If you are anything like me then you are the type of person that is passionate about their work. You work long hours to exhaustion just to go to sleep, wake up and do it all over again. But what drives people like us is fulfillment. The feeling of creating something that can help, support, or give direction to anyone in need gives us that warm and fuzzy feeling on the inside. It is a feeling of accomplishment and purpose. So what happens when burnout is approaching and you decide to take a well deserved vacation to recharge? What happens when there is a death in your family and you need a couple of days for a funeral and time to settle things? God forbid you get sick and are forced to bed rest for a period of time, what then? Well if you are anything like me the answer is “GUILT”.
Guilt is what happens when the work on your desk continues to pile up while you attempt to take a break for whatever reason and it is a tricky thing to maneuver. People who are committed to their jobs take on full ownership of their roles and responsibilities. This has more than likely been the anchor of success in most cases. But the other side of that is not knowing when to unplug. Feeling comfortable with pushing back a deadline because you needed time to grieve a death of a family member, or to allow your body to heal from sickness or an injury. Knowing when to delegate your work load and simply walk away. To most of us, everything I just said seems absolutely impossible. We say things to ourselves like, “The world doesn’t stop because I’m ________” But that’s the lie we tell ourselves to push past our limits.
The average American worker only takes about 54% of their paid vacation time according to a study done by Glassdoor. They fear that no one else can do the work and that they can never be disconnected. Most employers are “at will” in todays society and the fear of being fired for one false move looms constantly around many employees. If you are an entrepreneur it may be even worse. You are the boss in this instance but then the fear becomes about keeping the business operational day in and day out.
In the book, Why the Dutch are Different, by Ben Coats, he tells us how the average Dutch person works an hour a day less than the British but is about twenty percent wealthier. Working weekends is unheard of, and the Dutch are relaxed about almost everything. Work life balance is the key phrase here. The Huffington Post claims the Dutch are “Winning at Life”. A four day work week is very popular and a thirty hour work week is the average. Having plenty of down time to spend with friends and family is a priority.
Somehow the Dutch have managed to enjoy shorter working hours while still topping the EU productivity rankings. Add to that 25 days of paid holiday leave a year, and it’s hard to argue against the idea that the Dutch have mastered the work/life balance. This goes a big part of the way to explaining why the Dutch consistently rank so high in happiness surveys. Less hours at work means more time for a glass of rosé or Heineken at a canal-side cafe or for a family bike ride down to the local pannenkoekenhuis.
It’s hard to argue against that. The Huffington Post – Winning at Life: Five Ways the Dutch Do it Better.
How long will American families continue to suffer due to overworked parents or from diseases that are a direct result from stress and unhealthy, sedentary lifestyles resulting from lack of time and movement? How many relationships will end because of the workaholic partner who doesn’t have time for anything?
The truth is, we have the ultimate control of our own world and the people in it. Our work will stop when we stop. And it will resume when we go back to it. When we make our relationships, health, and mental well being a priority, we show the importance of work life balance. Employers must be competitive in order to attract top talent, the more society places value on having that downtime, the more corporate America will conform. The shift is slowly starting. So today I say, know your worth and take a stand for work-life balance, better yet, take a vacation!