Happy Spring Break! Now Get Back to Work.

Steve Boese Bad HR, Benefits, Culture, HR, Steve Boese, Vacation, Work Life Balance

It’s Spring Break this week (at least where I live)!

Time to take some time off!!!

Vacation time!!!

What’s that? You did not get any time away from the office this Spring Break? Or maybe you just sneaked away for a day or two, but had too much going on to take the full week off?

Well, you are not alone if you did not manage to get to take advantage of your hard-earned downtime. According to Expedia’s 2013 Vacation Deprivation Study, American workers, on average, leave 4 vacation days on the table each year, and 59% percent of workers feel “vacation deprived.”

Why are so many of us failing to take advantage of this most basic and important of employee benefits? Per the Expedia survey, some of the most frequently cited reasons are:

1. Wanting to stockpile days for a future vacation (which you will never take).

2. Difficulty in scheduling vacations (probably because your little kids are too over-scheduled themselves and can’t get away).

3. Concerns they can’t afford to pay for the vacation (more of a valid reason than the others, but still kind of lame. You can veg out on the sofa for a week at a pretty low cost if you would like).

Yep, those are the most commonly cited reasons that workers offer when asked about their propensity to let earned vacation time go unused. But I think they all obscure the real, true, and often unspoken reasons we don’t take our vacations which is this:

If you go on vacation, your co-workers and your boss will hate you and toss you directly under the bus at every opportunity.

Last week I was sitting in an airport lounge waiting for a flight, and in the course of about 90 minutes overheard no less than three separate phone conversations that more or less all followed these patterns:

Stressed out traveler #1:  “Can you believe Tom went on vacation this week? I mean with the Penske account in such a mess and he still took off? I had to go to Phoenix to smooth it all over.”

Stressed out traveler #2: “I’m not sure what happened. Anne decided to take the day off today, I guess. No she didn’t tell anyone, except her boss. She didn’t tell me in advance. How could she take the day off and not tell me?”

Stressed out traveler #3: “Bill is on vacation this week. I got an ‘Out of the Office’ when I emailed him and I left him two voice mails, but I have not heard back. I need to speak to him right away. Do you know what hotel chain he prefers? Maybe I can track him down in Maui.”

You know what you never overhear?

A conversation that goes something like: “Jane is out for the next two weeks. She’s been working so hard, it’s great to see her getting some down time. No, I won’t bother her about that until she gets back. It is not really that urgent.”

So, maybe you missed out on Spring Break this year, but Summer is coming up fast and in order to try and have some kind of workplace civility and a return to normalcy, I offer up these three suggestions:

1. Don’t project your insane notion that there is no separation between work and personal life on everyone else around you. When someone is “off” let them be off. If some co-worker of yours happens to be on vacation and it inconveniences you, suck it up and deal with it, you big baby.

2. If you are the boss, you need to set a better example too. Encourage your teams to take some (real) time off–not the kind of time off that involves “checking in” every day or makes them feel somehow less committed to the cause if they want to disconnect. And take some time off yourself. Nothing improves employee morale more than seeing that the boss is out of the office.

3. If you are a worker bee, then try to take some damn time off. If you find you work in an environment where you can’t completely disconnect from work for even a few days, (and you are not the CEO or Owner), maybe take some of your fake vacation time to consider whether or not you are in the right place for your long-term well being.

Happy Spring Break.