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Studies show vacation time is necessary, especially for women, for a more productive U.S. work force

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Vacations are a necessity, so why isn't the U.S. up to speed?
Vacations are a necessity, so why isn't the U.S. up to speed? - ()

We all know this to be true simply because we’ve all felt our blood vessels constrict tighter and tighter as the work week wears on: Women who don’t take annual vacations are 50 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack.

And according to this National Geographic article, medical studies have also proven that it takes at least two weeks of rejuvenating vacationing to reverse the ill-effects of stress at work — not just a long weekend.

So let’s talk about France.

Oui — France.

According to the Center on Economic and Policy Research, France mandates that all employees receive 30 PTO (paid-time-off) days and one paid holiday (May 1st, or International Workers’ Day).

Additionally, employees can earn up to 22 days of Réduction du Temps de Travail.

In English, this means that employees have the ability to earn more time off by choosing to work more than 35 hours per week, with the “limit” being 39 hours.

One would think such a “lax” workforce would reflect poorly upon the economy, but in France, the difference in GDP per hour remains only marginally lower than that of the United States.

So — if Americans are working 20 percent more hours than the French — why aren’t we that much better off than France?

Even though American women are probably tired of hearing how they should be more Parisian when it comes to raising their children, approaching their careers and pursuing a hobby, it’s time to listen up and admit the French are right.

Why? The French are given at least 30 days and they take it. All of it. Without question or rebuttal.

True — 93 percent of French employees admit to checking their emails and voicemails on vacation, according to Expedia’s 2013 Vacation Deprivation Study — but the study failed to specify whether they were answered or just merely noted.

And according to a study conducted by research firm Harris Interactive for Glassdoor, Americans only use 51 percent of their eligible paid time off, with 35 percent of employees canceling their vacation due to work-related issues and 27 percent putting off vacation days for “future use.”

When we do finally take that vacation, one in four American employees reported being contacted by a colleague about a work-related matter, and one in five has even been contacted by their boss.

So it’s no wonder 28 percent of respondents feared getting behind on work, or why 17 percent feared losing their jobs — apparently, if you’re recharging away from the office, you’re not as competitive as your colleagues.

But this we know to be fact: Vacations keep employees engaged and productive.

So let’s take a lesson from France and finally acknowledge that there is no better time than now — even though the average American company only celebrates 10 (optional) paid holidays and provides its employees with 14 PTO days (six days less than France’s minimum).

In fact, the United States is the only advanced economy not to guarantee its workforce paid time off, leaving one in four Americans with no vacation time at all.

That’s in stark contrast to our winner Austria, who comes in at No. 1 according to the Center on Economic and Policy Research by mandating 22 paid vacation days and 13 paid holidays for its employees; it also has the lowest unemployment rate than any other country in the Eurozone.

And New Zealand (ranked No. 8 with 20 paid vacation days and 10 paid holidays) expects its GDP per hour to rise faster than nearly all other developed countries within the next five years.

The economic facts are there: It’s time to start leveraging, ladies.

Work-life balance can exist — but if you’re not ready to pick up and move to one of the other countries mandating 30 or more vacation days (including Portugal, Germany, Spain, Belgium and Italy), we’ve got to make our voices heard here in the U.S.

Because it’s not really “having it all” if you’re not adding “ample vacation time” to the list of things that make a life.


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