Vacation

CNBC: Why Vacation is a Strategic Business Imperative, Not Optional Benefit

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This week I appeared on CNBC’s Street Signs to comment on a new study that shows the United States of America is the only rich, Western country to offer NO paid, mandatory vacation.  None.  Zip.  Zero.

Of course, afterwards I thought of a great comeback to host Brian Sullivan’s Renault curveball…”But I have driven a BMW, and Germany mandates 34 days off, versus France’s 31 days.”  Oh well.

It’s not as if the other countries are only marginally better, offering two, or maybe three, mandatory, paid vacation days.  Nope.  The country second to last on the list before the U.S., Japan, mandates ten days.  Ten.

To get a sense of just how far off the bell curve the U.S. ranks, here’s the comparative chart from the “No-Vacation Nation Revisited” study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (that’s us on the very far right where is says “0”):

Now, I’m not under any illusion that the U.S. will offer European, or even Canadian, level paid days off; however, the simple fact is that every single one of these countries can’t be wrong.  There must be some valuable return from this investment or they wouldn’t keep doing it.  What is it?

What can we learn and then adapt to our culture and economy? What should mandatory, paid vacation and holidays look like in the U.S.?

How to Make Vacation Part of Your Busy, Everyday Work+Life Fit (Video)

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I don’t care what the calendar says, for me, Memorial Day marks the official beginning of summer! 

Hopefully, over the next three months, you will take a real, put-your-mobile-phone away, reconnect with your friends and family, vacation.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a long weekend or ten days.  Take a vacation!!

Why?  In a do-more-with-less, always on economy, vacation is no longer a “nice to have,” but optional, benefit.  To be as innovative, focused, and engaged as possible, we all need time to rest and recharge.

Unfortunately, the U.S. ranks dead-last on the list of rich, Western countries offering mandatory, paid vacation.  In fact, we are the only country that offers nothing.  (If you are interested in why I believe this is not only a shameful, but unsustainable strategy for the U.S. economy, check out my recent appearance on CNBC’s Street Signs).

No one is going to tap us on the shoulder and say, “hey, get out of here and hit the beach.”  WE have to take the initiative to schedule periodic getaways IN ADVANCE based on the time available to us, our budget, etc.

Yes, I know you are busy.  Yes, I know it can be overwhelming to plan a trip.

Yes, I know it’s a hassle to get out of the office before you leave and then deal with emails, etc. when you get back.

Yes, I know because I feel the exact same way.

But I also understand that when too much time has elapsed between breaks, the well runs dry. I start to go through the motions at work but quality suffers.

To inspire us all to get away, I have asked TWEAK IT inspiration travel expert (and hands on dad!), Matt Villano, to share some of his best simple “get started” vacation tips (below).  Villano writes extensively on travel, and is featured on Expedia.com’s  Viewfinder Blog.  You can also follow him on Twitter @mattvillano.

Here’s an example of Villano’s helpful “bonus tweak” vacation advice from the TWEAK IT Together site:

“Plan a quarterly getaway. Start to consider an overnight. It could be one night, or it could be a weekend-type trip. It doesn’t have to be wildly expensive. You could go camping. You could stay at a Motel 6. It doesn’t really matter where you’re sleeping. What matters is that when you go, you’re actually immersing yourself in the culture of wherever it is you head. And by that, I mean, if you’re going to go to the Ozark Highlands of Missouri, get out and hike. Get a kayak and go paddle some of the rivers. Try some of the hole-in-the-wall type restaurants with food that you would never in a million years consider getting in your hometown.”

Enjoy!  Be sure to tell me where you go this summer AND then how you felt when you got back.

How I Finally Went Cold Turkey From Working on Vacation

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(This post originally appeared in FastCompany.com 8/15/12.  Not only did it inspire many interesting comments from readers, but subsequently, I received a number of “out of office” response emails where the sender said they were on vacation and declaring “email bankruptcy” upon return.

The best part was that, in a couple of messages, the sender had embedded this post to explain how they were trying to disconnect from work and take a true break.  Maybe we’ve started a movement!)

How do you take vacation and then actually disconnect from work when you are away?  These are two of the most consistent and, seemingly intractable, including me.  But, I’m proud to say that I just completed my first vacation in years where I almost totally disconnected from email (99%) and didn’t engage at all on any of my blogs, Facebook, or Twitter for two weeks.

Not only did I survive this true break from work, but I feel more energized and focused than I have after most of my previous days off.

How did I do it? I used three simple vacation tactics–day blocking, email bankruptcy, and social media fasting. I explain each tactic below. But first, you might be interested in finding out what finally motivated me, after countless failed attempts, to figure out how to truly separate from work for a few days. (Click here for more)

(Image from FastCompany.com: Flickr user Brian Uhreen)

Before I (Really Try) to Disconnect for Vacation, Here are a Couple of Things to Check Out….

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At the end of today, I am officially on vacation until Thursday 4/9, and it could not come a moment too soon.  Contrary to the doom-and-gloom picture painted for work life flexibility in the recent Washington Post article, we are busy.  While I’m very grateful and love what I do, I believe we all need to disconnect and re-energize periodically to continue bringing the best of ourselves to the task at hand. 

Unfortunately, as I’ve shared in past posts related to my ongoing “vacation quandary,” I struggle to make the break with work during vacation (here , here and here).  So, I will report back how I did in my first post after vacation on April 15th.  Appropriately enough, that post will focus on an interesting conversation I had with Maggie Jackson, the author of one of my favorite books from last year, Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age.  We talked about the need to pay attention and build in time to think and concentrate.  Should be interesting to see how much more focused, attentive and less distracted I feel when I return. I will let you know.      

In the meantime, before I leave for vacation, here are a couple of things to check out:

  • Marci Alboher interviewed me for her new blog Working the New Economy on Yahoo! Shine for a post entitled, “Negotiating an Alternative to Layoffs: 5 Questions for Cali Yost.”  Then go to my most recent FastCompany.com blog post, “Jobless Claims Rise to Record Levels, 20 Blog Posts Promote Flexible Alternatives to Layoffs” for a snapshot of all the of posts I’ve written over the past year encouraging a more flexible approach to downsizing that minimized layoffs.
  • Kathie Lingle, Executive Director of the Alliance for Work Life Progress, wrote a must-read blog post, ‘The News of Our Demise is Much Exaggerated.”  In the post she uses her long history in the field and in-depth knowledge of what’s really going on to challenge the validity of the fear-based Washington Post article I mentioned earlier about the demise of work life flexibility in the recession.  Yes, there are pockets of “Let’s go back to 1985, because people should feel lucky to have jobs” resistance.  But there’s also support for flexibility as a business strategy even more valuable during difficult times.
  • Alfred P. Sloan Awards for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility now, for the first time, accepting applications for a national, at-large award to recognize employers across the country that are successfully using flexibility to meet both business and employee goals.  This is new.  In the past, this award was given out only in local communities around the country, so individual offices of national companies could win but not the company overall.  This new award now offers national recognition.  Deadline to apply is May 1, 2009. 
  • Finally, if you haven’t done so already, please consider following me on Twitter.com at http://twitter.com/caliyost.  You will find many of your favorite work+life experts on Twitter providing up-to-the-minute real-time commentary on work+life related issues of the day.  Go to the list of people I’m following to find them all, and then join in the conversation! 

With that, I’m officially signing off from all things Web 2.0 until the week of April 13th.  Wish me luck in my quest to disconnect!  Please feel free to share any tips that could help.

Fast Company Blog: The Vacation Quandary Continues–Is a law the answer? I’m not so sure…

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(In addition to the post from my Fast Company blog below, check out this week’s: Heartbreaking Reminder–There’s No Eldercare)

A new poll conducted for an organization called Take Back Your Time found that “69% of Americans support a paid vacation law with a large percentage favoring a law guaranteeing three weeks vacation or more.” The poll also found that “among Americans, 28% took no vacation time at all last year and half took a week or less…the median time off was 8.2 days.” There is no doubt that finding time to disconnect from work and to reenergize and reconnect with our loved ones is difficult in a 24/7, high-tech, global reality. A law might be a good, but I’m not sure it’s going to solve the problem.

I’ve blogged about the vacation challenge both from a personal perspective and an expert perspective on a number of occasions over the years. My postings usually coincide with my own vacation struggles (click here and here for links). And, as I read the findings of the new poll, I was reminded that the challenges related to vacation are actually three separate issues:

1) People don’t get paid vacation (according to 2006 Bureau of Labor Statistics, that represented about 25% of workers)

2) People don’t take the vacation they have (according to a 2006 Steelcase study 61% of employees took their allocated vacation)

3) People take vacation, but work while they are on it (in 2006, 55% of men and 43% of women took work on vacation)

The paid vacation law proposed by Take Back Your Time (www.right2vacation.org), would definitely help the 25% of workers who don’t have paid vacation. But what about the other two groups? How is a law going to help the people who don’t take the vacation allocated to them, or the people who work on their vacations?

Holiday Work+Life “Fit” Tip #2 — Don’t Let Technology Be the Grinch that Stole Christmas!

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You’ve decided what you want your holiday work+life fit (or work/life balance) to look like — what activities you’d like to try to participate in, what days you’d like to try to take off, etc. Now, it’s time to figure out in advance how you are going to manage technology to help you achieve your holiday work+life fit goals in the least stressful, most enjoyable way.

Truth: Technology can be your best work+life fit friend. Unfortunate Reality: Instead of managing technology, technology manages you! And the result is a seemingly unending connection between work and your holiday celebrations.

Okay, so what can you do to avoid having technology become the Grinch that Stole Your Christmas (or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa) this year? Here are a couple of suggestions:

My Eldercare VICTORY!–Mom 1, Cancer 0: Why “Exceptional Caregiving” Will Transform the Work-Life Balance Debate

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Special Note: Scroll down to the end for my Holiday Work+Life “Fit” Tip #1—Finding Time and Making It Happen!

Work+life “fit” means strategically managing the boundary between your work and life in response to personal and professional transitions. It’s difficult to plan when a transition occurs, but it pays to consider what your fit might look like when it does. Some work+life fit transitions will be small like getting to the gym periodically, finding some time for your friends or a date, etc; therefore, your fit will require a minor adjustment. But, some of those transitions will be big, and overwhelming. This was my experience with eldercare.

More Voices Say, “It’s an ‘Everyone’ Issue”

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New York Newsday Article (9/10/06)–After the Time Out: How to Navigate the Return to the Workforce”by Patricia Kitchen

Check out the advice a team of experts (one of whom was me) gave a mom transitioning back into the workforce after being at home full-time for a few years. Two important take-aways for everyone:

• It’s essential to clarify your boundaries around work before you start working again. Define what you can and cannot do given the fit you are trying to achieve, and then stick with it. You are the only one who can do this.
• You may need to redefine success—what does doing a “good” job look like—and make sure it matches the work+life fit you’ve envisioned above. Otherwise, you run the risk of becoming overwhelmed and burning out.

Vacation/Work Quandary Part 2: Are We Our Own Worst Enemy?

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Because of the response I received to the posting about my personal struggle not work during July vacation, I decided to analyze recent research findings and commentary related to the vacation+work quandary to see if I could find common themes and solutions. And, as I suspected, in many ways, we are indeed our own worst enemy when it comes to vacation, or the lack thereof. What can we do about it? Plenty…we need to:

• Realize there are two separate issues—people who don’t take vacation and people who work while on vacation
• Change your definition of success that keeps you from taking vacation
• Challenge fears about taking vacation—are they real?
• Consciously determine how much work you will do before starting vacation
• Manage technology, don’t let it manage you
• Realize your company and the government can only do so much

To Connect to Work on Vacation, Or Not to Connect? That is the Question…

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We are entering prime vacation season.  The time of year when people ask me, “Should I answer my email and check my voicemail during vacation?”

Ah, remember the good old days when you could only “check in” during vacation by picking up the phone and actually talking to another human being.  So, for the most part, you didn’t do it.

Now, with the click of a mouse and a voicemail password, you can anonymously stay “connected” with the greatest of ease.  And, for some people, that’s the problem.  Clearly many of us still struggle with boundaries between work and vacation. This includes me.