It’s Vacation Season: So What’s Keeping Us From Taking Time Off?

June 1, 2011

Memorial Day weekend traditionally marks the unofficial start of summer. For many, that means getting away on vacation, whether it’s a long weekend at the cabin or packing up the family truckster, Griswold-style, for a cross-country excursion. But a recent survey getting a bunch of attention – conducted by a travel-industry company, of course – shows that vacation days are routinely going unused throughout the U.S.

On average, America’s workers left four days of vacation on the table last year. I’m one of the big contributors to that number and I suspect many others in the marketing industry joined me in padding that stat. It seems crazy, right? Why wouldn’t we take advantage of such a valuable benefit? The popular answers seem to be money (people can’t afford to go on vacation) or workload (people are too busy to go on vacation).

I’m adding technology to that list. On the surface, it seems like being connected at all times would make it easier to get away. You can be almost anywhere in the world and still keep tabs on pressing business issues. But technology also has changed the definition of what getting away really means.

There are very few 9-to-5 jobs in the marketing world and we have become accustomed to being available day and night to our colleagues, clients, vendors and others. Twenty years ago, people expected you to return their phone call within 24 hours. Today, people expect you to respond to their email or text within 24 minutes.

For me, being constantly connected makes it harder to unplug when it comes to scheduling and sticking to vacation time. I’m sure others feel the same way – how could we possibly be out-of-pocket for a full week when we feel compelled to check email on our phones at the dinner table? Well, I’m vowing to break myself of that mentality. I’m surrounded by talented coworkers who’ll capably cover for me while I’m out of the office, we’ve got a very flexible work environment and my golf game needs serious attention.

So tell me, do you use all your vacation time? If not, why? And if so, please pass along any tips for making it work (or for fixing my golf game).