Vacations Are Good For Business

The Memorial Day Weekend is approaching and with it the start of summer and the most popular vacation season. Perhaps it is the legacy of the Puritan work ethic that has caused the mixed feelings that many in the U.S. have towards the tradition of taking time off to relax and unwind. There are many of us who feel that stepping away from work responsibilities now and again signals a lack of discipline or commitment to our jobs. Many of us brag about the number of hours we work each day and more is always better.

U.S. companies on the whole are stingy about granting paid time off,  as compared to their peers in Europe and Latin America.  Even Great Britain, original birthplace of the Puritans, gives three paid days off at Christmas, while the U.S. companies usually grant only one.  Easter is the most important holiday on the Christian calendar, but in predominantly Christian USA, there is no longer a paid holiday for Easter Monday.  In contrast, paid holidays for Good Friday and Easter Monday are standard in Latin America and Europe.

The Center For Economic and Policy Research reports that 25% of U.S. workers receive no paid time off of any kind—sick time, holiday, or vacation time.  An increasing number of companies that employ primarily low-wage workers restrict the number of hours that their employees receive, to keep benefits out of reach for as many as possible.

U.S. workers are ourselves complicit in the anti-time off practice.  According to the jobs and recruiting site Glassdoor, 75% of employees who are eligible to receive paid vacation time do not use all of their time in a given year. However, there may be a method to the madness, sadly. The global forecasting organization Oxford Economics (part of Oxford University) found that 13% of managers were less likely to promote staff who use all of their vacation days and that employees who take off fewer days on average earn nearly 3% more pay than employees who use all vacation time granted.

Let us tally the costs that the nose-to-the-grindstone approach has on our physical and psychological well-being  Even Sigmund Freud recommended that we take vacations. He and his family were known to travel every summer.

Gradually, the hidden price of excessive work is being acknowledged.  Numerous studies have demonstrated that forcing oneself to work days on end,  sometimes at a furious pace,  is ultimately counter-productive.  Workaholic behavior has been linked to decreased productivity and creativity; insufficient slee,  poor nutrition and obesity; negative stress; burn-out and mental health issues.  Some business leaders have headed the warning signs.

Ron Hastings, CEO of Netflix and author of Freedom and Responsibility (2009), is considered the thought leader of a trend that advocates for offering unlimited vacation time to employees.  He believes that leaders should trust their employees to make wise decisions about when and how much vacation time to take, that balances the company’s’ needs and their personal needs.

Full Contact, a Denver software company, now offers a $7500 bonus to employees if they actually leave town when on vacation.  Conditions apply.  Those employees must refrain from using tech gadgets such as mobile phones or computers and refrain also from sending emails and texts.  Employees cannot work while on vacation.

Finally, Jim Moffat, CEO of mega consulting firm Deloitte extols the benefits of vacations,  stating “By taking a break from day-to-day operations, not only was I spending more much-needed time with my family, but also I was able to focus on the bigger picture of where we (Deloitte) were and where our business was going.”

Are you convinced yet? It’s not so easy for small business owners and Freelance consultants to take time off, but make it a point to get out of town for a weekend trip or two this summer, if possible. Your clients will be better served when you are rested and ready to deliver the solutions that they need.

Happy Memorial Day,




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