work and forgetting about work during this time is even harder. No one wants to come back from a relaxing vacation only to find themselves bogged down with even more work than where they left off.
  • Not being able to afford a vacation: going away is very expensive, especially if you will be taking your partner or family with you. Also, it is hard to see the value of taking your vacation days if you are going to be spending them at home.
  • Not having any vacation days: some workplaces do not provide their employees with any vacation days. This is more common with private companies (Kasperkevic, 2015).

We definitely have some work to do in terms of taking back our vacation days, but as the previously mentioned statistics and trends suggest, it is not going to be easy. Below are some ways to encourage a vacation-friendly culture:

  • Unplugging: thanks to our handy smart phones, most of us stay connected to our workplaces even when we are off the clock and at home. Our evenings and weekends are contaminated with work-related thoughts, so we are never really getting a break. Next time you go on a vacation, or even on your weekend off, try turning off your phone and leave your laptop shut. If you are a boss/employer, it would be even more meaningful if staff were mandated to leave their work phones at work. This type of action would convey a very strong message.
  • Staycationing: going away is expensive but being on vacation doesn’t have to be. Staying in your home town for a holiday, also known as a staycation, has become an increasingly popular trend. You can have an equally relaxing time staying in your city/province and going away to a nearby town or city that is far enough to make it feel like you went away, but still close enough to not require expensive travel costs.
  • Set an example: bosses/CEOs/employers are equally as vacation-deprived as their employees. As the head of a company, you take personal responsibility for the successes and failures of your workplace, so it is even harder to set work aside. It is difficult, but taking a vacation and making it known that you are taking a vacation might influence your employees more than you think. This would send the message that hard-working people deserve time off too and might alleviate the guilt workers have around taking time off.

Are you an over-worked employee in need of a vacation? What is holding you back? 

Photo credit: http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1249743/images/o-WORKING-ON-VACATION-facebook.jpg


Kasperkevic, J. (2015, September 7). Why is America so afraid to take a vacation? The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/money/2015/sep/07/america-vacation-workaholic-culture-labor-day?CMP=fb_gu

Marr, G. (2014, March 18). Nay-cation? Why Canadians are leaving vacation days on the table. The National Post. Retrieved from http://business.financialpost.com/personal-finance/nay-cation-why-canadians-are-leaving-vacation-days-on-the-table

CBC News (2013, May 24). Canada ranks 3rd last in paid vacations. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/canada-ranks-3rd-last-in-paid-vacations-1.1306523