Thought you might be interested in the contents of my letter to the editor of the Saskatoon Star Phoenix that was published today in response to a recent article on vacation carry over and pay out. Here’s what I had to say:
In Friday, August 13th’s article on vacation pay for health care executives, Saskatoon Regional Health Authority chair, Jim Rhode, is quoted as saying:
“It’s always great to see an employee that is concerned about their job more than they are about their vacation in terms of being there enough to get things done.”
While I agree with Mr. Rhode that commitment to your job and profession is laudable, his admiration for those who sacrifice personal vacation time for their work is misguided. Sadly, he is not alone in his point of view. This kind of self-imposed and peer-admired pressure to keep slogging at all costs creates significant problems for employees, leaders and the organizations they serve. Those costs go far beyond the fiscal liability of accrued holidays.
According to two studies on workload, the average person has a backlog of between 50 and 200 hours of work at any given time. The fact of the matter is, we will never be done again. Those who wait until the work is done to take a vacation will rarely give themselves permission to get away.
And, there are consequences for not getting away from the office. In an American study of 12,000 middle aged men at risk for coronary disease, those who take annual vacations are nearly 20% less likely to die during the ensuing nine years than those who skip holidays. A 20 year study of 749 women aged 45-64 found that for both employed women and homemakers, tension and a lack of vacations were two key predictors of heart attack.
The last thing we want is for our health care leadership to be damaging their own health and wellbeing in the interests of serving ours.
Taking time for renewal is not a reward for being done, it is an investment in being able to continue. It’s far wiser to encourage people at all levels of an organization to take their vacation and come back to the inevitable and ongoing workload refreshed and renewed for the challenges ahead.