I got a vacation e-mail reply today from a gentleman in Sweden who said he would be gone "Week 29 to Week 31" and would only be checking e-mail on a weekly basis. I guess I'll just check back with him in Week 32?
The whole concept of being away from work for a stretch lasting three to four weeks is a foreign one. Well, it truly is as most of Europe looks at August as a holiday. But it's also foreign in the sense that I wouldn't know what to do.
E-mail and gizmos, such as the laptop and smartphones, make it almost impossible not to check in. (Maybe it's time to check out the i-wood.) And even if you have the strength to ignore the job for several days, doesn't that just create a huge pile of electronic communications to dig out from when you get back?
Let's face it. We're used to working and not using vacation time. In fact, U.S. workers don't even have the right to paid vacation days. On the other hand, French workers are guaranteed 30 days of annual leave—which does little to improve their overall disposition, but makes you wonder what would happen if they had to work more.
Do more workers wish they had time off? Probably so, but the thought stays on the wish list, not to be shared publicly. I'm guessing most people feel they are lucky to have a job. They think that if they ask for time off that their employers will be more than likely to give it in the form of a furlough, which used to affect only manufacturing or seasonal workers, but now touches all occupations.
Ironically, now is the time that most people need a respite from the hard work and the fear of worsening economic conditions. Unfortunately, many won't get the break they deserve.
So in summary, we've covered people in the U.S. who have vacation time but can't break away totally from job responsibilities, workers that have vacation but don't want to leave for fear of losing their job, workers being given a nonpaid "vacation," and people with no paid time off at all. Is it any wonder that this country is the world's largest incubator for entrepreneurs? I mean, if you are going to bust your butt with little time to recharge your batteries, you might as well be doing it for yourself.
(Of course, I left teachers off the list. I think the fact that teachers work only nine months really makes some hard-working taxpayers have mini-seizures. You should try being married to a teacher; after 14 years I still harbor jealousy as I roll out of bed at 6 a.m. to start my workday in the summer.)
That's why I like fall. There is no more stress associated with trying to take time off, and everyone can get back to work like normal.
It's unbelievable that I wrote that last sentence, and I think I actually believe it.