Americans seem to be in a constant battle to find work-life balance. And if we had to declare a winner today, work would be the undisputed victor.
With Americans taking less vacation time today than ever before, the United States has earned itself a nickname as the “no vacation nation.”
The number of vacation days taken by U.S. workers dropped from an average of 20.3 days (from 1976-2000) to 16 days now, according to Skift, which provides information on the travel industry.
You probably won’t be surprised to find out that the decline in vacation time coincides with the widespread adoption of the Internet in nearly all facets of Americans’ life.
“There’s no such thing really as work/life balance anymore because gone are the days when you used to switch off your desktop computer and go home to your life,” said ex-Facebook executive Randi Zuckerberg during a Q&A with Fast Company editor Amy Farley. “Now if you have a smartphone, your job, your work, all of your contacts come with you. So I think it’s more important than ever for us to think about personal boundaries and a tech/life balance, versus work/life balance.”
A study by the U.S. Travel Association found that 40 percent of American workers are reluctant to take vacation because they don’t want to fall behind at work. Employees also said they’re afraid that their job won’t get done properly if they’re gone (35 percent) and that they may be viewed as replaceable (22 percent) if they take time off.
It turns out being a work martyr may also harm personal relationships.
According to “The Work Martyr’s Children: How Kids Are Harmed by America’s Lost Week,” working parents’ inability to disconnect from their job is taking a toll on families, particularly children.
The survey, by Project: Time Off, an initiative by the U.S. Travel Association to encourage Americans to take earned time off from work, found that nearly all (6 in 7) kids see their parents bringing home work stress. Although 86 percent of kids said they understand work interruptions at home, 59 percent said they’re upset when their parents aren’t able to spend time with them.
“A child automatically admires a parent,” said Michael Gurian, a marriage and family counselor and co-founder of The Gurian Institute. “A work emergency doesn’t disrupt the connection — kids can think it’s neat that their parent is important. But if emergencies become regular, the pattern changes and children can become resentful.”
If you need a reason to take a vacation, spending time with your children and disconnecting from the stress of your working life are certainly compelling ones. After all, we don’t want to raise another generation of work martyrs, do we?
Do you use all of your earned time-off during the year, or are you overdue for a vacation? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.