Take Time for a Vacation

Man at the beach with computer

Belgian chocolate, French wine and Italian food aren’t the only European pleasures Canadians seem to envy. According to the most recent edition of Expedia.ca’s annual Vacation Deprivation study, working Canadians wish they could have as many vacation days (25 – 30 days) as their counterparts in Europe.

Canadian workers receive an average of 17 days vacation and 40% of those surveyed say they are “vacation deprived.”

Not surprisingly, vacations make workers happier. Seventy percent of respondents said that vacationing accounts for at least a fair amount of their overall happiness, with 23 percent saying vacations make them happier than getting a tax refund, being told they look younger than they are, or finding money they thought they’d lost.

In a previous survey, Expedia discovered that Canadians give back an average of over two days of unused vacation time to their employers. That translates into 34 million untaken days in Canada overall and more than $6 billion in wages handed back to employers.

Even senior managers don’t take all their vacation time. In a 2014 OfficeTeam survey of senior managers, one in three (34 percent) senior managers interviewed said taking too little time off was the biggest mistake they made with their last vacation.

Not being able to get their mind off work came in second (25 percent) followed by checking in with the office too much (22 percent).

“Managers may be hesitant to take extended time off because they fear their absence will be a hardship on other staff,” said Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam.

“But a longer break can be a good opportunity to delegate projects to an employee who shows promise to see how that person manages while you’re away.”

OfficeTeam offers five tips for making the most of vacation time:

  1. Time it right. Try to avoid scheduling vacations during busy periods. Make time-off requests early so others can plan ahead. Not sure how long of a break to take? Consider the length of your last vacation and whether or not you needed more time away to truly unwind.
  2. Have a back-up plan. Determine who can handle your tasks and make decisions while you’re out. Provide your stand-in with the necessary instructions and resources to get things done. Temporary professionals also can help keep projects on track during vacation season.
  3. Spread the word. Let key contacts know when you’ll be away and who has been assigned as your point person. Include the alternate contact’s information on your voice mail and email notices.
  4. Manage your calendar. Aim to keep your agenda open on the last few days before your vacation so you can focus on tying up loose ends. Also avoid scheduling too many meetings the day you return. This will give you time to check email, return calls and get updates from coworkers.
  5. Set ground rules. Disconnect from work as much as possible when on vacation. Don’t contact the office or look at your email unless it’s necessary. If you must check in, set specific times you’ll be available instead of being on call the entire time. The more you stay in touch with work, the less you’ll be able to enjoy your break.

Use of technology is the leading culprit behind not enjoying a vacation as well as unproductive activity at work.

According to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive for CareerBuilder, one in four workers (24 percent) admitted that, during a typical workday, they will spend at least one hour a day on personal calls, emails or texts.

Twenty-one percent estimate that they spend one hour or more during a typical workday searching the Internet for non-work-related information, photos, etc.

When asked what they consider to be the primary productivity stoppers in the workplace, employers said the worst offenders were: cell phone/texting (50 percent), gossip (42 percent), the Internet (39 percent), and social media (38 percent).

Employers also shared real-life examples of some of the more unusual things they’ve seen employees doing when they should have been busy working. Several were directly related to technology:

  • A married employee was looking at a dating web site and then denied it while it was still up on his computer screen
  • Employee was taking selfies in the bathroom
  • Employee was printing off a book from the Internet

Other time-wasters weren’t high tech, but are entertaining to read:

  • Employees were having a wrestling match
  • Employee was caring for her pet bird that she smuggled into work
  • Employee was shaving her legs in the women’s restroom
  • Employee was laying under boxes to scare people
  • Employee was sleeping, but claimed he was praying
  • Employee was changing clothes in a cubicle
  • Employee was warming her bare feet under the bathroom hand dryer

It sounds like many of those employees needed to take some time off!

And now that sunny weather has finally arrived, I hope you will also have the opportunity to enjoy some vacation time.

Tag Goulet is co-founder of FabJob.com and Academic Director of the International Association of Professions Career College which offers professional certificates for dream careers at www.iapcollege.com.