Springfield, MO

Log in Subscribe

Workers struggle to find elusive vacation

Posted online
Most people working today will admit time off work is precious and vitally important for relaxing, re-energizing and spending time with family and friends.

While people seem to like the idea of taking a break, actually unplugging from work seems to be easier said than done.

A 2010 survey by found that the average American worker earned 18 vacation days last year, but used only 14 of them. Based on an average wage of $39,208 for a full-time U.S. worker, that’s $67.5 billion worth of wasted time off.

And that amount doesn’t factor in those who might leave the office – but not the work – behind, checking in via text, e-mail or telephone.

“In today’s work culture, it is just expected that people will keep up, even while they are away,” said Joyce Noble, a licensed psychologist at the St. John’s Clinic-Psychology. “They feel that if they don’t check in, they won’t be regarded as someone who is ambitious and hard-working.”

Some local employers try to make sure workers have enough vacation time, though they may not have policies in place to make sure employees are using it. CoxHealth uses an earned time off system that combines sick leave, personal days, vacation time and holidays. If, for example, a nurse or doctor has to work on a holiday, then ETO can be used to have the time off on another date, said John Hursh, vice president of human resources.

“It’s a policy that encourages me to be at work, but gives me the time off I need,” Hursh said.

Hursh and Noble agree that taking time to relax, unwind and recuperate from the daily grind is important not only to make time for relationships, recreation and play, but also for work.

“We tend to be at our most creative when we are rested and relaxed,” Noble said, as taking a break can get those creative juices flowing again.

When workers do take breaks, Noble cautions against filling that time with other work such as cleaning the garage, running errands or doing other chores.

“Go fishing, go sit by the pool. Truly relax and unwind,” she said.

Vickie Hicks, marketing director at accounting firm Kirkpatrick, Phillips & Miller, CPAs PC, said she rests best in the mountains.

“We have taken several family vacations to Colorado and Wyoming or even extended weekends near Jasper, Ark. That’s where I find peace, and I can truly relax,” Hicks said.

Like many other employers, KPM uses a paid time off system through which employees earn time based on the number of years they’ve worked for the company, said Jim Wammack, certified public accountant and shareholder.

Because Internal Revenue Service tax deadlines mean KPM’s staff is typically busiest January–May, the company encourages employees to take time off to relax when they’re not working under such strict deadlines.

“We encourage our employees to take time off during the summer months to spend time with their families and to unwind,” Wammack said via e-mail.

Neither KPM nor CoxHealth have policies in place to make sure employees are using all their time off.

Hursh said CoxHealth, like most employers, could probably do a better job of making sure employees use their vacation time, but that task isn’t solely left to employers.

“Ultimately, though, the buck stops with (employees) to take care of ourselves,” he said.
Noble recommends setting achievable, realistic goals.

In addition to committing to taking time off and using it to relax, she also says putting pen to paper and writing out some daily or weekly goals related to getting more rest and family time will benefit most workers.

“Just small, attainable changes such as saying you will go home no later than 6 p.m. each night, or you will not check your work e-mail on weekends can go a long way,” she said.
Other priorities to set include making time for adequate rest, good nutrition and exercise, along with fulfilling spiritual and social time.

Not treating yourself well and taking time off can take its toll in the form of burnout, Noble said.

Burnout is something CoxHealth watches for in its employees.

“We have had some of those conversations when we see people’s stress is showing,” Hursh said.

And while work lives and personal lives may be busier than ever, Hursh points out that the Ozarks has myriad opportunities for relaxation.

“That’s the nice thing about our area, with all its lakes and rivers and recreational areas,” Hursh said. “You can always find somewhere to get out there and unwind.”[[In-content Ad]]


No comments on this story |
Please log in to add your comment
Editors' Pick
Business of the Arts: Colorful Surprises

Murals have the power to attract and fascinate.

Most Read
Update cookies preferences