For those of us who need to work for a living, summer vacation is probably more narrowly defined as time off of work for recreation purposes, typically taken during the summer months. If this definitionmore accurately describes your life situation, I have an important question for you. Have you taken your summer vacation yet, and, more importantly, did you enjoy it?
According to author Cindy Aron, the author of "Working at Play: A History of Vacations in the United States,” the practice of taking time off of work for a vacation has only recently been developed (over the last couple of centuries). In the early years of our country, being able to take time off from work (other than on the Sabbath Day) was viewed as sacrilegious. As time progressed, the concept of travel for recreation was reserved for the rich people of the country. It took a while, but only relatively recently was the middle class of our country able to take “vacations.”
“Taking vacations did not come easily to the middle class,'” Aron explains, adding that Europeans weredifferent and, historically speaking, “had been traveling to various spas since the late Middle Ages.”How much time do you typically take off from work? The CBS program “60 Minutes” asked this same question.
“Are you taking two weeks? One week? A long weekend?” The program went on to state, “America is a nation of workaholics. We may all want more time off from work, but we never seem to be able to take it. There are millions of people, though, who take endless vacations in the summer – a month, two months, even more. We’re not talking about the idle rich. They are government employees, blue-collar workers, office clerks. How do they manage this? What’s their secret? They live in France.” French law guarantees that workers get a least five weeks’ vacation per year. In addition to that, there are also public holidays and a maximum 35-hour work week which equates to another 22 days of time off per year.
But because we don’t live in France, we had better make the most of our time off. Though, I’m afraid Ihave even more bad news, and it has to do with unplugging ourselves from our work. An article in Psychology Today entitled, “Why It’s so Hard to Unplug from the Digital World,” discusses the challenges of figuring out how to disconnect from our devices.
“The problem of being constantly plugged in has expanded to the workplace. Work is no longer restricted to the office or actual place of work, it is carried with you to your home or anywhere you are through emails, text messages and phone calls.”
“According to a study by the company Neverfail, 83 percent of professional workers check email after working hours; 66 percent take a smartphone or laptop with them on vacation and more than 50 percent report that they send emails or texts during a meal with family or friends. These practices, while not officially mandated by employers, have become expectations. So the workday, along with the mental and emotional pressures of it, expands to fill workers’ lives.”
The article goes on to cite a study by Dov Eden of Tel Aviv’s University’s Faculty of Management, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, “Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes,” that suggests that even if you unplug during your vacation, it will come at a cost. The study “shows that people pay a price for continued connectivity to work after work hours, in termsof chronic stress and job burnout. He also found that for people who were used to continual connectivity to work, when they did take a vacation without digital connectivity for a rest, they either returned to work extremely anxious or stressed, or the restful effects of the vacation did not last.”
While most of us can appreciate the merits of hard work, do we fully appreciate the importance of goodrest? Many of us judge our worth or the worth of others by our busy schedules and list of to-do items,but summer is a great reminder that our busy schedules should, perhaps more than occasionally, be interrupted by periods of rest and relaxation, especially when enjoyed with family and friends.
If you’re having trouble grasping this concept, let me teach you another lesson I learned from the French. Repeat after me, “I’m not lazy; I am a connoisseur of leisure,” said in the Frenchiest French accent you can muster. Have a happy summer vacation, everyone.
If you have any ideas out there about how to take a relaxing summer vacation, send a letter to the editor at email@example.com.