At the recent Take Back Your Time conference at Seattle University, I made a proposal to do a direct-mail campaign to identify supporters of shorter working hours. It was an announcement of an activity that I will be commencing soon and with which I need your help. I'm writing this piece to convince you to join me in this campaign. Here's why it's so important:
Pass the chocolate hearts—Valentine’s Day is almost upon us! After the winter holidays, it’s a competitor with Mother’s Day and Halloween for second place among the holidays when Americans spend the most. This year, we’ll fork over $20 billion on candy, flowers, small gifts and those luxury cars wrapped in bows and hearts that miraculously turn up in the driveways of delighted women in the television commercials.
During the third Republican debate, Jeb Bush punctuated his criticism of Marco Rubio’s spotty attendance in the Senate with the swipe, “The Senate, what is it like, a French work week? You get, like, three days where you have to show up?”
Evoking the image of the indolent French whiling away their copious leisure in cafes while Americans measure their greatness by the sheer volume of hours worked is a potent one-two combination in today’s political cage matches. It would not have played so well, however, with some of America’s Founders, including Benjamin Franklin, who was well acquainted with the French and knew a thing or two about work and leisure.
I’ve been in the news quite a bit lately—New York Times, CNN, NPR, the Guardian… They’ve wanted to talk to me about “Affluenza,” the dreaded disease I warned about in a 1997 PBS documentary. The reason was the recent case in Texas, where a drunken teenager driving illegally plowed a pick up truck into a crowd of people killing four of them. His lawyer, claiming his rich parents had never taught him right from wrong, got him out of a jail sentence by claiming he suffered from affluenza and was therefore psychologically impaired. A judge (and family friend) sentenced him to ten years probation and therapy. But in December he broke probation and ran off with his mother to Mexico, where he was eventually found after failing to pay the bill in a Puerto Vallarta strip club (you can’t make this stuff up).
ThirdPath Institute, partner of Take Back Your Time, helps men and women – as parents and leaders – find new ways to “redesign” work so they have more time for their families, communities and other life passions. Over the last 15 years, we’ve also spent time helping families rethink the holidays so they include more joy and less stress.
At 1 Million for Work Flexibility, we advocate for rethinking where, when, and how work gets done so that it’s no longer bound by traditional rules. That means acknowledging that instead of taking place in an office, work can happen anywhere. Instead of taking place Monday through Friday between the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., work can happen any time. We know that this type of flexibility is good for both employers and employees. It allows workers to better juggle their personal needs with their professional responsibilities, leading to greater work-life satisfaction, boosted morale, and higher productivity -- a win-win on both sides.
It’s the holiday season again, and a time when we think about what really matters for our happiness and wellbeing. Many of us had a stressful, if flavorful Thanksgiving and a frantic Black Friday. I watched with horror the videos of people fighting in the malls to take home the latest “gotta have it” toy for their kids. I hope you took the day off, instead, and spent it with family and friends.
What happens on the day after Thanksgiving in America? People flood our big stores and shopping centers on the aptly named “Black Friday,” when prices are marked down appreciably. And to get a jump on other retailers, some stores have begun to open their doors on Thanksgiving, traditionally a holiday for workers to spend with their families.
As the Naturalist/Guest Speaker on a Princess Cruise ship in Alaska during spring and summer, I'm honored to meet passengers from all 50 US states and an average of 30 different countries each week, as we cruise through Paradise, awed by pristine waters teeming with whales, towering snow-swathed mountains, sapphire blue glaciers calving icebergs as big as houses, and a far-reaching sky colored by neon-green and scarlet-red Northern Lights.
Meet Richard Hobbs, an attorney and Executive Director of Human Agenda, a non-profit community organization in San Jose, California. We took a few moments to learn how Richard has incorporated the TBYT mission into his professional and personal life over the years.
Maureen Wilt is a Professor of Social Work at the University of Central Missouri, and a proud supporter of Take Back Your Time since 2003. This year marks the 13th Take Back Your Time Day she will celebrate with her students — future social workers who consistently come up with creative new ways to help spread the word about what a serious issue overwork is for our world.
As many of us already know, the United States of America is one of a handful of countries on the planet that don’t have a federally mandated vacation policy. In almost all other nations, every worker receives a substantial number of days off every year. And they actually take it. Because there is no mandated minimum, the number of vacation days that US workers are permitted varies greatly from the select few who get as many as 6 to 10 weeks a year---an extreme rarity in our country, but very common in all European nations---to those who receive a 1 to 3 week “standard” or “traditional” US vacation, down to the least fortunate who work all year and get zero time off.
I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t miss the standard school year vacation they enjoyed as a child. Every year for twelve years, if you’re lucky, vacation is unstructured time to explore the creative depths of your mind and the joys of childhood without forced extra-curricular activities or stringent schedules to adhere to.
“Work harder!” It’s a motto familiar to the millennial generation and those before us. But work harder and longer with no benefits, no paid vacation, and with no sense of meaningful fulfillment at the end of the work day? That’s where America’s newest and largest workforce is questioning the status quo.
The other day some of us were sitting around talking about the importance of paid vacation and we began wondering how more generous vacation policies would impact different groups of people -- workers, children, mothers, etc. Naturally, we talked about ourselves, and then we started to laugh.
An Infographic on Wellness Tourism Worldwide research statistics about U.S. consumer perceptions about vacations, health and productivity.
On May 14, billboards went up around Houston and Philadelphia, with H&M advertising careers like Arce’s and extolling one benefit in particular. Five weeks vacation is possible, the signs read. H&M depends on its Scandinavian DNA, says Daniel Kulle, the retailer’s North American president.
Humans are energy machines. We expend energy over the course of the workday and work year in our body and brains (which use up 20% of the body’s calories), and then we have to replace it, or fatigue sets in, stress and exhaustion build, and productivity plummets.
It’s a basic law of effort: Quality output requires quality input. It’s called recovery in the scientific journals, and one of the best ways to get it is through the recuperative benefits of a vacation.
As CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, I had a problem. I was managing a budget that included more than $350,000 in accrued vacation liability for the association’s 60 employees, amassed over years of employees rolling over their paid time off. Even more than the financial liability, that meant my employees weren’t using all their vacation time—the consequences of which are less quantifiable, but equally serious.
You might remember the Jet Blue flight attendant who melted down a few years back after a passenger wouldn't apologize when his luggage came down on the attendant's noggin. The attendant went on the intercom shouting obscenities, grabbed a couple beers, and slid down the emergency escape chute. How many of you secretly cheered?
Oscar Wilde once said the difference between an optimist and a pessimist is that the optimist sees the donut, the pessimist the hole. I guess that means pessimists are better calorie-counters. Seriously, though, there’s a big difference in these two viewpoints, one that can have a huge impact on your work, health, and life. Research shows that optimism can prevent depression, increase social connection, boost performance on the job, increase success, and make you more resilient in the face of setbacks.
The Declaration of Independence may guarantee the pursuit of happiness, but, as we all know, landing the prize is a different story. It's a winding road through the options we're given. Status, wealth, popularity, the refrigerator, the medicine cabinet -- all the standbys have failed to get the job done. What really works, though, is something that wouldn't cross most of our minds: a passion or a hobby.
It's a vision problem that no laser surgery can cure that keeps us from seeing the central source of happiness right next to us. The problem is called adulthood. Those afflicted with this condition have trouble focusing on nearby objects of amusement and the realm that delivers the most enjoyment per square inch: play. Adults are oblivious to what they knew as kids—that play is where you live.
This year I've been working with a group of college students. They’re taking a course called Transformative Action and they have placements in community activities like Habitat for Humanity or the Sierra Club -- groups contributing to the welfare of the community.
I recently took my own work/life balance advice, and went on vacation to Central Oregon. Amidst the splendors of Mt. Hood, Mt. Washington, and the obsidian lava flow at Newberry Crater, I thought how Nature must just chuckle at humankind’s industrious existence! In this region of the United States we are, of course, only one big earthquake, volcanic eruption, or wildfire away from disaster. Known as part of the global Ring of Fire, the Pacific Northwest helps to remind us of the vulnerabilities of our species and how small we really are in the grand scheme of the earth’s geology.