Vacation Days

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Vacation Days

Postby David Taylor » Wed Nov 28, 2012 11:09 am

I came across a study a few days back (I can't recall where, but will post the link if I find it) stating that Americans only expect to take an average of 10 or so vacation days by the end of 2012. On the flip side, Europeans will take an average of 25 to 30 days.

I'm curious how this compares to those in the scientific workforce (industry, academia, etc.) in the US and Europe. I'd be interested to hear the perspective of someone who has done some work overseas.
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Re: Vacation Days

Postby Derek McPhee » Wed Nov 28, 2012 12:35 pm

This just reflects the silly (in my opinion) notion that less vacation implies more productivity that seems to be the norm in North America. Industries offer the vacation typical in the country they are located, so a month or so in Europe and 2 weeks here. Anything above that comes from seniority or negotiation.
Last edited by Derek McPhee on Thu Nov 29, 2012 12:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Vacation Days

Postby J.W.C. » Wed Nov 28, 2012 12:44 pm

Hi David:
I started work in a UK government lab 31 years ago and had 25 days vacation plus stat holidays. A decade later, I moved to the States and my vacation went down to 10 days plus some stat holidays. Several years later, I was offered a position at a company in Vienna which came with 8 weeks vacation plus stat holidays. I went to Canada instead and now get 20 days vacation, but at least I get Boxing Day off again!
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Re: Vacation Days

Postby D. L. » Wed Nov 28, 2012 2:47 pm

Speaking anecdotally, post-docs only get federal holidays with zero 'vacation' days beyond those.

I agree with Derek McPhee that it's unfortunate that 'time spent' is often conflated with 'work produced'.

It's also interesting to note that surveys have shown a majority of workers would gladly trade (in direct proportion) their pay for added vacation time.
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Re: Vacation Days

Postby Rich Lemert » Wed Nov 28, 2012 3:09 pm

I generally see three reasons for vacations; to visit friends and family; to "recharge your batteries"; and to see and experience new places. The thing is that my job is still a lot of fun so I don't really need much recharging, I get to see a lot of new places as part of my job (and travel can be so expensive anyway), and one can stand to be around their family only so much no matter how much they love them. Because of these factors (and the fact that I'd be bored staying around the house in a "staycation", I keep bumping up against my company's limit on accumulated leave time.
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Re: Vacation Days

Postby Chris » Wed Nov 28, 2012 3:09 pm

This is one of the (many) reasons that I am glad to be an "exempt" academic employee - no one keeps track of my vacation days and I am often able to combine business trips (to conferences or meetings) with family trips.

Hmm - I'm actually a bit surprised, looking at my calendar for the past year, I can only count 11 true vacation days taken. I traveled much more than that, but I guess most of my travel this year was business travel. Clearly, although I'm thrilled to have the flexibility to set my own schedule (these 11 vacation days don't include a few sick days or half days I've spent home with the kids), this flexibility doesn't result in my taking more vacation than the average North American would expect. Next year I'm planning a few weeks in Europe (centered around a conference), so my vacation days will increase.
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Re: Vacation Days

Postby Anna B. » Wed Nov 28, 2012 3:55 pm

In my last job (law firm), no one kept track of "vacation days"--the policy was basically, get your work done and your billable hours in, and don't be gone long enough to make your bosses or coworkers mad.

The unwritten rule seemed to be that you could take two weeks off in a row for a wedding/honeymoon or a wife who just had a baby, but otherwise a vacation was 1 week max, supplemented with a few other days off throughout the year.
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Re: Vacation Days

Postby Ana » Wed Nov 28, 2012 5:49 pm

David, are you sure all those are real "vacation days"? In some European countries the legal working hours per week are lower than 40 yet some employers ask you to work 40 hours/week. The result of this is a number of extra hours that you receive as extra holiday days This is how you get to 25-30, usually it is 20 vacation days + these recuperation days.

Thalking about this, one of the culture shocks I notice when moving to industry was that people is expected to take holidays. At the university no one kept official track of it but most trainees worked long days and one or two days on weekends. I'm sure the postdocs working at the university close to my company are not using all their vacation days (or weekends...)
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Re: Vacation Days

Postby Duffy P. » Wed Nov 28, 2012 5:51 pm

I have worked as a PhD student and (academic) postdoc in several european countries, and have formally been allowed between 25 and 38 days of holiday per year, as well as public holidays (which can add an extra 10 or so days). That said, not all the institutions where I worked were rigorous about registering everyone's vacation days. Also I don't see professors using their full vacation allowance - typically they take 2 weeks off in the summer and a week off over xmas. Some years I don't use all the available vacation days, but since I live away from my home country, it's important to me to have the flexibility to go back home to see family/friends. Some of our staff from more far-flung places (asia etc) will use many vacation days in one block (3-6 weeks) to go back home, since flights are expensive and they can only afford to visit once or twice a year. One thing that seriously put me off working in the US was the lack of vacation days. I don't know if we are more productive over here, in terms of volume of work done, but I know personally that I produce better quality work when I am properly rested.
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Re: Vacation Days

Postby JSL » Wed Nov 28, 2012 7:33 pm

At my research institute (in the U.S.), grad students are technically allowed 2 weeks of vacation time according to the program handbook. However, the culture of most labs creates an environment that strongly looks down upon time spent away from lab. When someone does go on vacation, I've seen instances where the project is handed off to someone else in the lab (in other words, the researcher risks losing credit or the PI ignoring their project as a passive-aggressive form of punishment).

As a result, a lot of people "sneak" away from lab by leaving early in the evening, or taking a longer lunch when a friend visits, rather than taking the full day off. All of these micro diversions probably have just as negative an impact on productivity as an extended vacation, if not more!
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