Want to Get Away?

Americans don’t do well at time off.

Alone among advanced nations, the United States fails to mandate any regular time off or paid vacation for workers. “Some U.S. companies don’t like employees taking off more than one week at a time,” CNN noted recently. “Others expect them to be on call or check their e-mail even when they’re lounging on the beach or taking a hike in the mountains.”

Like his fellow Americans, Peter Drucker wasn’t so good at relaxing (although he and his family did retreat to the peaks of Colorado every summer). Asked in a 1985 interview how he spent his leisure time, the self-described “workaholic” answered, “What leisure time?” He clarified, “I swim a great deal and I walk a great deal. But leisure time in the sense of going bowling, no.”

Image source: ginaber.blogspot.com

[EXPAND More] Drucker believed that many people, especially knowledge workers and high-level managers, preferred to work all the time. “They can barely stand a six-week vacation,” he observed, in The Changing World of the Executive. “For their work—unlike that of the coal miner’s—interests them, indeed tends to absorb them.”

Not that they have much choice. All over the world, Drucker wrote, people “are working everywhere longer hours and have greater demands on their time to satisfy. And the time scarcity is bound to become worse rather than better.” The reason for this: In a fast-evolving, advanced economy, “innovation and change make inordinate time demands on the executive.”

And yet, as we’ve discussed, Drucker also believed in carving out space for “quiet reflection.” And he likewise saw instances where executives seemed primarily to have needed a breather rather than a withdrawal from the workplace. “A large number of people who take early retirement,” he said, “soon find out that all they wanted was a long vacation.”

What do you think: Do managers have an excessive aversion to vacation for themselves and their staffs? Or is it good for business? [/EXPAND]