• Alan Shoebridge

Taking time off: How much is enough?


For the first time in many years – perhaps ever – I recently took a full two weeks off from work not during a traditional holiday period when extending vacation time always seems to be easier. During the past couple of years I’ve heard more colleagues extolling the benefits of taking at least two consecutive weeks off from work at some point during the year to fully recharge.

Returning to work this week made me think about where things stand with the amount of time off we all are comfortable taking and what barriers still get in our way. A survey of more than 7,000 workers conducted earlier this year highlighted some interesting trends:

  • “Americans are using more vacation. In 2016, average vacation use climbed to 16.8 days per worker compared to 16.2 days the year before. The more than half-day shift changes the trajectory of America’s vacation trendline with the most upward movement seen since vacation usage started its rapid decline in 2000.”

In the past, many American workers have often been afraid that being gone too long from the office would raise questions about their value as employees. Even when they have a substantial amount of paid time off available, some people are reluctant to use it. This situation appears to be especially prevalent at the leadership level:

  • “Senior leaders are particularly pressured by the barriers of taking time off. More than half (52%) are stopped by workload, 47 percent feel it is harder to take time off at higher levels of the company, and 46 percent feel no one can do the job while they are away.”

Another barrier is being able to plan ahead and dedicate a large amount of your time to one block of vacation days:

  • “The most effective remedy for American workers who want to use more vacation days is better planning. A majority (52%) of workers who say they set aside time each year to plan out their vacation days take all their time off, compared to just 40 percent of non-planners. They also tend to take longer vacations. While three-in-four (75%) planners take a week or more at a time, non-planners take significantly fewer days—zero to three—than planners at once (42% to 18%).”

For me, two weeks of vacation provided what seemed like an optimal break; however, I’m fortunate to have more time available to use later in the year. So as we near the midpoint of the summer season, I’m wondering how much time off is “right” for those of you reading this post and what, if any, barriers make taking the optimal amount of time off difficult?


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