Thanks, Obama (For Taking A Vacation)

President Obama left on Saturday for a two-week vacation to Martha’s Vineyard, MA with the First Family. Whoever wins this November, all presidents need vacation after they assume the office. Unfortunately, in recent years, presidential vacations have been as partisan an issue as any in Washington, from headlines like, “Obama vacations as the world burns” or “Vacationing Bush Poised to Set a Record.”

The president bears enormous responsibility, and there is never a “good” time to step away. But he will be a better leader for it. 

Like the president, we are all better employees when we give ourselves a chance to breathe, think deeply, and recharge. But we also feel the intense pressure to be at work. And though the average American may not have his or her finger on the red button, busyness is wrongly worn as a badge of honor.

The results from The State of American Vacation 2017 puts our work martyr tendencies in sharp focus. We left 662 million vacation days unused because we worry about returning to a mountain of work, feel no one else can do the job, and want to show complete dedication.

Unfortunately, company culture isn’t helping to mitigate our fears. Nearly two-thirds of American workers (66%) say their company culture either says nothing about taking time off, sends mixed messages, or discourages them from using time off.

Without support from company leadership, a majority (54%) of employees are taking a pass on vacation, and even the ones who are managing to get away aren’t able to unplug. The majority of senior business leaders (63%) are working on vacation, and however unintended, sending a message to their employees that it’s not okay to get away.

Taking a moment away from the busyness is not only important for de-stressing and catching a breath, it also recharges our creativity and productivity when we return to work. From the private sector—companies like Instagram and Dropbox were conceived on vacation—to the public, some of the best ideas emerge during downtime. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famed Lend-Lease policy was developed while on a 10-day fishing trip in the Caribbean.

Nancy Reagan once quipped, “Presidents don’t get vacations—they just get a change of scenery.” Maybe so. But by skipping out on a vacation, the president can’t realize the important benefits of a break.

Vacations are serious business and all Americans—from the Oval Office to the cubicle—are better off for taking them. 

So, putting politics aside, can we all agree to skip the presidential vacation shaming from now on?

Note: The data and statistics referenced in this post have been updated since we originally published this post. Learn more about the State of American Vacation 2017.

August 11, 2016