Another story highlighting same...... U.S. folks make sure check in the bottom of the article to see if/how your regionalality affects your vacation habits... Americans leaving vacation time behind
The Arizona Republic
Sept. 4, 2006 12:00 AM
When work clashes with a vacation, for many Americans work wins.
Employees increasingly are giving up their hard-earned vacation time to slog through another workday, and those in the laid-back Western United States, including Arizona, are the worst offenders.
That's according to several recent travel-industry surveys that illuminate the relationship between work and play. advertisement
Expedia, Orbitz and the Travel Industry Association of America report that people feel tethered to the office even when they get away, checking e-mail from the hotel lobby, taking phone calls between Mai Tais and strapping a BlackBerry to their bathing suits.
Americans will give up 574 million vacation days worth $75.72 billion this year, a 36 percent increase from 2005. Forty-one percent of those in the West tell Expedia they won't use all their vacation time, 8 percent more than the national average. And the average Westerner will lose seven days compared with four days nationally.
"We're pretty much a country that doesn't see vacation as something that is a given," said Carlton Yoshioka, an Arizona State University professor who studies leisure patterns in various cultures. "It gets back to that Puritan work ethic."
Laurence Goolsby, a 25-year-old computer analyst from Tempe, is a perfect example of the findings. He's young, lives in Arizona and believes skipping most of his vacation time will help him get ahead.
"I don't really like to be away from my job," he said. "When you're just starting out, you want to make sure you have as much face time as possible with people you work with. It shows dedication."
Goolsby said his employer doesn't necessarily frown on vacations. The decision to forgo downtime is his.
"There have been times where I feel it would be nice to unwind, relax a bit," he said. "That's when I take a half-day. I really enjoy the work I do."
Workers give several reasons for not taking time off. Chief among them is office requirements to schedule vacations in advance, followed by being too bogged down to get away from work and receiving cash in lieu of time off. Another deterrent is the stress people feel right before and after a vacation, when the work is piled on.
Chad Rose, 35, works for a company with a generous vacation policy. He gets six weeks a year as vice president of sales for McMurry Inc. in Phoenix.
But lost time can mean lost contracts, so he doesn't use every day off. And, he deems half of his trips "workations," when he mixes work with vacation.
"It's not because my job requires it of me. I'm just a freak," he said. "It's not that I like to work so much. I like to win. I like to be ahead."
Workations quickly turn into a juggling act. He took his family on a two-week trip to Florida and ended up working all but two days. When his BlackBerry woke the family at 6 a.m. during a separate Disneyland vacation, his wife intervened.
"She had told me to make sure it was off," Rose said. "At first she threatened to throw it off the balcony of the Embassy Suites, then she took the battery out and hid it."
There are times when Rose takes a true break, without family prodding, something he didn't do when he was younger.
"I completely unplug and act like the world ended and no one can reach me two weeks a year," he said. "You need to refocus and get clarity and realize why you're working so hard."
Expedia and Orbitz concluded that Westerners are the worst workaholics, contradicting the popular image of uptight Northeasterners. Orbitz found that 65 percent of people nationally said their bosses encourage them to take time off, while 60 percent in the West said that was true. Westerners were the most likely to check in with their companies while away.
Those findings surprised ASU's Yoshioka, who would have guessed the opposite. He said the weather could be a big factor.
"Temperature really does change the travel patterns," he said. "When your West Coast sun's always shining, you feel good about what you're doing."
Chris Strimbu, 31, is a graphic designer for Yahoo! Inc. in Santa Monica, Calif. He said people like him on the West Coast tend to be involved in creative enterprises, which foster greater loyalty than a typical 9-to-5 job.
"People feel a direct connection to their company, they feel more of a relationship with what they're doing," he said. "I work with select people who work 10- to 13-hour days without even blinking, and that's just kind of the norm."
Strimbu is part of a large department, which makes it easier to take guilt-free vacations. When he worked on a small team at the Los Angeles Times, he rarely skipped work.
"It was very difficult to take time off without feeling, to be honest, a bit guilty because the team was so small," he said. "It would really put someone else in a bind."
Hard to change
Old habits are hard to break. He recently parted with his cubicle for several "consecutive days," a major indulgence.
"There was a little bit of guilt," he said, "but I got over it on the second day."
No region is immune to the overriding pressures of work. Tom and Pam Ruble of Fort Wayne, Ind., and daughter Jenna sat beside the pool at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale recently. The whole family is in sales, and all three were on their cellphones, scribbling notes furiously.
"Once you are in the middle of a sales cycle, you can't stop and return to it a week later," said Jenna, 21, an intern for Northwestern Mutual Financial.
Not everyone feels vacations are a sin. Stacey Reinert, 31, vice president of commercial lending for Arizona Business Bank, works hard for her 4 1/2 weeks off and has no problem taking them.
This year, she has been to France, Palm Springs, Calif., and Las Vegas twice. In October, she will visit Hawaii. The time she doesn't take rolls over to the following year.
"I've never lost any," she said. "Executives typically do take vacation. In my industry, everybody does."
Some people think skipping vacation helps them advance, but Reinert sees it the other way around. As she took on more responsibility, she recognized the need to unwind.
"What I do is really stressful," she said. "I have a lot of strong goals, and if I don't have decompression time, I would lose my mind."
Some employers think they are getting a bargain when workers skip vacations. But people who take a break are more productive, which benefits companies in the end, said Gregg Lemley, a partner with the international law firm Bryan Cave LLP, which has offices in Phoenix.
Lemley advises companies to implement "use it or lose it" policies that encourage employees to take time off every year and avoid expensive payouts when they don't.
"Human beings are not machines. They need time to recharge their batteries," he said. "Employers are going to get a more productive, balanced, better year of work from an employee who has good morale than one who does so begrudgingly and unhappily."
Young managers and tech companies are more likely to encourage employees to take vacations, Lemley added. And the travel industry certainly has a stake.
Orbitz put a positive spin on its findings, pointing out that while 40 percent of Americans check in with work while away, 60 percent do not.
Expedia launched a Web site this year to showcase the results of its Vacation Deprivation Survey and encourage visitors to book a flight to a relaxing locale, pronto.
"Americans' urge for travel is still out there," said Erin Krause, a spokeswoman for the company. "People aren't taking all of their vacation days, but they feel so much better when they do."
Take your vacation
Kathleen Waldron, who lectures about stress and other topics in Arizona State University's College of Human Services, says there is no excuse for skipping vacations. She offers these tips for unwinding without shortchanging your career.
Schedule a day before vacation to leave your projects with a competent co-worker. Go over your job duties in detail, including upcoming meetings and potential problems he or she will need to deal with.
Give yourself permission to be out of touch. Try leaving your work cellphone at home.
If you absolutely must stay plugged in, set aside a specific time and day during your vacation.
Put away the laptop and read a book on the plane to get in vacation mode.
Return on a Saturday to catch up before going back to work.
Ask yourself, "Will the world end if I'm not at work for a week?"
Recent travel studies suggest that Westerners are more tied to their jobs than residents of other parts of the country and that Easterners are better at getting away. Here's a look at regional travel attitudes.
Are more likely to give up vacation time than the average American.
Give up an average of seven vacation days a year.
Are more likely to work more than 40 hours a week.
Check e-mail and voice mail on vacation at a rate of one in four.
Are most likely to disagree that their bosses encourage vacations.
Along with Southerners, are most relaxed during vacation, with 39 percent saying they never have trouble coping with work stress right before, during and after a vacation.
Are most likely, at 27 percent, to report a very recent work-free, disconnected vacation.
Are most likely to not check in with work while away.
Are most likely to report that they are frequent travelers.
Take all their vacation days at a rate of two in five people.
Say getting money in exchange for unused vacation time is a powerful incentive.
Sources: Harris Interactive/Expedia Vacation Deprivation Survey, Orbitz Take 5 to Travel Survey.
Reach the reporter at [email protected]