Yahoo! has a brief article called Worker Burnout Threatens Vacations, which delivers these curious statistics:
Nearly half of the respondents (49%) said they feel “burned out” by their jobs, and many did not fully use vacation time as a remedy. Out of 1,800 professionals surveyed, 45% said they did not use all of their vacation days allotted in 2006, and 39% said they were too tired to take a “real” vacation during their days off.
The article doesn’t examine causes and effects in any depth at all. This further tidbit, though, caught my attention:
There is an expectation, sometimes unspoken, that people will come to work under all but the most extreme circumstances.
It’s unclear what may be driving trends toward worker burnout and failure/refusal to take vacation days as vacations, but I have a few suspicions. The article mentions taking vacation days as “mental health” days to cope with stress. Most of us are familiar with that approach. I suspect a complex mixture of factors keeps people tied to their jobs, which nets obvious diminished returns that are still apparently preferable to the alternative (giving and enforcing more time off).
Comparisons of benefits and productivity of different nations usually rank the U.S. pretty low in benefits (a quality of life measure) but high in productivity. Is the conventional wisdom that productivity = long hours on the job really true? And if productivity comes at the expense of leisure and health, is it really worth it?