In August, many Europeans take extended vacations. Businesses and government offices close, and millions travel to sunny destinations in the Mediterranean or abroad. For many Americans, especially orthopedic surgeons, our European colleagues improve their work-life balance as we justify our brief vacations as all that can be taken given work commitments and revenue lost.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a 36-country intergovernmental economic group, reported all European Union countries provide employees with a statutory minimum annual leave that varies by country, but is at least 20 working days per year, in addition to public holidays. The United States is the only OECD country without minimum statutory annual leave entitlement at the federal level. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has also reported that 73% of all civilian workers had access to paid vacation time.
Benefits of vacation
The prevailing culture is maximizing time committed to work equals improved productivity, revenue and promotion. However, studies have shown guaranteed time off from work leads to improved performance, productivity and job satisfaction. The benefits of a vacation include reduced stress, improved mindset, improved sleep, exercise and social interactions. Vacation can be a way to improve the social, mental and physical determinants of our health and well-being that we may neglect when we are focused on the daily demands of work and family.
These improvements result in decreasing the risk for heart disease, depression, burnout and other ailments. Vacation has been associated with more happiness, less stress while away, and benefits at home with better work-life balance and relationships.
Commit to time away
Our European colleagues have shown us the way to a better life through a commitment to time away from the daily demands of work and home. The ideal vacation will recharge our battery, fulfill our physical desires and refresh our minds, leading to improved creativity and elevated mood, which occurs if we follow a few principles:
These principles should help future vacations lead to better work-life balance, improved relationships with the important people in your life, reduced risks of physical ailments, improved creativity and a high level of satisfaction with life.
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- Anthony A. Romeo, MD, is the Chief Medical Editor of Orthopedics Today. He can be reached at Orthopedics Today, 6900 Grove Road, Thorofare, NJ 08086; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclosure: Romeo reports he receives royalties, is on the speakers bureau, is a consultant and does contracted research for Arthrex; receives institutional grants from MLB; and receives institutional research support from Arthrex, Ossur, Smith & Nephew, ConMed Linvatec, Athletico and Wright Medical.