How the U.S. measures up and what it all means.
Written by Kim Bercaw
Every time I travel, I feel as if I’m surrounded by Germans. Whether I’m in Scotland or Scottsdale, Melbourne or Maui, the German language always seems to echo around me like a thoughtfully chosen Pandora playlist. So prevalent is this occurrence, in fact, that I’ve started referring to it as the “farfegnugen phenomenon.” (Farfegnugen, by definition, has absolutely nothing to with my situation, but it happens to be my favorite German word. Thank you, Volkswagen.)
Now, one would think being followed around the world by an entire nation of people would freak me out. But it doesn’t. Not in the least. Still, as I traverse the globe, encountering travelers from Deutschland, I can’t help but wonder: Where did all these Germans come from??? Well, my decades-old question was immediately answered when I began researching this month’s blog post about vacation days. Finally, after years of puzzlement and speculation, the farfegnugen phenomenon makes perfect sense to me. It’s as clear as quantum physics to a quantum physicist: These poor people are just trying to use up their THIRTY annual vacation days!
Yep, you heard correctly. Germany is at the top of the heap when it comes to paid time off work. So are France, Britain, Sweden and Norway, all of whom are allotted an impressive thirty days per year, plus eleven government holidays.
In the spirit of turning every global study out there into an international competition, I’m sorry to report that the U.S. is sorely lacking when it comes to paid time off. We clock in at twelve days per year on average. (If you’re lucky enough to get paid vacation at all, that is. Twenty-five percent of U.S. workers do not.) If these statistics seem a bit depressing, we can make ourselves feel better by recognizing that employers in China, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan only offer an average of nine days of vacation per year, and employees in these countries actually end up taking only six. These figures were taken from recent reports released by Expedia.
The United States may still get high marks in categories like “total number of Olympic medals” and “space exploration,” but we’ve got some work to do in the “rest and relaxation” category. Here are a few key reasons the U.S. employers should step it up:
According to Karen Matthews of the University of Pittsburgh’s Mind Body Center, people who take regular vacations have, on average, lower rates of depression and high blood pressure than people who do not.
And according to Dona Dezube, Monster Finance Careers Expert, “A lack of vacation is like a lack of sleep—it impedes a person’s ability to function at full capacity.” Ms. Dezube goes on to point out that people who allow themselves adequate “playtime” are better able to think clearly and maximize their effectiveness in the workplace.
A common misconception is that people think they’re doing their co-workers a favor by working long hours and pushing themselves to the brink of exhaustion. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Dezube claims that people can maximize the health benefits of their vacation days by completely disconnecting from work, if possible. This means avoiding emails and leaving the cell phone turned off. The key is to literally get away from it all.
So there you have it. Regular vacations can actually make you happier and healthier. (This is a fact you may have already been aware of, but a reminder never hurts.) So consider contacting your Travel Beyond consultant if you have some vacation days to burn. He or she would be happy to send you somewhere in the world your cell phone carrier has never even heard of.