time off leisure workweek de graaf

There is an American movement for relaxation
overwork free time vacation

Why You Should Work Less

Americans are working longer hours and taking less time off -- an unhealthy habit that heightens stress and lowers life expectancy -- but curable by geonomics, by sharing society’s surplus while taking taxes off our efforts. We trim this 2008 article posted on AlterNet Oct 20. The writer is a syndicated columnist and news editor with the Cape Cod Times.

By Sean Gonsalves

In 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), establishing the minimum wage and 40-hour workweek. Since FDR signed FLSA into law, the time most people spent laboring had only increased -- to the point where, for millions of gainfully employed Americans, working 40-hours a week doesn't pay the bills.

A few years ago, John de Graaf of Seattle, a longtime television producer and creator of the award-winning documentary "Affluenza", noted the irony of how Americans live in the most affluent society in the history of the world, yet are increasingly time-poor.

An increased workload also diminished most people's ability to even spend quality time with their families, to say nothing about getting involved in social activism. The main reason people can't do anything other than try and make their own lives better -- there's no time for anything else.

What we needed, John said, was to "take back our time." And at that moment, Take Back Your Time Day was born; meant to symbolize a "challenge (to) the epidemic of overwork, over-scheduling, and time famine that now threatens our health, our families and relationships, our communities and our environment."

Today, John's vision has grown into a 7,400-member citizens organization, pushing for labor-friendly policies and more free time. This year, Take Back Your Time Day (Oct. 24) is celebrating the 70th anniversary of FSLA while calling for a new labor law that would make paid vacation a guaranteed right and not just a voluntary benefit employers "offer" workers.

A recent poll conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation found 69 percent of Americans support guarantee paid vacation law, with the largest percentage of respondents favoring a law guaranteeing three weeks vacation or more. Every demographic showed majority support for a vacation law. Only 27 percent said they opposed the idea.

Respondents were also asked how many weeks of vacation were needed to prevent "burnout." 52 percent said they need three weeks or more and 82 percent said they needed at least two weeks

The survey also uncovered a sad feature of working life in America. Almost a third of working Americans (28 percent) took no vacation time at all; half took a week or less; and two-thirds got less than two weeks off. The median vacation time: 8.2 days, far below the three weeks most cited as the needed amount of time-off to prevent burnout.

The eighth annual Expedia.com vacation survey backs that up, reporting for "the eighth consecutive year, Americans received and used the smallest amount of vacation time among their (European) counterparts abroad."

Even worse, despite reporting an average of 14 paid vacation days again this year, about a third of employed U.S. adults will not even use all the vacation days they do get.

"Again this year, employed U.S. adults will leave an average of three vacation days on the table, in essence giving back more than 460 million vacation days in 2008. Despite these statistics, Americans do see the value in vacation, with more than one-third (39 percent) reporting they feel more productive and better about their job upon returning from vacation and 52 percent claiming to feel rested, rejuvenated, and reconnected to their personal life."

"Work responsibilities" was cited as the biggest deterrent to taking vacation. And even when Americans do take vacation, 24 percent "report that they check work e-mail or voicemail while vacationing." That's up from 16 percent in 2005.

All of this has significant economic implications, de Graaf points out. "Time off is essential to health. Men who don't take regular vacations are 32 percent more likely to suffer from heart disease than those who do, and women are 50 percent more likely. If we want to cover everyone and reduce the cost of health care, one way to do it is to improve our health, and every study shows that more time off can help do that."

I wish the candidates could do something to help us take back our time. I just haven't had the time to ask them.

Also see:

No real recovery, no raises, no vacation -- what gives?

Are Americans "Vacation Starved" ?

Millions of Employees in Chronic Pain

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