Just let ’em work until their heads thud against their desks

Kevin Drum on the American unwillingness to take vacations:

Of course, I’m hardly one to talk. In theory, I agree with Ezra [Klein, who has a LA Times op-ed about this], and I would have preferred a job that paid 10% less but provided 10% more vacation. In reality, I rarely even used the two weeks of vacation I got. Partly this was because I was caught up in the work ethic feedback loop that’s spiralled almost insanely out of control in America, but also, ironically enough, because I only got two weeks of vacation. So I hoarded it. You never know when you might need it, after all! Maybe if I’d gotten six weeks of vacation time I would have actually used more of it.

But I was hardly the worst. The really disheartening cases were the people I’d call into my office and practically order to go on vacation. They had accumulated, say, 300 hours of vacation time and weren’t allowed to accumulate any more. Take a couple of weeks off, I’d urge. If you don’t, you’ll be working for free, burning through vacation hours you’re no longer earning. Sometimes my exhortations worked, sometimes they didn’t. Very sad.

Maybe I’m lazy, but I’m continually baffled by the American obsession with working freakish numbers of hours at the job, and the fact that we’re so reluctant to take vacations (or to grant them to our workers). I’ve never seen the virtue in doing that much work. I even remember reading with some astonishment an article a few years back in the Buffalo News advising workers to take their laptops and cell phones with them on their vacations, so they could spend three or four hours a day making calls and answering e-mails and servicing accounts. What the hell’s a vacation for, anyway?

I somehow suspect that there’s some connection between our attitude toward vacation in this country and our tendency to take mental illness less seriously than physical illness. I’d try to do some connecting of the dots thereof, but I’m kind of tired right now. Maybe I need a vacation.

(Actually, that may not be a bad idea. Now that I think of it, aside from my sister-in-law’s wedding back in July ’05, over the last three years I haven’t taken any significant time off from work that wasn’t somehow related to the health problems and deaths of our attempts to increase our family size beyond three.)

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One Response to Just let ’em work until their heads thud against their desks

  1. Anonymous says:

    When I worked for an insurance company decades ago, everyone was required to take at least 1 week off. Any financial scams an employee is spinning tend to surface during that time, as someone else does their work.

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