At the Helm: The crazy and not-so-lazy days of this summer

David Gee

I love summer. I love to travel. I love vacations. Normally that’s a pretty good combination. And though there are lots of ways to describe this summer so far, normal is not one of them.

We usually go somewhere that involves a boat and a lake. And sometimes a cabin. Or we also often go to the mountains of Colorado to visit my family, or to the coast of Southern California where my wife’s family lives.

So far this year? No go.

When it comes right down to it, the prospect of long-distance travel still makes us a little nervous, so we have stayed put and tried to take a bunch of day trips.

What I also haven’t done yet is even actually schedule a vacation. And that’s not like me. It’s also not good for me. Or you.

Research shows nearly half of American workers don’t take all of their accrued annual vacation time and 21% leave more than five vacation days on the table. Who knows what covid is doing to those statistics, because those were compiled before the coronavirus rocked our world.

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According to the data, workload-related stress is the number one reason people don’t take their paid time off; too many projects or deadlines. Others say they fear taking time off only to return to “too much work.” And a significant number of those surveyed say they feel not taking the time off coming to them will reflect favorably on them at review time.

On my way to work one time I heard an NPR interview with an employee of a tech company in Silicon Valley. He also loves to travel and looked forward to being able to do lots of it while working at a company offering “unlimited vacation.” The reality though, he soon realized, is he is actually taking less time off than when he worked at companies with more defined and rigid vacation policies.

He said there is lots of “peer pressure among my co-workers not to take time off and that seeing how long you can go without taking a vacation is seen as a badge of honor.”

So why take a vacation? What are you missing out on if you don’t?

The famous Framingham Heart Study tracked the cardiac health of thousands of people over 20 years. It found that men who don’t take vacations were 30% more likely to have a heart attack and for women it went up to 50%. So there’s a pretty good reason.

If you haven’t put a vacation on your calendar for the end of the summer, or at least before the end of the year, it’s not too late. Enjoy. We’ll see you on the water, but probably not at the airport.

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