Yes I'm enjoying the sea and evening sun off Quadra Island

Ah the lazy days of summer! It’s the perfect time to take those hard earned vacation days and head to the beach or the mountains…anywhere but the office.  It’s the ideal time of year for camping, kicking back, soaking up the sun and relaxing. And yet…

…according to’s most recent annual Vacation Deprivation survey conducted by Harris/Decima, almost one quarter of employed Canadians report not taking all of their vacation days. It’s near impossible for this self-employed ‘unpaid-vacations’ girl to fathom but despite receiving an average of 18.7 vacation days, Canadians give back an average of over two days of unused vacation time to their employers. What?

This translates into 34 million untaken days in Canada overall and more than $6 billion in wages handed back to employers. Listen, I’d happily take a few of those days off your hands if you’re foolish enough to let them go. My sun-loving heart aches.

So, what gives?

A 2006 CBC article – Canadians are Vacation Deprived states that the decline is caused in part by the growing number of entrepreneurs and contract workers who don’t get vacation time. Well I can relate to that one.

Working Canadians report that they don’t take their holidays because they’re not scheduling in advance (11%), too busy at work (9%) or decide to take cash in lieu of days (8%).

Even when Canadians do plan for vacation, about one in five cancels or puts off plans because of work, the survey said. If they do go on holiday, 18 per cent of Canadians surveyed still check their messages at work.

What’s it costing you?

Vacation-deprived people have higher stress and weaker immune systems so they get sick more often. This usually means more sick days off from work that – let’s face it – won’t be as fun as vacation days where you can sea kayak or sit on the beach with a cool drink. What were you thinking?

Vacation-deprived people have higher rates of depression… and by the way depression in the workplace costs the Canadian economy $51 billion a year, while 41 per cent of disability claims are the result of mental illness (Source: Calgary Counselling Centre and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health). If you’re an employer you should be insisting that your employees take their holidays!

Vacation-deprived people have lower work-life balance and create unnecessary strain on personal relationships.  I mean who wants to take their holidays without their spouse or partner right?

Vacation-deprived people have lower productivity than their vacation-rested counter parts. It’s true. Former NASA scientists, working on behalf of Air New Zealand and using testing tools normally reserved for astronauts, recently found that vacationers experienced an 82% increase in job performance post-trip. Research shows that the extended weekend just doesn’t deliver the same stress-reduction benefits as vacations that last one and two weeks. Read more about vacation time and productivity here.

Stress-free get away

Ewan and I enroute to the winery (via the beach)

Ewan and I took a week of in August to visit my family, golf a bit and sea kayak off Quadra Island. Oh, and we even cycled to Southend Farms Winery on Quadra! We’re both self-employed so time away can be stressful but we had the BEST time. With a bit of planning you can create a wonderful, worthwhile get-away just like we did.

1) Cover your bases. Leave vacation messages on all your forms of communication with a clear “I’ll get back to you by…” date, and then honor it. Not everyone works as hard as you so there is a good chance they’ll be on holidays too.

2) Call in a ‘back-up’. In situations where questions may need to be answered in your absence re-direct inquiries (via your vacation messages) to that lucky friend or colleague who will have your back so you can sun-burn yours. You can return the favour when they head on vacation.

3) Check in only if you must, and only at a scheduled point in your week. Do you really need to check your emails every day? I understand that one or two well-placed visits to your inbox will drastically reduce stress when you’re home, but you’ve posted your vacation messages. They know you’re away. If you respond you teach your staff, clients and stakeholders that you’re available 24/7. You don’t need to be.

Instead, mid-week, give yourself a set amount of time to check messages, ensure there are no emergencies (if there were your people would find you), and to delete junk mail and unnecessary communications. Do your best not to respond to emails unless you want to continue working during your vacation. Go sip a margarita instead.

Nothing beats an ocean-side campfire.

4) Do something REALLY fun! Plan an adventure away. Do something you’ve never done. Get way out in wilderness and cut yourself off from civilization so you get to feel what real relaxation and dis-connectedness can do for your spirit. Ewan and I took just 2 days to paddle out into the wilderness off Read Island near Quadra Island. We camped overnight with a guide, kayaked with dolphins, marveled at the evening phosphorescence, and slowed down to the pace of nature. SO great.

We’re both back to work now, and we’re both energized and okay about it. There’s lots of summer left. Go out and make the most of it. You really do deserve a proper summer break.

Michelle Cederberg, Certified Speaking Professional
MKin, BA Psyc, CEP

Helping people with full schedules and a long list of responsibilities maximize their personal energy to optimize work-life growth.

Speaker, Consultant, Co-Active Coach, Author


What’s NEWS:

Michelle has finished writing Energy Now! Small Steps to an Energetic Life due to be released January 2012 by Sentient Publications. Stay tuned for excerpts in her blog postings and gain energy tips for mind, body and spirit!

If Your Life Sucks It’s Your Fault is a new mini-book Michelle is writing that will be available mid September. It’s a punchy, provocative poke at personal responsibility that you won’t want to miss! Stay tuned!

You wanna piece of ME? Sign on for 1:1 coaching with Michelle. I only have spots for a few more clients. Details at