Out of The Office? Embrace a Summer Vacation

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If you suffer from workaholic syndrome, you're not alone. According to the International Labor Organization, almost 20 percent of Americans work 48 hours a week or more — an amount the ILO considers excessive. More than one-third of Americans don't use all available vacation days, and nearly one-fifth have canceled planned vacations because of work obligations. As for employees who make it a point to vacation, nearly one-third stress about work while they're away, highlights Expedia.com's annual International Deprivation Survey™. And if you're an entrepreneur who's risked it all with your new business venture, a vacation and stepping away from work seems absurd. 

Cultural Expectations  

Our work culture promotes and nearly enforces overwork. For instance, the Huffington Post recently published an infographic developed by Katy Hall and Chris Spurlock that's chillingly titled, "Paid Vacation Mandated Almost Everywhere Except U.S." The facts are more grim than the headline. While all other industrialized companies legally require paid vacations and holidays, the U.S. doesn't even guarantee such benefits — much less require them by law. 


According to the "The Fair Labor Standards Act" and U.S. Department of Labor, the FLSA doesn't require that employees be paid for any time not worked, including meals times, breaks, vacations, sick days or holidays. Yes, changes have been made throughout the years, but the FLSA legislation is 75 years old and reflects a time when six-day workweeks and child labor existed. Paid days off were an incredibly generous employer offer during times when unemployment was rampant and safety nets were few. Laws remain arcane and unadjusted despite scientific research that supports time off. Big businesses oppose suggested and sought-after modifications to the FLSA.

Health Influences Work

In addition to an overworking culture and being denied paid time off, the average American's health care costs have risen to almost $8,000 per year. This number affects companies that offer medical insurance as a benefit, explains BusinessKnowledgeSource.com. Obesity, heart disease, the aging Boomer generation, pharmaceutical industry and growing technology in medicine affect rising healthcare costs. Businesses have to draw attention to the health of employees in order to help rein in high insurance costs and keep productivity efficient. Increasing health care costs may just be what it takes to combat the philosophy of "work hard and harder" — without vacation and play. Contemplate the following while deciding whether or not to take time away from work:

  • An annual vacation can increase life expectancy by 20 percent in middle-age men, according to research by the State University of New York at Oswego.
  • More than one-third of professional workers return to work from vacations and demonstrate increased productivity.
  • Women who enjoy a minimum of two vacations per year experience lower rates of depression, fatigue and unhappiness with their marriages, explains a study by the Wisconsin medical journal.

Whether you can't seem to detach yourself from work or you want to keep your employees chained to desks, reconsider. A vacation this summer can restore and refresh  mental health and rejuvenate the body. Enjoy a guilt-free vacation, whether you're a small business owner or medical laboratory assistant. Allow your employees to do the same. Mental and physical health and happiness will help your business thrive.

Alexis Brown is a medical student from Philadelphia and writes for several blogs.


It's Summer...Now Where's My Vacation?

It's now officially summer, and after this week, the kids will all be done school.

For a lot of families, this means the start to vacation season. You've worked through all of your company's busy seasons, put in late hours and early mornings, and now it's time to take those well deserved 2 weeks off.

Unfortunately, when you run a solo operation, summer just means you can wear shorts when you stumble out to check the mail, before going right back to your desk. We "solopreneurs" don't have sanctioned days off. Heck, a lot of times we don't even get a proper weekend.

Now, sure, this gives us some serious martyr cred with our friends.

What? You're just sitting around in your back yard reading a book? Oh, how nice for you. Me? Oh, just pulling a 12 hour day trying to finish off these reports. Yes, I AM aware that you're getting paid to sit and read. No I can't come out to the lake with your family this weekend. Why? Because you're the one who asked me to finish off the reports.

Does this sound familiar, or is my life uniquely pathetic?

To make matters worse, it's not just a matter of money. It would be possible for any business owner to set aside 4% of their wages each month too. The problem is the work. We don't exactly have Steve or Jessica to cover for us while we're away.

Some of you work in businesses that are more seasonal than others. If you sell air conditioners in Canada, you aren't very busy in the winter (or the spring, or fall, or most of summer...not that I'm bitter). In those cases, it's easier to plan around those lulls.

Although I have a busy season (March/April), I don't really have a slow season per se. So how does one plan holidays in those situations?

I'm actually writing this more as a question to you, rather than as a way to setup some answers for you. I have always struggled with taking time off. However, as I'm tying this, I have a few ideas that I'd like to share. In return I'd love to hear some advice from you.

  1. Plan ahead
    If you know you want to take 2 weeks off in July, let your clients know well in advance. In addition, make sure you get all of your work caught up, and completed projects sent back before you leave. Also, don't plan your holidays during busy seasons or important deadlines. It would be really dumb of me to go away the last week in April.
  2. Setup passive sources of income
    Time isn't the only problem. Unlike employees, we aren't getting paid when we're on vacation. So, try to find passive sources of income that can support you even when you're not working. This could be from products you sell on your site (like an eBook), or from revenue generated from ads or affiliate commissions.
  3. Outsource
    This is one is tricky. I'm not sure how I feel about this one, so I'd love your opinions. However, one way to solve your absense would be to hand off your work to someone else while you're away. I've never done this, but in some cases it would be a way for the work to get done while you're on a beach.

Do you have any tips for taking vacation as a sole proprietor? I, and anyone else reading this would love to hear them. Seriously, your tips may result in yours truly taking some time off this summer, which would be greatly appreciated.