Career Corner: It’s Summer! How Are You Going to Use Your Vacation?

When was the last time you took a vacation? – Courtesy photo

By Angela Copeland

A good vacation can be one of the most relaxing things you can do for yourself. Whether you prefer the beach, camping, or grilling out in your backyard, down time is something we all need. Unfortunately, we’re not all getting this much needed time to relax. Can you relate?

In the United States, there’s no minimum vacation or holidays that companies are required to provide to workers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that 77 percent of employers offer paid vacation time. On average, employers give ten days of vacation after one year of employment. The number of vacation days grows based upon tenure. After twenty years, most employees receive twenty days of vacation. In addition to vacation, many companies offer holidays.

It’s interesting to compare our vacation to other places. In France, employees are granted a minimum of five weeks of vacation. In Australia, the minimum is four weeks. In Belgium, the minimum is twenty-four days. In Denmark, the minimum is five weeks. Now, it’s not to say that there aren’t other countries with smaller vacations. In some areas of Canada, the minimum is ten days, for example.

But, what are we really doing with our two weeks of vacation? You probably guessed it; in many cases, not much. I recently heard an interesting term, “vacation shaming.” It’s an all too familiar idea where employers place negative feelings and shame around the idea of taking time off.

This vacation shaming causes us to feel uncomfortable requesting time away. Despite receiving two weeks of vacation each year, many Americans are only taking about half of it, according to a survey conducted by

Even if we are taking vacation time, many of us are staying plugged in. We answer emails, take phone calls, and sometimes attend meetings remotely. There’s a fear of getting into trouble and losing our job while we’re out.

For employees who do choose to take vacation, some companies set rules that limit the options available. For example, a company may have a policy that an employee may not take more than four or five consecutive days in a row. For those with an international destination in mind, this can really limit the options.

Being successful at work if often tied to being the best version of yourself that you can be and that requires you to take care of yourself. Vacation is a great place to start on this goal.

If you’re looking for a new job, do your best to learn about the company’s policy about taking vacation, both official and unofficial. Many online review sites can provide an employee perspective.

Then, don’t forget that vacation time is negotiable – just like salary. When you negotiate your offer letter, know that you can ask for additional time off.

In the long run, taking time for you is more important than any amount of vacation shaming. We all need a break sometimes.

Angela Copeland, a career coach and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at

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