Americans Mistake Overwork for Good Work
LYNN NEARY, host:
Summertime and vacations go hand in hand - or at least they used to. These days, while families are packing up their cars with beach chairs and pool toys, a lot of them are also bringing along their Blackberry's and cell phones so they can keep in touch with the office.
An annual survey conducted by CareerBuilder.com says one in four workers plans to bring work with them on vacation. Here to talk with us about the lost art of taking vacation is columnist Bob Rosner.
Bob, how do you explain why so many workers are finding it so hard to leave their work behind when they go on vacation these days?
Mr. BOB ROSNER (Syndicated Columnist and Author): Well, there are serious answers and there are funny answers. You know, the serious answer is a lot of middle managers go laid off, there's a lot of tension and stress in the workplace. A lot of white knuckles on desks, so people are nervous. So, they'll tend to hang out at their desk and overwork.
NEARY: What are the funny answers?
Mr. ROSNER: Well, the funny answer is that we're screwed up, and that somehow we think that work should be weighed by the pound - a pound of flesh.
Lynn, let me ask you a question. You're about to go into brain surgery. You really want to hear, correct, that your physician has been working a 14-hour day, or hasn't had a vacation in six months? Of course not!
I think we have an institutional mentality of eight hours is good, ten hours is better, and 12 hours is best of all.
NEARY: Well, for all of this clock punching we're talking about, are we really getting more done?
Mr. ROSNER: I don't think so. I think we have a lot of people who don't have enough life so that they're doing online shopping and they're playing games on their computer every time their boss turns their back.
Its sort of a twisted environment, as opposed to, here's a defined amount of work. Get it done in whatever time it takes, and if you get it done a little early, leave. To the value in the workplace, or the people who have the sleeping bag rolled up under their desk.
NEARY: So what's your advice on this whole question of vacations?
Mr. ROSNER: Get a life. I think that the - there's a great story from Southwest Airlines. That Southwest Airlines wanted to turn around their planes faster and they couldn't learn anything from any of the rest of the airline industry, because they already turned the planes around faster. And one of their engineers was a Formula One racing fan, and he was watching Indianapolis 500 and he realized they could learn from the pit crews.
The point here, Lynn, is a very important one. This guy had a life outside of work, and he was able to learn things from his life and apply them to work. And create dramatic improvements for the airlines. If you are a company or you are an employee and you're chained to your desk and you're working more and more hours, you're never going to come up with that kind of big breakthrough for your company.
I think that we really need to have a quality revolution in corporate America as opposed to a quantity work mindset.
NEARY: How much vacation are you taking this year, Bob?
Mr. ROSNER: Well, I had a really nice day scheduled until you made me come to the studio.
(Soundbite of laughter)
NEARY: So you need to take your own advice, in other words.
Mr. ROSNER: I'm a columnist. I'm never required to take my own advice.
NEARY: Thanks very much for talking with us, Bob.
Mr. ROSNER: Have a great day.
NEARY: Bob Rosner is a workplace columnist for WorkingWounded.com.
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