In General, Americans Don’t Take Enough Time Off

Americans, in general, are rotten at taking time off. For decades, the statistics have been pretty clear about that.

Factor in the “Great Resignation” of the last couple of years, stupid (and ultimately cruel) government programs that pay folks more to stay home than to work, and “quiet quitting” (bad, I think, if you’re defrauding your employer; good, I think, if you’re establishing some boundaries employers should have to respect) . . . Factor all of this in, and, in general, Americans still don’t take enough time off.

I recently perused a Wikipedia article, “List of Minimum Annual Leave by Country.” It’s fascinating. And a bit depressing if you’re a U.S. citizen. You probably already know this, but we are one of the only industrialized nations in the world with zero “annual minimum leave.” I’m conservative enough politically that I’m not at all sure I want a Nanny State telling employers how much “paid leave” they must provide their employees. Having said that, it seems clear to me that most conscientious and valued employees in our nation deserve a good deal more of it than they get. And giving it, and encouraging its full use, would pay dividends to employers.

Why? Because we all work better if we don’t work all of the time. Most of the folks I know who are employed, or who are employers, work more diligently, harder, and more hours than they probably should. It actually takes more discipline for them to take time off than it does to just keep on shoveling . . . constantly. Working all of the time takes a toll on quality of life, health, productivity, creativity, and, ironically, quality of work. Even our Creator “rested” after creation, and we’re created to function best if we take regular time to rest.

Studies regarding vacations and “time off” are interesting, even if you don’t much factor in the type of vacation—a “let’s do a lot” or “let’s rest a lot” or an anything in-between vacation.

Folks have tried to analyze the number of vacation days it takes to really get rested. No surprise, the estimates vary. Some say five days is perfect, particularly with weekends on each side, and the middle day is the sweet spot. (Most vacationers are not preachers who must consider Sundays on each side.) Some point to a time closer to two weeks, saying that it takes the whole first week just to wind down and that the second week is heaven. I tend to think these folks are right. And I’d think a European-style three-week vacation would be paradise (though I’d likely need to work more hours to be away that long than I’d work if I just stayed home).

By the way, Departure Day and Return Day count in your official “vacation time,” but they do not count toward actual “resting” time away. They are usually brutal days, no matter how long you’re away.

And, yes, it’s quite true that anyone who is a business owner, sole proprietor, or manager, etc., knows that you generally work a ton of hours to get away for half a ton of hours. My younger brother, also a pastor, talks about the “pre-tripulation.” This is not a term regarding some “end of time” theory; this is the description of the exhausting work of getting ready to be away from work. One of the only times that I could wish I worked in a factory making widgets is when I realize it must be very nice to walk out the door knowing that widgets will still be effectively made while you’re gone, with no pre-vacation flurry of extra widget-making necessary.

Ah, well. Even, if before you leave, you find yourself wondering if the trip or vacation could possibly be worth the agony of the “pre-tripulation,” I’d suggest that it most certainly is. Press on. Get prepared. And get out of Dodge. More often than you do. And for longer times than you think you should.

Yes, that’s what the research says.

And, yes, I appeal again to a much Higher Authority and the Sabbath commandment. I think that command is full of meaning and mystery far deeper than just “You need to rest occasionally and you don’t need to work all of the time.” But those lessons are certainly mixed into the recipe. Regularly stopping and allowing God to spin the world without our help for a while means trusting Him in a very practical way. This takes more discipline than we’d think. It’s also worth a lot more than we tend to think.

Why not take a seat and ponder this a bit? It’ll be time well spent.

You’re invited to visit my website at, and I hope you’ll take a look there at my new “Focus on Faith” Podcast. At the website, just click on “Podcast.” Blessings!

Copyright 2022 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

Leave a comment

To Help Support My Music

No pressure, but if you'd like to help support this music-making, thank you!

Enter the amount you wish to donate


The minimum tip is $0.00

In cart Not available Out of stock