If it's not broken, don't fix it. When it comes to allotted vacation time, this mentality has cemented the minds of employees and employers the world over. Employees will readily accept crappy holiday allowance, and employers don't see a need to address it. Besides, what does “broken” in this context even look like?
Well, the picture paints something like this. In the United States, there is legally no minimum vacation allowance. None. In fact, American paid holiday time has been on the decline for years, and is the lowest in the entire world. The cherry on the cake? The World Health Organizations has deemed workplace stress the health epidemic of the 21st century.
But beyond dwindling holiday allowance and the explosion of workplace pressure is the issue's glaring skeleton: our work culture has made us afraid to exercise our right travel, even when it's given to us.
Employers: Stop underestimating the benefits of vacation
Travel has significant, positive effects on our social, physical, and mental wellbeing. But in the name of convenience and savings, most employers set this aside. What they don't realize is that this actually hurts employee productivity.
Travel – whether near or far from one's home – removes us from our usual environment. It provides newness, stimulation, and fends off degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's. Foreign experiences inspire creativity and help bring fresh ideas to the workplace. Not to mention, it provides positive memories that are kept forever.
Perhaps the most important take home message here is this: more hours spent at work does not equal greater productivity. Making staff feel valued has far greater effects on their contributions than making them feel undeserving. Richard Branson drives this point home in saying, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to”.
Don't create a “walking on eggshells” environment for travel requests
Employers carry tremendous pressure in their roles. But too often this stress is passed onto employees when leave requests are given. “Can you divide up that holiday time? Can you go a little bit later? Do you have to go then?”
There may be reasoning for such responses from management, but these statements often carry a raw message to workers: your time off is not my priority.
When an inquiry for a holiday is made, think of that as a proactive mental health request in itself. Questioning the worthiness of a holiday is not necessary. If someone called in physically ill to work, you wouldn't ask them to be sick on another day, nor would you have them divide up their ailment into convenient portions. The brink of insanity is not the point when someone finally is worthy of their own time. We all deserve to travel and enjoy life.
We've put travel out of reach with our own hands
A “suck it up, Buttercup” mindset is not only culturally commonplace, but a sense of pride in many countries. Dangerously, we've convinced ourselves that we don't deserve crap until we've exceeded our limits. In other words, only burn out warrants reward.
Our frustrations should not be aimed downward in telling people to just “be happy” with what's been provided. All that does is make it easier for those at the top to steer clear of the issue. When we continue telling people why they should slurp up the bowl of crap handed to them, we are spoon feeding the anti-vacation culture ourselves.
Even though holiday time feels good – it rejuvenates us, etches our brain with memories, makes us feel passionate about life and the world – we don't ask for more. And employers don't see why we should, either.
At the end of the day, work trumps travel. Employment tasks appear “essential”, while holiday time is not. Frankly, I think it's time we demand better. Travel has never been more accessible in all of history than it is now. Yet so many of us are completely wasting this away.
Travel-positive workplaces exist & are thriving
When a travel-positive environment isn't your norm, it can be hard to imagine how things can be different. But doubt not – several countries have shifted from offering limited vacation to some of the highest holiday allowances globally.
Many developed and developing regions view staff travel allowance as an essential cost to managing their business. Why? These employers understand that staff happiness is correlated with productivity. And this isn't some modern day social experiment. Several of these countries have been running this way for decades.
Here are some of the countries that offer decent (i.e. >2 weeks) paid holiday leave worldwide:
- Afghanistan (35 paid days)
- Australia (30 paid days)
- Brazil (30 paid days)
- Germany (29 paid days)
- Iran (22 paid days)
- New Zealand (31 paid days)
Surprised by some of the countries on this list? The way that we may perceive holiday time is certainly not the best, nor is it necessarily the norm worldwide. We can do better.
We all deserve to travel, and it's time we spoke up about it
Regardless of whether you work in a renowned position, or earn money doing something perceivably mundane, you deserve time to explore the world in some way. You have one life to live. You don't owe a large chunk of it to a job that offers limited time to actually live it.
The disintegration of work/life balance has gradually made us care less about our time. While decades ago work ended the moment most people set foot back home, now more than ever are we digitally connected to our jobs, even on the most remote trips. An e-mail labelled “URGENT”, a quick Skype call for that meeting you “cannot miss” – such interruptions have slowly squandered how precious we consider our time.
Why this sentiment is not yet widespread is tragic. Time is the greatest commodity we have, yet we readily hurl it at jobs that ignore this. Yes, we earn cash from our employers, but no matter how much we are given, money cannot buy us back the time that we are all actively losing.
We can do better – but it's up to us
We all have one life to live. Making sure we actually live it is largely in our own hands.
How can we instil such change? There are many ways. It could be encouraging vacation time to be as uninterrupted as possible, or honouring holiday requests as best as able. It could be creating a time appreciative workplace that values staff requests for travel, and not expressing a “be happy with what you have” attitude around limited trip time.
Ultimately, we can do better. Other countries successfully offer generous holiday allowance. Work cultures exist that emphasise the value in travel and time off. We know that travel creates happier, more productive people. It's time we demand and create better. The memories and experiences had as a result are most certainly worth it.