Studies from both objective and subjective sources have shown a clear pattern among workers: Few take their full allotment of paid time off, vacation time, or sick time — and the effects of that hurt not only workers but their employers, too.
People coming to work sick not only threaten others with infection but underperform, as well. People who don’t take regular vacations burn out and underperform. People who feel pressured into not taking their full PTO become angry and resentful.
None of that is good.
Now comes a new initiative from “Take Back Your Time” is a nonprofit with the goal of eliminating overwork in the United States by crusading to get employers and employees to recognize the benefits of taking time to recharge, get well and come back to work ready to produce.
The Vacation Commitment Initiative is designed to get employers to formally agree to encourage employees to use their paid time off. Now, it might seem like this organization would be backed by the leisure industry. And, in fact, it is — in part. Diamond Resorts International is the group's primary sponsor.
But once you get past Diamond Resorts, and take a gander at the executive director and board of directors, the organization takes on a different aspect.
John De Graaf is the ED, has been since 2009. De Graaf, a former VISTA volunteer, has been outspoken during his career as a television producer and PBS documentary producer/writer on the subject of happiness, health and work.
Among the 22 board members, only one (Camille Hoheb, director of Wellness Tourism Worldwide, based in Los Angeles, and the author of Work Without End and Free Time) has a direct tie to the leisure industry. While others may make some money from that business, most are writers, academicians, wellness consultants and the like. Examples:
Cecile Andrews: educator in Santa Cruz, California, author of several books including Circle of Simplicity and The Living Room Revolution;
Larry Cotton: filmmaker, writer and historian in Portland, Oregon;
Bill Doherty: teaches Family Studies at the University of Minnesota and is the author of several books, including Putting Family First and Take Back Your Kids;
Rebecca Gould: teaches Comparative Religion and Environmental Studies at Middlebury College in Vermont;
Richard Hobbs: attorney and Executive Director of Human Agenda, a nonprofit community organization in San Jose, California;
Caroline Li: social media expert and writer in Seattle;
Gretchen Newhouse: teaches Recreation at the University of Wisconsin/La Crosse;
Nancy Parkes: teaches Sustainability and Creative Writing at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA;
Joe Robinson is a work-life balance trainer in Santa Monica, California, and the author of Work to Live and Don’t Miss Your Life!;
Jerome Segal is a philosopher and teaches Public Policy at the University of Maryland and author of Graceful Simplicity.
Take Back Your Time says it is determined to promote the vacation commitment to “help change the culture around paid vacation in America by fostering corporate support in encouraging employees to take their earned time off.”
The program was launched this week at The Future of Work conference in Nashville, Tennessee, with hundreds of human resources professionals in attendance.
“Americans are among the world's worst vacationers,” De Graaf said. “The goal of our Vacation Commitment Initiative is to address the growing epidemic of American workers not taking their earned vacation time and spark a national call-to-action.”
Of course, if we have a new initiative, we have a new calendar day to celebrate it.
Take Back Your Time chose March 31, 2015, as “national Vacation Commitment Day.”
“On this day, we're challenging employers nationwide to take the first step toward becoming vacation-supportive workplaces by reminding their employees about the importance of taking their vacations,” de Graaf said.
So there it is: the gauntlet has been thrown down, the day chosen to mark this new era in the American workplace. For guidelines, materials and more to support the effort, visit takebackyourtime.org.