Business & Economics

Back from three weeks vacation with a bold proposal

Robert Reich

Back from three weeks off grid, much of it hiking in Alaska and Australia.

When I left the U.S. economy was in a stall, Greece was on the brink of defaulting, the euro-zone couldn’t get its act together, the Fed couldn’t decide on another round of quantitative easing, congressional Democrats and Republicans were in gridlock, much of the nation was broiling, and neither Obama nor Romney had put forward a bold proposal for boosting the economy, slowing climate change, or much of anything else.

What a difference three weeks makes.

Here’s a bold proposal I offer free of charge to Obama or Romney: Every American should get a mandatory minimum of three weeks paid vacation a year.

Most Americans only get two weeks off right now. But many don’t even take the full two weeks out of fear of losing their jobs. One in four gets no paid vacation at all, not even holidays. Overall, Americans have less vacation time than workers in any other advanced economy.

This is absurd. A mandatory three weeks off would be good for everyone — including employers.

Studies show workers who take time off are more productive after their batteries are recharged. They have higher morale, and are less likely to mentally check out on the job.

This means more output per worker — enough to compensate employers for the cost of hiring additional workers to cover for everyone’s three weeks’ vacation time.

It’s also a win for the economy, because these additional workers would bring down the level of unemployment and put more money into more people’s pockets. This extra purchasing power would boost the economy overall.

More and longer vacations would also improve our health. A study by Wisconsin’s Marshfield Clinic shows women who take regular vacations experience less tension and depression year round. Studies also show that men who take regular vacations have less likelihood of heart disease and fewer heart attacks.

Better health is not just good for us as individuals. It also translates into more productive workers, fewer sick days, less absenteeism. And lower health care costs.

In other words, a three-week minimum vacation is a win-win-win — good for workers, good for employers, and good for the economy.

And I guarantee it would also be a winner among voters. Obama, Romney — either of you listening?

Cross-posted from Robert Reich’s blog.

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Comments to "Back from three weeks vacation with a bold proposal":
    • Margot H Knight

      I am evangelistic in my support for paid vacations. I go even further. And I model the behavior I want to see in my employees. Since 1985 I have taken 3 weeks at a time annually–unplugged, off-the-grid time. Get to know your family, your friends, your partner and yourself. Share your responsibilities and decision-making with your associates. They’re up to it. And when you come back, it’s like a new job. It is transformative. You want innovative companies and employees? Give and take the gift of time. Bravo, Mr. Reich, Bravo.

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    • Charlie G.

      Well, it’s an idea, but for the growing number of us self-employed, who picks up the tab ?

      “One in four gets no paid vacation at all, not even holidays.” …it’s amazing the many, like me, do this by choice – I give up paid holidays, sich days, etc. for the simple beauty of working my own hours – costly, yes, but the sense of freedom is a slice of vacation every day. Oh, by the way, I just returned from 2-1/2 weeks in Galicia Spain doing my best to stimulate the Spanish economy.

      [Report abuse]

    • Anthony St. John '63

      Welcome back Prof. Reich, you are the most productive activist on this blog.

      I’m glad you must have spent some of your time time searching for innovative solutions to vital problems that we must solve during this election cycle full of increasingly destructive political rhetoric.

      Now that you have once again achieved a state of mental rejuvenation, we look forward to your leadership, together with your colleagues, in producing immediately implementable solutions to our escalating problems with population, resources, poverty, disease, hatred and greed while we still have opportunities to do so.

      If ever there was time of greatest need, it would be most useful to implement the Golden Rule and Peace on Earth at last, even though they have proven to exceed our mental capabilities since no institution has made a breakthrough in many thousands of years of trying with far too many millions of lives sacrificed to make the right things happen to perpetuate the human race.

      In the meantime, we need the best of the best motivational leadership to focus peoples on achieving worldwide cultural and social values that emphasize morality, family, education, cooperation, compromise, health, human rights (especially including women’s rights), rule of law and resource improvements to meet long-term future needs for acceptable quality of life.

      Good luck to us.

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