Saturday, 24 July 2010

competitive (non)holidaying

So we're just back from a big, rackety, extended family holiday: the blissful kind where small children run feral, and adults don't wear shoes for a week. Sand pours out of every bag I unpack and the fridge is full of sour milk, but even that can't dampen the general sense that all is once again right with the world.
Which is why one snippet in particular leaped out from my beach reading. A third of Americans don't take all their statutory holiday,even though it's a stingy (by European standards) 14 days a year on average. The most common reason is being too overworked to, well, stop work.
Friends working in the US have long grumbled about a corporate culture where, at senior levels especially, taking a vacation is frowned upon: the done thing is to be loudly and ostentatiously at one's desk all summer, at least if you're seriously ambitious. Now the lunacy seems to be spreading: this survey suggests at least one in five Brits has cancelled holiday due to work pressure.
I admit I've done it myself, in the days of having a Proper Job, and understand the feeling that there's no alternative: but the trouble with presenteeism is that it's contagious. Once enough people in an office waive their holidays, the pressure's on everyone else to do the same or risk looking uncommitted.
I'm reminded of an exchange a few weeks ago between the five candidates for the Labour party leadership, in which David Miliband appealed for a sort of holiday non-aggression pact where all the candidates took a break from campaigning in August to spend time with their families.
Everyone nodded virtuously, but I couldn't help wondering who might be tempted to get one over on their rivals by working nonstop through the summer.
Competitive holidaying - bragging about one's month diving in the Maldives, while everyone else is camping in the rain - may be irritating. But competitive non-holidaying, among those who can afford a break? Now that's seriously antisocial.


  1. Not taking all of just fourteen days statutory leave sounds like madness to me. What do their bosses want - blood?

  2. George Bush wouldn't do it and he was prez - there's just no point in being ever present.

    Be great when you're at work and leave them wanting more.

  3. Employees have virtually no rights in many states in the US. California for example allows an employer to fire someone, with no notice, for no reason. Of course employees can also walk away with no notice. Very bad for both sides.

  4. I have certainly had my share of competitive working environments and reading this reminds me of another silver lining of no longer being part of the 'rat race'. Less than 14 days a year to feed your soul in some way does not sound enough to me. Maybe I am getting closer to achieving balance in my life than I realised!!

    I also wanted to let you know that I have nominated you for 'One Lovely Blog Award.' It's only a small thing and as an established writer, I'm sure it is not needed. But as one of my favourite blogs, I wanted to acknowledge you! You can see what I said here:

  5. I do think the American holiday allowance is ridiculous. My brother lives and works in New York, and whenever he comes over it's a real whirlwind visit. He rarely stays longer than 3-4 days and spends most of it jet-lagged, trying to catch up with friends and family.

    Please don't let it catch on over here.

  6. I live in the US at the moment and while it's true that they don't take long holidays, they do seem to take lots of long weekends. Work always seems to finish early on a Friday and especially on a bank holiday. So, I think they probably make up the days - but never get the chance to relax on a really long break.

  7. 與人相處不妨多用眼睛說話,多用嘴巴思考. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .