Taking Off

By Robert Goldman

November 28, 2019 5 min read

For a working person, there's nothing better than time off.

Right?

Wrong!

In 2018, 55% of Americans collectively left 768 million days of vacation time unused.

I learned this shocking factoid from "5 Secrets To Using Time Off Without Feeling Guilty," a recent Leigh Goessl post in The Washington Post.

As someone who has never met a day off they didn't like or take, I believe that it is a mistake to read this statistic as a sign people are too guilty to take a vacation. The real reason is that as bad as work can be, vacations are worse. 768 million unused vacation days moldering in the files of the HR department is all the proof you need.

Disagree?

Compared to the agony of crowded airports, cramped airplanes and all the stupid selfies you have to take to convince friends and co-workers back home that you're having fun, it's difficult to see the advantage of leaving your couch — or your desk.

Plus, you do so little, how could not going into work be an improvement?

If you do feel guilty about taking time off, here are the five hurdles you must jump:

1. Understand that everyone needs a break. "About 40-50 percent of our working population experiences burnout," Goessl writes, "much of which we put on ourselves."

But is avoiding burnout a good idea? Burnout has its advantages, and I would argue that being numb, exhausted and emotionally drained is the ideal way to go through a difficult workday.

Or that's what I would argue if I weren't numb, exhausted and emotionally drained. For now, let's agree that burnout, or anything that allows you to ignore the idiocy of your managers, is a plus. This is why people who work with paper bags over their heads are so happy.

2. Give advance notice. Plan your vacation early in January. This will allow you to give management plenty of notice of when you will be gone, as well as giving your direct supervisors something to look forward to.

Also, early planning lets you take advantage of great travel deals, like that midnight flight from Columbus, Ohio, to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, on Dec. 3. (There are no return flights, but what do you care? You're on vacation!)

3. Coordinate with colleagues. Because you don't want to leave your company vulnerable during "your industry's busy season," a considerate employee discusses their vacation plans with co-workers.

Or not.

If vacation you must take, take it when the workload is the heaviest. That way you avoid the strain and pain while increasing the possibility that, for a change, you will actually be missed.

4. Clear your tasks before you leave.

"Before taking a day — or a week — off, make an effort to clear your tasks," writes Goessl."You'll feel less guilty, not to mention, your bosses, colleagues and clients will appreciate your efforts."

I think it is a little late in the game to expect you to "make an effort." You haven't made an effort since management removed Cajun Squirrel flavor potato chips from the snack machine.

While seeing you actually be productive could be unsettling, do be sure to do your most important job by ensuring your co-workers have sufficient office gossip to chew on while you're gone. Work overtime if necessary to spread enough malicious rumors to keep your colleagues busy until you return.

One particularly good rumor to spread is that after vacation you will not be returning. Think how much you will enjoy the shock and disappointment on the faces of your co-workers when you arrive back to work, tan and rested.

It almost makes going away worthwhile.

5. Check-in (if you must). If you think it will "ease your guilt or apprehension about being absent from work," you can schedule a daily check-in.

This will remind you that no matter how miserable you are on vacation doing nothing, and paying a fortune for the privilege, you will someday be back at work, doing nothing, and getting paid for it.

Finally, even if extreme vacation guilt is impossible to overcome, Leigh Goessl insists you don't take the easy way out by "lying about your reason or faking illness." Maybe so. All I know is that I've used all my vacation days and a few of yours with a terminal hangnail so severe I've had to stay in bed binge-watching "Outlander."

And don't ask to see a doctor's note. My doctor is on vacation.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

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