A Case for More (Paid) Summer Vacation Time in America

Lifestyle

Illustration by Naomi Wilkinson (@naomipwilkinson on Instagram)

PTO, paid time off, vacation time—whatever you might call it, we need more of it in America. Wait, no, here’s a better idea: why don’t we go a step further like the Norwegians and form a communal summer holiday period? Allow me to explain…

When I moved abroad to Oslo last August and started introducing myself to new people, I quickly realized that no matter whom I spoke with, he or she would tell me the same two things: 1) the darkness is harder to cope with than the cold in winter (which I soon found to be true), and 2) the entire country practically shuts down for the entire month of July.

Of course, the latter point immediately struck my attention, so after conducting a bit of online research, I discovered the locals weren’t joking. Commonly known as the “Big July Shutdown,” nearly all employees take two to three weeks off, with many taking close to the entire month. Apparently, this concept of a communal summer holiday helps to prevent the potential inefficiencies of only having 50 to 75 percent of the workforce in place for a longer period of time. Store opening hours are also shortened, even in the country’s larger cities, such as Oslo.

While I haven’t yet experienced this widely acclaimed shutdown, I’m intrigued to see what it’s all about in the coming weeks, as I certainly still have lots of questions regarding how it even works. For instance, how can a country scale down operations during one of the main travel months of the year? Is this the reason Norway takes third place on the 2019 World Happiness Report?

Establishing this type of communal holiday period might simply be wishful thinking for a country as large and driven by capitalism as the U.S., but it does make me further recognize not only the value—mentally, emotionally, culturally, and even economically—of paid time off, but also the fact that more companies need to prioritize and encourage it.

Of course, having the opportunity to travel and take a vacation is a privilege, but even if our time away from work consisted of a rejuvenating staycation, perhaps we could somehow move away from the ‘busier-is-better’ mentality that is deeply ingrained in the States and, in turn, help prevent the significantly high rate of job burnout so many of us consistently face.

Establishing this type of communal holiday period might simply be wishful thinking for a country as large and driven by capitalism as the U.S., but it does make me further recognize not only the value—mentally, emotionally, culturally, and even economically—of paid time off, but also the fact that more companies need to prioritize and encourage it.

Plus, we’d be in good company. As it turns out, there are multiple other countries that take this summer shutdown approach. In the U.K., August is regularly referred to as the “silly season.” And so many other European nations following suit—which is why I can’t help but think, isn’t it time the U.S. got on board?

BY Kathryn - June 29, 2019

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10 Comments  +

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  1. Why Longer Summer Vacations Should Be a Normal Thing in America – Business Blog

    June 29th, 2019 at 11:39 am

    […] Continue reading Why Longer Summer Vacations Should Be a Normal Thing in America at Wit & Deligh… […]

  2. Ashley W

    June 30th, 2019 at 12:25 am

    I’m curious what the environmental impact of this is? On the one hand there might be a high demand for travel, lots of cars idling on roads, more impact on vacation areas (rather than a gentle, more consistent flow over longer time…), but on the other hand, with hotter summers it may reduce air conditioning and overall energy usage in large office buildings, help people reconnect, reflect and refocus… hmm. On the other other hand I also feel like the peak of cold and flu season should just be taken off, at least for those of us with young kids!! ha!

  3. Suzannah Kolbeck

    June 30th, 2019 at 7:45 am

    It’s important to really sit back and recognize the privilege in this idea. You mention it in passing, but there are tons of reasons why for the vast majority of the country this is not possible.

    Additionally, children from low-income families typically lose between one and two reading levels over long summer vacations, and many people who take a long summer will still want their houses cleaned, lawns mowed, and food served. Guess who they will want to do that?

  4. Amy Polen

    July 1st, 2019 at 9:10 pm

    As the previous commenter said, a long paid vacation is truly an idea of privilege. It’ll never happen in the US. So many people (myself included) don’t even have paid personal time or vacation. I do occasionally have the ability to take off some unpaid time, but I recognize even that as a luxury.

  5. Kathryn M.

    July 2nd, 2019 at 3:20 pm

    Hi Suzannah and Amy, thank you both for your comments. We appreciate your perspective and you pointing out where we have some blind spots—we’ll definitely go back and look at this topic from a different perspective. Wishing you all the best.

  6. A Case for More (Paid) Summer Vacation Time in America – Wit & Delight – Journal Ville

    July 3rd, 2019 at 12:33 am

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