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by Julie Z. Rosenberg | March 10, 2009


Vault's Vacation Survey reveals some interesting, if conflicting, opinions on workplace vacation policies.

Americans clock more hours than any industrialized country, with approximately 39 hours per week, according to the International Organization of Labor, an affiliate of the United Nations. That matches with the results of the Vault Vacation Survey. 70 percent of Vault survey respondents say they get anywhere from one to three weeks of annual paid vacation, with 35 percent at 1-2 weeks and 36 percent at 2-3 weeks.

Nearly 70 percent of employees say their vacation time is insufficient. A good chunk mused that eight weeks would just about do it, but one maverick respondent was satisfied with the status quo and went so far as to say that two weeks is "too long." (If this was you, click here for Workaholics Anonymous.)

Our respondents who found their vacation time insufficient often complained that family duties cut into vacation time substantially. "I usually spend one to one-and-a-half weeks visiting family during the holidays which leaves no leisure time of my own," gripes one respondent while one parent says two weeks doesn't cut it when daycare issues eat up a lot of your vacation days. One respondent fondly recalls the four-weeks he got in his Army days. Now he gets two weeks and says, "It stinks."

Breaking it down

Some workplaces, understanding that employees may need to take care of personal issues during the week, have started giving "personal" or "free" days to use on such things as religious holidays and court appearances. The trend, however, seems not to be universal. A whopping 35 percent of all respondents receive no personal days whatsoever, while 40 percent receive 2-4 personal days.

~Sick days also seem to be in short supply for many employees. Nearly 40 percent receive five sick days or less per year. Worse, another 15 percent say they get no sick days at all.

As for feigning illness, well, we're not the most honest bunch in the barn. An almost even split, 49 percent of respondents say they have feigned illness while 51 percent saying they have not. Almost as many employers (45 percent) as employees (53 percent) admit to calling in sick when they aren't.

Among employee respondents, 27 percent called in sick because of a job interview and 20 percent for leisure reasons. The majority, at 44 percent, responded "other," which included everything from "mental health days" to hangover care.

Vacation time isn't always a given. Nearly 30 percent of employers have had to turn down an employee's vacation request. When a vacation is denied, 64 percent of employees heed their employer's demand and dutifully show up for work. Ten percent take the vacation anyway and 15 percent say they appeal the decision.

All work, no play

Despite the desire for more vacation days, more than 80 percent of managers and HR professionals claim to have worked during a vacation, as have 47 percent of employees.

"I feel my responsibilities don't cease to exist because I'm on vacation. Sad but true, this is our culture," says one respondent .

Another employee sounds off that his office called him with an "emergency" while he was on vacation, that could easily have been handled by someone else.

And then there's the lot of you who have actually cut your vacation short to return to work either due to a "crisis" or because the boss requested it: "My boss threatened to fire me unless I got back to resolve a situation that arose while I was gone," says one stunned employee. Another says his boss makes him feel guilty for taking sick and vacation days.

Long story short, the Vault Vacation survey seems to have tapped into a longing for leisure. In the words of one respondent, "The American workplace is a repressed place. We need more vacation!"


Filed Under: Workplace Issues