Maybe People Don't Go On Vacation Because They're Afraid Of How Easy It'll Be To Get On Without Them  

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
Nov. 20 2013 5:15 PM

Will A Vacation Reveal How Dispensable You Are?

450525981
Venice is fun. Not sure about the flooding.

Photo by ANDREA PATTARO/AFP/Getty Images

Americans take fewer vacation days than residents of most other rich countries, presumably because Americans generally get fewer vacation days than people in countries where vacation is mandated by law or by collective bargaining agreements. But Lauren Davidson wrote an interesting piece recently about how most people don't even take all the vacation days they get.

While I was on vacation for the first time in a while (I'd been hoarding vacation days to save up for a long trip) I had a brainstorm about this. Or, rather, I found myself in an unusual position. A part of me was rooting for terrible traffic news from Slate. After all, I wasn't around writing columns. I wasn't participating in brainstorming meetings or chiming in on email threads. I did some tweeting, but not nearly as much and it wasn't as news focused. Wouldn't it be great for me if it turned out that without me doing all that stuff the business was falling apart? Conversely—what if everything was just fine with me gone? What would that say? Nothing good.

And there's a real contrast here between the modern office job and the classic middle class manufacturing gig of the postwar years. When you're on an assembly line, you're supposed to be replaceable. When someone is off for a week, someone else picks up the shift. Maybe the bosses need to shell out for overtime and it's inconvenient in that sense. But the workers aren't supposed to be beautiful unique snowflakes. The factory rolls forward without any particular person.

But as more and more of us work in jobs that are abstracted from core goods-producing and service-providing functions ("bullshit jobs" according to David Graeber) we run the risk that our absence won't be noticed. Maybe people are actually going to be happy that they don't have to put up with my typos and lame jokes and weird lunch preferences? This is part of what strikes me as particularly insidious about the new fad where companies offer "unlimited" vacation days to employees. Technically that's supposed to be a perk. But the practical message seems pretty clear—don't take any time off unless you want to send a clear signal about how useless and lazy you are.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

Are the Attacks in Canada a Sign of ISIS on the Rise in the West?

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Watch Little Girls Swear for Feminism

Fascinating Maps Based on Reddit, Craigslist, and OkCupid Data

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Can Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu Pull Off One More Louisiana Miracle?

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 23 2014 1:51 PM Is This the ISIS Backlash We've Been Waiting For?
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 23 2014 11:51 AM It Seems No One Is Rich or Happy: I Looked
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Oct. 23 2014 1:34 PM Leave Me Be Beneath a Tree: Trunyan Cemetery in Bali
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Culturebox
Oct. 23 2014 1:46 PM The Real Secret of Serial Has Sarah Koenig made up her mind yet? 
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 11:45 AM The United States of Reddit  How social media is redrawing our borders. 
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.