Jan Scruggs
Memorial founder

Jan Scruggs

Founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

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No mandates

Q: The South Korean government has a problem: Employees are working too much. The average government worker takes only six of 23 vacation days a year. How important is time off? Does productivity suffer or rise when workers forego time off? Should those who opt not to take it be forced to? And does this problem exist in the States?

Like everything else, there is not a "one-size-fits-all" solution here. Different cultures have different notions about how long and individuals should work.

In Asia, working long hours is part of the culture. Some folks just cannot separate their view of productivity from the amount of hours they spend on the job. On the other hand, some people need more time to handle all of their responsibilities. If people feel the need to work longer hours to get things done, let them make that choice.

Hard work is not limited to Asia. Americans are notorious for being hard workers -- and that is a good thing. It helped us build this nation, and it will help us bring back our economy.

I know plenty of Washingtonians who have accrued a month or more of vacation, but just do not have the time to use it because of deadlines and professional responsibilities. Should we force them to take vacation? Does their productivity suffer if they don't? The answer is "No."

Of course, vacations are helpful to all of us. Lying on the deck of a cruise ship with a cocktail in hand certainly gets your mind off the stresses of the workplace. But, vacations can't be mandated. You can't force someone to relax.

It is standard practice in some countries to take long vacations. So if you are taking a week's vacation on that cruise ship and feeling guilty about it, you could very well meet vacationers from Europe who will tell you they have been on the ship for a month!

By Jan Scruggs  |  April 15, 2010; 2:41 PM ET  | Category:  work and play Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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