Fact: taking a break from your work has a positive influence on your body, mind, and soul. Time off restores you, helps you recover, reset your priorities. After all, there’s a reason why God made the Sabbath a command, not a gentle suggestion.
Fact: Americans find it incredibly hard to take a break, even when they’ve earned it as paid time off in their jobs. In fact, one study showed as much as 41% of interviewed people did not plan to take their earned time off.
It’s not that Americans don’t see the importance or value of time off, they do. Theoretically.
96% of workers affirmed the importance of using their paid time off for instance, including 95% of senior business leaders. 90% stated time off helps them relax and recharge and 61% reported greater satisfaction at work after returning from a break.
So what’s the problem? If people know time off is important, why aren’t they taking it?
Are You Taking a Break?
One of the reasons I find this so interesting (and you may have noticed from my not-so-subtle use of the word ‘Americans’) is that this is an American problem. I’m not saying it doesn’t occur anywhere else in the world because I haven’t looked at statistics in, say, Japan, or China. But I do know that this is far less of an issue in Europe, where I’m from.
The first obvious reason is that employed people get way more paid time off in Europe. In The Netherlands, my country of origin, you get at least four times your contracted weekly hours per year. For a full time worker, that means four weeks full time off. But in most companies, it’s more than that, especially in the public sector. Plus, the older you get, the more days are added. A fifty-five year old in the public sector could easily rack up eight weeks a year or more.
In that case, it’s easier to use at least a solid portion of it, since you have so much. But it’s more than that. Paid time off is seen as a right, and companies acknowledge that right, for the most part.
Also, many countries in Europe have laws that prevent you from firing somebody without legal reason, so you have way more job protection. Even if your boss were unhappy with you taking your time off, there’d be little he could do about it (unless he can prove that you taking a break would negatively affect the company, but then he’d have to give you a reasonable other opportunity to take your vacation).
One reason Americans aren’t using their breaks, is because they’re getting mixed signals about using them. 67% stated that their company wasn’t all on board with them taking time off. No wonder, when business leaders stated that they thought people who took a break were less dedicated, less successful, and less productive. It’s a mixed signal indeed when you know time off is good for you, but if you do take a break, your boss thinks you’re slacking.
Other reasons people mentioned were that they didn’t want to return to a mountain of work or that they were irreplaceable. Both are issues that are easy to fix, by the way. The first is all about preparing well, and the second is about gaining a healthy perspective on your own importance.
What it really comes down to, then, is that mixed signal people receive, or perceive about taking time off. It’s a right, paid time off, but at the same time it’s frowned upon.
These stats are all from the business world, but would they be that different in non-profits, Christian organizations, or even the church? I know many youth pastors find it next to impossible to take time off, especially if it’s longer than one week in a row. Why can’t even the church acknowledge the God-designed need for rest and recovery?
And more importantly: how do we fix this? Considering the alarming rate of church workers suffering from burnout related issues and all kinds of mental struggles, how do we change this culture?
How good are you at taking a break from work?
And how does the culture in your company, organization, or church influence your decision to take time off?
I’d love to hear some thoughts about this!
[Photo Credit: Pexels, cc]