Wednesday, February 21 , 2018, 2:49 pm | Fair and Breezy 59º


Tom Purcell: Americans in Need of a Vacation

Boy, I could use a vacation about now — like millions of other hardworking Americans.

According to Project: Time Off, a recent study by the U.S. Travel Association, 54 percent of American employees ended 2016 with unused time off — a total of about 662 million unused vacation days.

Whereas our friends in Europe enjoy up to six weeks off every year, Americans, after three years of working at a job, are lucky to average 10 days of vacation.

That’s if you can call what we do vacationing. When we finally do take time off, we usually take it piecemeal; we take one day here, one day there, and we hardly ever enjoy an actual “break.”

Even if we do take a week at the beach, for instance, we bring our computers and smartphones with us. We check our email obsessively, dial into phone conferences and keep our noggin in real-time connection to the stresses and agitations of the workplace no matter where our vacationing bodies may be.

Our work habits have changed over the past few decades. We’re terrified of losing our jobs, you see, so we work harder. We feel guilt if we’re the first to leave the office or the only one who didn’t work over the weekend — or the only one not to work 60-plus hours a week.

As a result, a “24/7” culture has evolved in which employees feel the need to be accessible to their employers every moment of every day. Our habits may be a contributor to productivity levels that are the envy of the world, though our productivity comes at the expense of our weekends, holidays and vacations — putting us at risk of burnout.

Some in our country think the solution is the creation and passage of new federal laws that mandate more vacation time — like similar laws in other countries.

Take the French. Their government mandates that every employee get at least five weeks of paid vacation. The French average 37 days of vacation every year — and 22 paid holidays on top of that.

Virtually all European countries have government mandates that require employee-paid vacation of four to six weeks — whereas America has no government-mandated vacation requirements.

It’s true that while our European friends are basking in the sun and sipping refreshing drinks on their long government-mandated vacations, we’re sitting inside sterile office buildings worrying about our jobs, projects, job security and that next promotion.

It’s even worse for America’s small-business owners. Fewer than half take a week off during the summer. With the economy still somewhat uncertain, many are not ready to hire. They are picking up the slack by working two or three jobs themselves.

And when we go home late at night, our job worries stay right with us. As a result, we have less energy to go for an evening stroll in the park with our children, less time to enjoy a glass of lemonade while visiting our neighbors, and less desire to engage in our communities to support charities and other noble causes.

The fact is, America, too many of us are working too long and too hard, and we’re not taking enough time to recharge our batteries.

As I said, as a long self-employed writer and author, I’ve been guilty of this myself.

Can we take more vacation time without the government demanding our employers give us more? Can we maintain our freedom to choose whether to vacation and simply choose to enjoy more vacation time on our own?

It’s high time we think this vacation challenge through, America — as we stand in the surf sipping fruity adult beverages with little umbrellas in them.

Tom Purcell, author of Misadventures of a 1970s Childhood and Wicked Is the Whiskey: A Sean McClanahan Mystery, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist, syndicated by Cagle Cartoons. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter: @PurcellTom. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >