Vacation and Your Summer Work-Life Balance
Now that the academic school year is over, it is time to rebalance your work and life activities. Ideally, you will want to take a work break during the sluggish days of July and August to reflect, renew and recalibrate for the next term. However, if you are like many Americans, you will probably not plan to leave the office, as vacation is counter to the informal and formal structure of your work.
Why Americans Do Not Vacation
A Glassdoor study (www.glassdoor.com) of 2,200 employees suggests that average US workers take only half of their allotted paid vacation while other research (www.projecttimeoff.com) suggests that many Americans do not take any. Americans do not fully vacation because of insufficient income, job insecurities, insurmountable workloads, and workplace cultures that are intolerant of employees taking time off. They may also save vacation days for family emergencies such as caring for unruly children or tending to aging parents facing unexpected health crises.
Vacation is Integral to Your Work-Life Balance
Yet, vacation should be integral to your work-life balance. As work-life expert, Cali Yost, poignantly asserts, working harder and faster in the hopes of staying safe can be counterproductive, and your boss can’t tell you when to focus on the parts of your life that will keep you healthy and happy. Consequently, it is important that you intentionally carve out the time and integrate vacation into your total work-life design. To get started, consider these ideas:
Reduced or Flexible Summer Hours
Check to see if your organization offers voluntary work reductions or flex time during designated times of the year. Taking a leave of absence affords you more time at home and can offset additional summer expenditures, such as kids’ summer camps. Reduced Summer Hours programs can also save the organization money in reduced earned income – a win-win for all. Another option might be designated temporary flexible work schedules. Check out the University of Kentucky Reduced Seasonal Hours Program (https://www.uky.edu/hr/work-life/workplace-flexibility/reduced-seasonal-hours), the
University of Miami’s Flexible Summer Workweek Program guidelines (https://umshare.miami.edu/web/wda/humanresources/FlexibleSummerWorkweekProgram/FlexibleSummerWorkweekGuidelines.pdf and Lewis University Summer Flexible Schedule (https://www.lewisu.edu/welcome/offices/hr/summerflex.htm) for examples.
Participating in community venues can greatly enhance your work-life balance. In fact, just knowing that they are available can significantly reduce your stress, as noted by work-life scholar, Marisa Young. Take advantage of low-cost activities, such as public pools, state parks and regional festivals. Check your local newspapers and city government sites for comprehensive listings.
If you are unable to schedule time away from the office, consider restructuring activities within your daily work schedule. Might your schedule allow you to engage in special projects that are not as demanding or more creative? Any variation in the daily grind should provide some much-needed respite from your routine.
Vacation is Essential to Well-Being
Vacations are vital to your overall well-being, like oxygen masks unleashed from overhead airplane compartments during emergencies. If you do not use them, your productivity wanes. So, create ways to find time to relax and recharge as part of your summer self-care. Modest activities can be as enriching as exotic trips abroad if carried out with the same kind of exuberance. When you vacation, you engage in meaningful, relaxing moments that will nourish and carry you forward into the hyperactive months of fall and beyond.
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Robynn M. Pease, Ph.D. has over 20 years of related experience in the field of work-life and is the former director of the Greater Oregon Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (GO HERC). Prior to her current position as Faculty Ombudsman at Oregon State University (OSU), Robynn served as the Coordinator of Work-Life at OSU and the Director of Work-Life at the University of Kentucky. She holds a doctorate in Sociology from the University of Kentucky, with an emphasis in gerontology.