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Say Good-bye to the No-Vacation Nation

Woman in silhouette dangling from ropes while she mountain climbs

Back in 2013, Salon published an article that outlined how little vacation time Americans take. Calling the United States the “no-vacation nation,” the article points out that “the US is the only developed economy without legally mandated vacations.”

No-Vacation Nation Revisited (PDF), a recent report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, outlines the amount of legally mandated paid vacation and holidays for 21 countries. Canada guarantees workers 10 paid vacation days and 9 paid holidays. In the United Kingdom, workers receive 28 vacation days. Austria and Portugal tied for giving their workers the most time off: 22 vacation days and 13 holidays.

Even when Americans have paid vacation time, we don’t always use it. According to America’s Vacation Deficit Disorder: Who Stole Your Vacation? by William Chalmers, of the vacation days given to American workers, 70% of them go unused. On average, American workers receive 10 vacation days a year. If we’re giving back 70% of that, we’re taking a mere 3 vacation days a year.

When we don’t take time off, our bodies have a way of forcing us to rest. Particularly with intense tasks like copyediting, we may find our minds wandering while we work. We miss obvious errors in the text.

Overworked employees engage in presenteeism because they’re too tired to do the work. They get sick more often, both physically and mentally. And when the problems become overwhelming, they quit. That’s not good for employees or their employers.

It’s easy to burn out when you don’t take your vacation time, you work extra hours, or you aren’t given paid time off. How can you do your best work if you’re worn out?

Everyone needs rest. Adults need unstructured playtime, just like kids do. We need to get away from our work to remember what we love about it and to miss it, if only a little.

If you’re an employee, take every day off that you have an entitlement to. Take a week or more at a time. Over the long term, extended weekends aren’t enough to recharge.

If you’re a freelancer, schedule time off for yourself. Find a way to afford it. Trim your budget; take on an extra project beforehand; stay home while on vacation (but get out of the house). Do whatever it takes to walk away from your work for an extended period.

No matter how much time off you get, make it sacred. It’s your time. Do things you enjoy. Sleep late. Disconnect completely from work. Don’t answer emails. Abandon all electronic devices if necessary. The world will still be there when you get back.

Copyeditors know that we can’t edit accurately and well eight hours a day. We need to balance the editing with other tasks to keep our minds sharp. We also can’t edit five to seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. If you don’t routinely take time off, start now. Pull out your calendar and plan a vacation.

You and your work will be healthier for it.

Originally published in 2013 on Copyediting.

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