As the saying goes,
"Life is short, death is long." Thatís probably the main
reason Iím such a big fan of vacations.
For example, Iíve always admired the
French, who basically shut down their country for the month of August.
Everyone who does not directly cater to the tourist industry takes the
month off and heads somewhere, anywhere.
And then thereís my previously
uptight American friend, Brad, who gave up a career in banking to become a
junior high school teacher.
"There are three reasons I went
into teaching," he says when asked why he chose such a noble and
rewarding profession. "Number one Ė June, Number two Ė July, and
Number three Ė August."
Not terribly diplomatic, but it makes
Yet there are those who donít cherish
vacation time. There are people out there, the classic workaholics, who
have trouble relaxing. Theyíre always itching to get back into the fray.
They need to accomplish something, generate income, maintain their daily
I had that problem once. I couldnít
understand how everyone could just pick up and leave. It was very
frustrating and irritating. But I couldnítí complain too much Ė I
had been warned not to visit Paris in August.
No. I am a true believer in vacations.
And not just for me. Although I manage to squeeze in my fair share of time
off work, I also have maintained a policy over the years of awarding ample
vacation time to all the employees of my company.
After one year of continuous
employment, two weeks of vacation is earned. After two years, an employee
gets three weeks. And after only five short, wonderful years with the
company, employees received four weeks of vacation.
I wrote that policy 12 years ago when I
first started out in business. How was I to know so many people would
stick around for five years or more?
But that was the point. In any
business, employee turnover is one of the major headaches and one of the
major expenses. The costs and risks of hiring new employees and training
them can be monumental.
If you can hold on to good employees
and create a stable environment, a good part of the battle will be won.
And three or four weeks of paid vacation is not something that is easily
relinquished by an employee considering a change.
But thatís only half the reason I
have such a liberal vacation policy. I simply believe that one or two
weeks a year is not enough time away from the workplace. Work 51 weeks,
get one week off? That has never quite washed with me.
Unfortunately, everyone knows that
liberalism costs money. Many businesses canít afford to be generous with
vacation time, especially when the vacationing employee needs to be
replaced while absent.
I was reminded of that point the other
day when Phil, my longtime warehouse manager, asked to see me.
It seemed, unbeknownst to me, that Phil
had been remiss on taking advantage of his generous allotment of vacation
days. He had taken a week here, a week there, but no major time off in the
last few years.
As a result, Phil was delighted to
report to me that he had 47 vacation days due him.
"47 days!" I cried.
"Thatís over nine weeks! What have you been doing?"
"Working," he replied in a
very un-French-like tone. "I canít afford to go anywhere. Can I
cash in some of my vacation pay instead of taking the time off?"
"Phil," I said, "that is
not the idea of the generous vacation policy. Youíre supposed to relax,
take time off, enjoy life."
"I would if I had some
He had a point. One way or another,
everything evens out. The money used to cover the cost of vacationing
employees has to come from somewhere. Unfortunately for my merry
vacationers itís reflected in their wages.
"Ok," I said. "I donít
like doing this, but I also donít like the idea of you leaving for nine
weeks. Iíll pay you four weeks of vacation in cash, leaving you five
weeks to relax. Now, where are you going to go?"
"Nowhere. Iím going to fix my
car." Oh, well. Obviously, Phil was going to keep racking those days
up. Maybe in time Iíll be able to convince him of the value of actually
taking a vacation. And if all else fails, I suppose I could resort to a
"use it or lose it" policy. It certainly has worked for me.