🏖️Why 46% of Americans don’t use All their Vacation Days! How it’s Killing their Work and Wellbeing

Americans have always been dubbed the “workaholics” of the world – and for good reason! In NYC everyone’s so busy running to their next thing they don’t, more like can’t, be present. They don’t know how to switch off. But the trend of remote working (that’s here to stay) plus a looming recession, worrying about being fired, has given a whole different meaning to it.  

Americans have literally been programmed to think that if you’re not working you’re simply lazy. And you’ll be next to go. Life’s also become so expensive that you can’t help yourself from wanting to work more to earn more. So we often let work take our priority. But for many, it’s literally taking over their lives. So this has so many working their butts off just to keep their job.

And now that the economy has taken a real turn for the worse, with interest rates above 4% and inflation still running hot, a cooler economy is exactly what has to happen. To get inflation under control demand has to come down. People have to get laid off. You can’t have one without the other. And layoffs are sweeping everywhere. And everyone’s scared they’ll be the one shown the door. 

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You can’t live your life in fear

But living with that fear is crippling. Of course, now is not the time to be slacking off but layoffs almost always are not personal. It’s down to “restructuring” which is basically a way of saying they need to cut costs. So do what you can to stay ahead but not at the cost of your wellbeing. 

In America, they get an average of 15 days vacation which I’m told goes up to 20 if you’ve been there for 20 years. And funny enough, we Europeans get way more than that and we do not feel nearly as guilty for taking time off! I have 28 days off each year (excluding bank holidays!). Even crazier, my friend has 28 days + bank holiday + Christmas break. 

This whole crazy hustle culture I call workaholic is not that common on my side of the pond. Maybe that’s because I’ve chosen not to hustle but maybe that’s because I told myself long ago, my work will not define me. I am more than my job.

Take your lunch break!!

My British friend moved to the states during covid to take up a cool job there, in law. I wanted to do my bit to keep our (now sadly) long-distance friendship going so I told her we should have a phone call during her lunch breaks. She literally LOL’d at me. She had no lunch break. Those rare gems did not exist on her side of the pond. 

Her lunch consisted of her ringing me all huffed and puffed on the way to grab a green smoothie near her office and then rushing back to her boss. All in all, I think I got about 5 whole sentences out of her before she had to go. I have 1hr lunch break during which time we’re strictly told to NOT have any internal meetings.

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I’ve read that many gen z workers are scared to take this break. Like they’ll look weak or something. But seeing my colleagues eat at their desks, all hunched over, and then return to work made me cry inside. So, my fellow grads and I all have lunch together. How cute, I know. And we use the full hour. Every last drop of it. 

Rest is fuel for your body + mind 

Our bodies are not machines. As much as we wish and hope we can keep chugging on 24/7 without stopping to breathe, we can’t. We’re human. As much as we need food to survive we need rest to thrive. 

We all know that 1 person who works too hard. It’s not cool to stay in the office till the lights go out. Trust me, you are not being paid enough to do that. I know that you want your promotion but is being around all the time and working the way forward? I dunno. You tell me. I’d rather give up my 3% pay rise to go home at a normal hour. I’m not ashamed of that and neither should you. 

Rest = fuel. My lunchtime hour (sorry, Americans!) not only allows us to gobble up our soggy sandwiches (talking for myself here obvs since I’m not spending £10 a day on lunch) in peace, away from a screen, but it gives us social time. Time to talk, unwind and relax.

All this is super essential and gives us energy for the rest of the day. Though somehow, come 4pm and I’m a goner. Am literally of no use to anyone. I told my colleague today that we humans were not built to be screen-hunched for 7+hrs a day. She agreed. I say this as we hung out in the “contemplation room” that basically consisted of 2 very large (and not soft) beanbags. But it was a chance to get away from the screen and have a natter. Work-related or otherwise! 

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Don’t be afraid to take your vacation days – they’re yours!

I’m not saying we brits have nailed this whole working thing but we certainly know how to take a break. Your work will be waiting for you after vacation. But take those days off. You’re no use to yourself and anyone else if you’re burnt out and miserable. You’re literally being paid to vacay. I mean c’mon. Enjoy it. 

Though I’ve been guilty of pushing myself too hard. This week, I got so ill I had to take a day off work. I should’ve taken off work sooner but I pushed it off. You know the drill. I didn’t wanna fall behind bla bla bla. But I was ill and should not have been working. I’ve learnt my lesson now. Big time. And I will be taking my own advice! But we’ve all been there before. We overwork ourselves when we know we shouldn’t. 

So take time off before you get burnt out! Cuz once you’re burnt out, it’ll take you way longer to recover and get your mojo back. Make taking breaks a regular thing. And force yourself to take your PAID days off! You don’t even need to travel. Sometimes staying home and having an entire week to yourself is all you need to give you your sparkle back. Less is more. 

 Oh, and if companies really cared about our wellbeing, they would surely make taking paid holiday mandatory. Since they all know their workers are too much of a goody-goodie so actually use their full allowance.

But it’s really in everyone’s best interest. A well-rested worker is one who will produce better work. Simple. 

So get your R&R. You deserve it. And need it. 

Your work will be waiting for you when you come back.

But until then, don’t give it another second’s thought. 

Speaking of which, I’ll be off for a few days celebrating Passover with my fam and eating all sorts of interesting foods! 

Happy Holidays!

Disclaimer: This blog is not investment or financial advice. It is my opinion only. This blog is not a personal recommendation to buy/sell any security, or to adopt any such investment strategy. Always do your own research before you commit to any investment


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