On Saturday I will be departing for two full weeks of vacation, the first time in 25 years of work that I have dared such an extended break.
My wife has been badmouthing the paltry one-week vacation for years, insisting that it barely allows enough time to begin winding down from the crushing pace of work. She makes it out to be downright barbaric. “Look at those Europeans!” she’ll say. “They take off the entire month of August – and that’s just the summer!”
But there is a perfectly good explanation why I have avoided the two-week vacation all these years: I am afraid that everyone at work will forget about me.
I am gripped by this nagging worry that once I am out of range for more than five days or so, I will inevitably be greeted upon my return with something like, “Heyyyy there, welcome back! Now, who are you, again?”
As ridiculous as this may seem, it is a central fear among many managers these days — driven, no doubt, by the flaky condition of the economy, which creates the constant need to be integral, necessary, and at the center of things.
We’d like to believe we are indispensable, and short vacations help prop up that image.
Another concern is that my well-meaning colleagues may make significant strategic decisions while I am out, rendering me completely useless and out of the loop upon my return. Well, okay, there is a small chance that I may have contributed to this, having on occasion been the source of that sort of thing during a fellow manager’s week off. “Ha! Wait ‘til Johnson gets back and finds out,” we’ll joke after completely revising and re-implementing his supply chain strategy. “Now, THAT will teach him to take off more than three days in a row!”
I suppose this doesn’t help matters any.
On top of it all, I dread the email and voice messages piling up while I’m gone. Who wants to plow through all that?
Apparently, I am not alone in this vacation aversion, as evidenced by an Expedia survey of 9,000 people revealing that only 38% of US employees use their allotted vacation time each year.
Meanwhile, a number of more enlightened companies, like Netflix and Motley Fool, are attempting to nudge employees towards more down time, offering an “open-ended” vacation policy allowing them to take off whatever amount of time they seem fit. This sounds quite awesome, but it can ironically have the opposite affect: some employees complain that the lack of guidelines promotes the tendency to work all the time.
I sometimes wonder what Jesus would have to say about all of this. He certainly worked hard enough — pretty much wall to wall, it seems, during those three years of intense ministry. Scripture doesn’t go into much detail regarding a godly vacation policy, but we do see him occasionally making brief getaways to fend off exhaustion or escape all those clammy hands constantly grabbing for a piece of his healing touch.
Unlike the cross-functional coverage that goes on in most organizations, it appears Jesus usually didn’t tell anyone when or where he was going. He just took off, into the woods, or onto a boat to cross the sea. As far and as deep as he could run, I suppose.
Well, I am still convincing myself this time off is well-deserved, and that God will approve (in addition to my wife). And who knows? After the first week or so, I may even stop caring about what I’m missing back at the ranch.