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Kittiwake Economic Development Corporation

The eKubator Project

Time to Take a Break
August 31, 2001
{Author: eBerg Staff}


  There was this Mussolini in a three-piece. Intoning that business in Alberta had no use for Family Day - a statuatory holiday that provides workers an opportunity to spend some time with their family. This guy - who represented some acronym regarding business interests argued that giving drones a day off to spend time with their family was both counterproductive and made Alberta less competitive in the world marketplace.

Well, my gaster was truly flabbered. He went on to say his organization's prime directives of assassinating Santa Claus, banning sunshine and the creation of a 32-hour workday were proceeding nicely.

We live in a country that has a piteously narrow vision of work. That is, that hours worked equates enhanced productivity. The reality is that hours worked shows a direct correlation to theft of office supplies while unsupervised, buttocks photocopied, coffee pots soiled, therapists engaged and marriages fractured. We work too hard in Canada, and the result is that we have charcoal briquettes working in our cubicles and factories. Work-related illness, divorce, hours at the office and games of Tetris per employee are all on the up. What about productivity? It seems to be a great irony that the Industrial Revolution enhanced production by reducing manpower required, yet we are today working 60-hour weeks.

In Newfoundland, we are guaranteed two legislated weeks of holidays; which some might see as ideal given the perfect match with the length of our "summer." Never mind that the average European or Australian gets six months. We work nearly two months longer every year than the Germans and two weeks longer than the Japanese.

Man, are we starved for a decent vacation here. We need three weeks nationally-legislated holidaus, with an incremental increase of one to two depending on years with the company. Is that so much to ask?

And before knees get jerking, I will be so bold to assume that any measure that increases productivity is attractive to a business manager. Especially in today's knowledge-driven workplace, where recruiting and retaining brains are an enormous concern. Borders have fallen, and workers can now demand stock options, flexibility, telecommuting opportunity, compressed work weeks and, most importantly, longer vacation. Unfortunately for those of us in Newfoundland and Labrador, the employer still holds the cards. In many cases, if you don't want the job there is a small army behind you that would love it, so you don't have much in the way of leverage. Having said that, the smart firms in our province are already working to become more progressive and attractive to employees.

We work to accrue the necessities to enjoy life. Work should be pursued with passion and pride, but your ethic shouldn't be called into question for demanding time to retreat, reflect and recharge from the daily grind. In the long run, you're happier, more productive and more likely to stay in your position. When businesses lose an employee, it is estimated it costs them from a third to a half of that position's salary to refill it, given hiring, training and productivity costs.

Work is eating our lives. Everyone associated with leisure from the travel industry to brewing companies - you may have seen recent Labatt Blue ads asking how you free your time - is demanding a longer vacation. While their interests are self-serving, you can't argue that people spend more on their holidays, and that can only serve to grow our economy.

Everyone - employees, employers, right on down the line - could benefit from a better vacation. It's a necessity in Canada - it's not much good to have an economy that booms but the people who drive it bust.