It’s an old joke — “No one ever says on their death bed, ‘Gee, I wish I had spent more time at work’ ” — but it never fails to elicit a few chuckles.
And in this country, some sighs of recognition.
About 57 percent of working Americans ended 2011 with unused vacation time, averaging 11 days, according to a Harris Interactive study. A fifth of the workers surveyed said they couldn’t afford to travel, and almost 10 percent said that in today’s job market, they were afraid to take time off.
But the bigger factor, says one expert, is our priorities.
“What Americans see as important and what is rewarded is individual achievement,” says Trisha Stark, executive director of the Minnesota Psychological Association. “It’s not working well in a group, being cooperative, being healthy. It’s achieving.”
Stark says it will take a major cultural shift to chase away this vacation aversion.
“The big companies are really addressing it because they see the costs of employees who are not at 100 percent.”
At home, though, we’re not exactly setting the tone for the next generation to take a different approach.
“We still raise our kids to achieve,” Stark says. ”When they come home from school, it’s not ‘How many people did you play with or talk to today?’ but ‘How did you do on that spelling test, or did you win your … game?’ ”