Hopefully you’re planning a summer vacation, but it might surprise you to learn that the U.S. is the only country in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) with no legally required vacation days or holidays. Many countries give their citizens much more time off than the U.S., and the European Union requires at least four weeks of paid vacation a year.
So Who Gets the Most Time Off?
Austrians seem to get the most generous offer with 22 paid vacation days and 13 separate individual holiday days. France also provides a substantial time off package, with 30 paid vacation days a year. Spain and Portugal offer 34 and 35 paid vacation days and holidays, respectively. Belgium and Germany offer 20 paid vacation days and 10 individual holiday days annually.
Historically, so many Europeans choose to take their time off in August, that many businesses in those cities simply close down the for the month. French and Italians like to travel to major cities and beaches all around Europe during their month off in August.
Americans Do Not Utilize Time Off
Although there is no obligation for time off in the United States, the private sector usually offers workers 10 vacation days and six individual holiday days. That’s bad enough, but to make matters worse, most Americans don’t even utilize the full amount of paid time off they receive. Research firm Harris Interactive asserts that Americans only use about 51 percent of their eligible vacation time.
Adam Sacks, president of the Tourism Economics division of Oxford Economics, argues that unused vacation time makes the economy less efficient. “Leaving earned days on the table,” he argues, “harms, not helps, employers by creating a less productive and less loyal employee.”
It seems that the American work ethic and job worries provide an unhealthy pressure, making them less likely to take time off. When Americans do take time off, many of them still answer emails and complete other work-related tasks. This all-work mentality has serious implications for companies, employees, and the overall economy.
A report in Forbes concluded that if employees took an additional day off each year, the U.S. economy would benefit with an extra $73 billion in output and advantages to both employees and businesses.
Benefits of Holidays
There are many obvious benefits to vacations. Individuals often mention feeling more relaxed, productive, and happy. There is also research that shows that annual holidays significantly decrease the risk of heart attacks in both men and women. Vacationers also report lower blood pressure, improved mental health, less stress, and enhanced energy.
Companies with individuals who take time off also experience lower burnout rates and higher retention. Nevertheless, according to National Geographic, don’t look for quick solutions immediately after a vacation. The study shows that the recuperative benefits of a vacation start kicking in after two weeks.
So…stop reading this and take some time off!
For more information on how to take care of your health–in general, and while traveling–visit the Health & Fitness Archives.
By Justin Shamtoob for PeterGreenberg.com