Archive for June, 2007


Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

The US has lots of opportunties for most people to acheive a good education and employment.  An area that is sadly lacking is vacation days off for its employees.   The average number of days off in the US is 14 days annually, far below the number of days offered in other  countries.   Americans are  described as the ‘most overworked, vacation-deprived people on earth.’

Lynn Brenner in an article in the Parade San Francisco Chronicle,  dated 4/15/07  states that most employees only take about 10 of these 14 days and 37% of workers take less than 7 consecutive days off a year.   On the other hand there is a growing number of Americans who work more than 50 hours a week and this figure is steadily rising.  Often job performance is rated on the hours worked and rewards may go to those that worked the longest hours.

 A study by the Families and Work Institute, “Overwork in America”,  found that  1 in 3 workers experienced feeling overworked as a chronic condition. These long and stressful work conditions impact the ability to take care of responsibilites at home. Very often it is the children who are deprived of parental guidance and support as tired parents  are physically and in some cases mentally drained to effectively take care of other matters.

It is very hard on  parents  having worked a full day,  to  come home to the usual chores, after school activities  and the care of the family. Children need such a lot of time and attention that one wonders whether it is possible to meet their needs adequately.

In my experience,  taking few days off work has become an accepted phenomenon in the US and many people find the concept of more vacation time mind boggling. When  my fellow employees in the US  heard  about my past experience with  lengthy vacation times that South African employers offer,  they found the concept to be very strange. Employees here have become conditioned to accept the status quo and seem to lack the need to even ask for more.  I am surprised that even the presidential candidates do not address this issue at all. It is as if family time is not accepted as a health issue.  Yet it is well know that many physical symptoms such as heart attacks  and high blood pressure can be traced to stress, anxiety and unhealthy lifestyles.  The long work hours and extremely limited vacation time is a leading cause of  stress and other related problems.   

In some countries it is compulsory to take vacation days.  Most European countries offer their staff between 4-6 weeks annually. Providing time off for workers and encouraging them to take the days off is regarded as an investment, as the employees  generally return refreshed, invigorated, relaxed and in good mental health to take on the job responsibilities with “vim, vigor  and vitality.”

 Healthy minds contribute to healthy and happy families and in turn to happy employees.