View Full Version : Vacation
05-17-2007, 01:06 PM
I'm just curious - how often do you take vacations? I find in my job that it is very difficult for me to take one week off from work, let alone two weeks, and so I end up taking a few three or four day weekends, but nothing longer. However, after 5 years of no vacation, I'm starting to feel burned out and so I am trying to figure out how to make a vacation work.
05-17-2007, 01:23 PM
What type of work do you do?
When I worked in banking, we were required to take at least a week off. I think it was mostly so they could catch fraud, if you were doing something illegal, but it was also a good way to insure that everyone took a break.
Does your employer have a policy on vacation? IMHO, it is healthy to take a week off each year (it was a lot easier before blackberries and email!). Although we all feel indispensible at work, it is good to let others see what needs to be done in your absence too, just in case you ever had to unexpectedly take time off.
05-17-2007, 01:25 PM
We probably average 3 a year. One without the kids and the others with the kids. This year - Hawaii (for us), Outerbanks (8 couples/15 kids), and Williamsburg (just our family), plus a couple of long weekends away, usually to visit friends.
Vacation has always been a top priority for us. At just about every job I've had, I ask for additional vacation time in lieu of a raise. Usually, I get both.
I could never go 5 years without a vacation!
05-17-2007, 01:27 PM
What type of work do you do?
I'm a lawyer, but what makes it difficult is that like most law firms, we have a minimum billable hour requirement. When I take a week off, I have to make up that time, particularly given that partner compensation is weighted to those who bill the most hours. :mad:
05-17-2007, 01:28 PM
I'm not used to vacations. Growing up with both parents working 2 jobs, neither time nor money allowed us to do the vacation thing all that often. We took a one-week vacation when I was in the sixth grade and another right before my senior year of high school.
DH and I took a full week's vacation for our honeymoon in 2003. About twice a year we take a long (3-day) weekend in the mountains, which is wonderful! Back in March - for the first time in my 37 years - I flew somewhere (the Bahamas) for vacation. Incredible.
We're going to try to take a long weekend in the mountains this summer, and a 4-day weekend in the islands again next winter. We think that's probably sustainable. Since we just saw my parents at a family event last month we don't have to worry about flying up to see them this year ($$flight, $$hotel, $rental car), which helps.
05-17-2007, 01:38 PM
I used to think I could NEVER be gone from the office for a full week, much less 2 or 3, without things falling apart. So I used to do a lot of long weekends also but decided a couple of years ago that life was too short, and nothing is THAT important. You *need* a vacation to mentally and physically unwind from the stresses of such a demanding job. And I have never had a problem hitting my billables despite taking 3-4 weeks of vacation a year (not all at once - I have never taken more than 2 weeks at a time, just because it would be too hard).
Yes, that does mean that the 2 weeks right before going on vacation and the 2 weeks right after getting back from vacation SUCK. And have, for me, involved pull all-nighters (more on the "right before going" side). And it means making up hours on weekends or at nights. It has also meant working some while on vacation. I never travel without my laptop, Blackberry, cell phone, etc. and have given up days or half days while on vacation sitting in a hotel room working. But it's what allows me to be out of the office, and for me, it's worth it. Otherwise, I would never go anywhere either.
05-17-2007, 01:39 PM
I try to get DH to take at least a week off every year plus he will take a a day or two here and there for special events such as birthdays, long weekends etc.
Last year we went to Disneyland but I think he only ended up taking 3 days off of work for that. He usually tries to take the week off between Christmas and New Years too.
05-17-2007, 01:50 PM
I generally take a 2-3 week vacation every year. That trip is generally a bigger trip, outside of North America. I then try to take a week off in the summer and spend time enjoying the natural beauty of my own province. The rest of my vacation days are spent on long (3-6 day) weekends for a variety of reasons, i.e. visit family, shopping, relaxation, kayaking, etc.
I have a 3 1/2 week vacation coming up next month and I know it means that I will need to put in some extra hours to get things to a place where I can leave them and not worry about it. I also know that it will take me some time to catch up when I get back. If people need me while I am away, they are given other contacts or they can wait. I find that I just have to let that part go, because it is important to me (and my health) to take some time for myself and replenish.
I am not sure what kind of job you have, but it sounds like you might be 'the one' and don't have much, if any, backup. I hope that you can figure out how to get a vacation this year. It seems such a shame to have to work so hard all year and not have some kind of reward! :)
ETA: I took so long to post that I didn't see until after I posted that you work in a law firm. Maybe there is some way that you can do extra hours in the weeks prior to (or after) your vacation to get your billable hours up to at least the minimum, so you won't have to stress about it. Maybe plan your vacation, so that it falls over the month end. That way you will have fewer hours to make up in any one month. Also, you may ultimately need to make a decision about what is more important, a vacation or higher compensation for one month.
05-17-2007, 02:00 PM
I'm just curious - how often do you take vacations?
More than most, probably - travel is our main hobby! We have no kids at home, and we have our own business, with employees capable of and trusted to handle things in our absence. So far this year, one 2-week trip and 2 4-day weekends; scheduled so far for the rest of the year, one 10-day trip, two long weekends, and a maybe-one week trip. Separate from that, 3 3-5 day weekends without leaving town, due to various events here.
05-17-2007, 02:06 PM
We have always taken several short trips. We have a week-long trip to the beach planned week after next, and DH is starting to make noises that he thinks he won't be able to stay the whole time. He is -- you guessed it -- a lawyer;) I have to say that in-house practice is significantly better in this respect, but still not perfect.
I am a lawyer too (although no longer practicing) so I do understand the pressures and demands of practice. I kind of see both sides of the issue. Eva makes some really good points, but I also remember (and heard from him when he was in private practice) about the importance of billable hours. There also seemed to be that fear of asking someone to cover your work, in case they tried to keep the work (and the billable hours) after you returned.
In our case, we've just come to accept it as part of life. Some vacations get cut short, some don't. Most involve DH working part of the time (and when I was still practicing, we both always worked some on vacation). Maybe we are both just too much of type A personalities, but that doesn't really bother us. It is still way more relaxing to take a conference call sitting looking over the beach with a beer in your hand that it is to be sitting in the office:D
If you are starting to feel burned out, then maybe you do need a longer vacation where you completely disconnect from the office. But, maybe your shorter vacations would be more relaxing if you took some pressure off yourself as well -- they don't have to be perfect, you know? I always try to explain to my inlaws why it doesn't bother me (much;) ) that DH works on vacation. They are doctors. They have to work when scheduled, plan their time off well in advance, don't have a lot of quick flexibility, but when they are off they are really really off. DH has a lot of day-to-day flexibility, but the trade-off is that he never really turns it off. It isn't right or wrong, just different.
Wow, didn't realize I had so much to say about that:eek:
05-17-2007, 02:13 PM
I haven't taken more than a long weekend or a day here and there for quite awhile (except while unemployed) and I'm finding that it's burning me out big time. There is only so much you can do in a 3-4 period to really relax and enjoy yourself.
Although I've already messed up this year's vacation days by taking too many onesie twosie days (my PTO year runs September-August because they renew on my anniversary every year) my plan for next year is to make sure to take a full week somewhere. I don't care if all I do is go up to Vail for the week but I plan on taking a full week off. It will be somewhat easier because I'll get 15 days of vacation next year rather than the 10 I get this year. Actually, I was shocked when I found out that I do get 15 days in only my second year with the company and that is on top of 6 sick days and 3 personal days. There are benefits to being based in Europe. :D
05-17-2007, 02:21 PM
When both of us worked regular full time jobs--we never took more than a day here, day there for long weekends. A lot of my vacation days were used to cover random child illnessess, no vacation there! That said, four years ago we started taking at least one, week long vacation a year. It has been a real sanity saver. Working at a school, you'd think we'd have all kinds of opportunities during the school year with all the vacation weeks off, but we don't. End of the month is a bad time for my husband and all school vacation weeks are the last week of the month. Also, the kids play football, so the month of August is completely out. That leaves us July. We have done interesting, if not expensive vacations each of the last four years. It really gives us a time to reconnect as a family and for us, it's important to actually go somewhere. Otherwise, we might be tempted to do chores around the house or otherwise be in our regular-lives rut. We relive many of our travels and enjoy looking at the special album I've put aside to just cover vacations. This year our condo will be renovated, so the plan is to take two weeks and head up there. While it is in the state we live in, it will be a great time for us to do a lot of the sightseeing you don't typically do close to home. Even though it won't be exciting or exotic---we've all been talking it up since probably January.
As a child, we were extremely poor, but my mom managed to pull something together every year. We had friends in Connecticut that had a lake house and they would generously invite us every summer for a week. We did nothing more than laze around and swim and fish---but it is probaly one of my fondest memories as a child and one I'm grateful for. My husband's family never took any sort of vacation and I am sorry that he missed out on such a great experience as a child. Especially after seeing how much our children enjoy it.
If you had asked me 5 or 6 years ago if a whole week off was important or not, I might have said no--but I really don't believe that anymore. Whoever you are and whoever is your "family", try to make it work. It's a great time that creates memories you will cherish the rest of your days.
05-17-2007, 02:34 PM
Um yeah, Claire said what I was thinking way better than I did. :o
05-17-2007, 02:56 PM
Vacations are a priority for us -- we both work full-time and need to "get away" several times a year. I get about five weeks per year, and my husband four, and it never seems to be enough. This year, though, we've had to scale back because our house is pretty much falling apart.
Our roof actually sprung a leak a couple of months ago because for the past few years, whenever the subject of getting a new roof came up we'd defer it until "after our next vacation". Ha! Now not only are we getting a new roof, we're also getting new siding, doors, and a deck. When the subject arises of how much the projects are going to cost us, all I can think of is: "So far, it's costing us one week in Mexico, two weeks in Europe -- including the Sound of Music tour -- and possibly our ten days in Florida this fall!" But it's definitely time and I'm trying not to be too resentful toward our poor old house.
05-17-2007, 02:57 PM
We really don't take vacations, anymore... when you're retired, there's no reason, plus we live in a great place!;)
When DH and I were both working, we took 2 weeks every February in the Caribbean, and 2 weeks every summer (usually over July 4th) at our Canadian cottage. DH also took the week between Christmas and New Year's, too... though that just meant he wasn't travelling, but was at the office :rolleyes:
We have always thought that vacations were important... a time to touch base with family (the cottage), and some time just for the two of us (the Caribbean). Even when we owned the company, and vacations were time off without pay, we made sure we got away occasionally, and always for at least a week!
05-17-2007, 03:02 PM
I'm not a lawyer, but I'm my boss's sole employee, and so when I go on vacation, we're essentially shut down for that time. I work with my clients in advance to make sure they receive anything they need before I go, and to make sure my boss is up to date on all the projects so that he can field questions if need be. Our deal is that he can call me, but we don't tell the clients that they can call me while I'm away. I take my cell phone with me, which all my clients have the # for, but leave it off and just check voice mail daily. I don't have to make up the hours, as I have a generous amount of paid leave time, but the days just before and just after my vacation can definitely be stressful! It's worth it though to have a week or more of total down time.
Generally we take 1 full week plus several long weekends each year. DH and I each have a lot of leave time, and he can't carry unused leave over. I can carry over 5 days but can't accumulate a backlog of unused days over some limit that I can't remember.
05-17-2007, 03:39 PM
We usually take a one week vacation in the summer, since we have school-aged kids.
I was kind-of in your situation when I worked freelance (for 16 years) because there were no paid vacation days for me. I had to work a certain number of hours in a month in order to make my monthly income. Travel and vacation is important do me though, so I worked long evenings and weekends to make up the missed time.
Growing up, my family took a lot of trips and I find that I need it for the relaxation and change of pace. DH and I have made a point to take our kids somewhere different every year and so they've had a variety of experiences. Last year we didn't take a family vacation because the timing was too complicated and I really missed it.:(
05-17-2007, 07:55 PM
We take 3 full weeks per year, then a few long weekend trips.
No one has ever gone to their grave wishing they had worked just one more day!!!! Take the vacation.
Alot of times we didn't have alot of extra money to blow on a vacation, you can get very creative when it comes down to going or not going! If you WANT to go, you will find a cheap way to go, and I always did and still do find great bargains. Stop wasting time and book the vacation already!!!
05-17-2007, 08:33 PM
In Sherri's case (as in mine), it is not about the money and the cost of vacationing as it is about the time. Not hitting your billables can have long-lasting consequences - it doesn't just affect your income for one month, it's the whole year. And next year, since they base your raises and bonuses on your hours. And whether you make partner. And whether you make EQUITY partner. And this, and that, and the other. Pretty much all of your career opportunities for advancement live and die with that magic number, and not just whether you hit it, but by how much you surpassed it. :rolleyes:
Anyway, as difficult as it is, I happen to think vacations are well worth taking. As an example, I have to give up 5 full Saturdays for every week I take off. So for three weeks of vacation a year, I give up my Saturdays (full 8-hour days) for almost FOUR MONTHS. Like I said, it's a huge trade-off, but well worth it.
05-17-2007, 09:14 PM
When my husband and I both had corporate jobs, we hardly ever took vacation 'together'... it would come down to one of us nearly burning out and seeing a hole in our schedule and taking time off without the other. I can totally sympathize with your plight and only offer what was my own mantra, "if I died today, they'd figure out how to do it without me"! That doesn't help however with your plight of billable hours... the best advice I can offer here is to capitalize on traditional holiday weekends and give yourself a week off where you are only sacrificing 4 'work' days. You may have some idea of weeks that are traditionally slower than others, for example what about Thanksgiving week where much of the world is 'off' Thursday and Friday? Of course this will be tricky since I'm sure many of your colleagues are targetting holiday weeks too for vacation so it definitely takes advance planning!!
Good luck and let us know if you FINALLY get the vacation you so deserve!!
05-17-2007, 09:32 PM
Question about billable hours...
What is this number usually - average of 40 per week? less? more? And what is the difference between hours worked and billable hours? Are there other things a lawyer does that is not directly related to working on a particular client's work? Does this number differ from firm to firm?
05-17-2007, 10:10 PM
Billable hours are hours worked that can be directly billed to (and paid by) a client. So administrative time (inputting my time on a daily basis broken down in 6 minute increments), continuing legal education (which is required to keep my bar license in good standing), speaking at seminars, client development, chatting with my secretary about how her weekend was, going to the bathroom, going to the kitchen to get a drink, dealing with IT when my computer crashes, weekly meetings just to talk about work/firm/practice group stuff, general practice area reading, traveling back to Philadelphia for 3 full days twice a year for firm-wide meetings, etc., is all non-billable. And, of course, vacation, sick time, and holidays are all non-billable time.
Billable hours requirements vary WIDELY from firm to firm. I have friends who are required to bill 1600 a year, and friends who are required to bill 2300 a year. My current requirement is 1950 a year, which breaks down to 37.5 a week (that assumes no holidays, vacation, or sick time). To bill 37.5 hours a week, I generally have to work at least 50 hours. Some weeks less, some weeks more. And that's assuming ZERO time off. So you can see how much impact taking a week of vacation has on how hard you have to work the rest of the year. :(
05-18-2007, 05:06 AM
What Eva is not telling you is that if she is billing 37.5 hours/week and working 50 hours/week, she is pretty darn efficient!
05-18-2007, 05:39 AM
Growing up, we did two weeks on the Cape for years. Then it was every weekend at the family cottage. DH= on the other hand never went anywhere. It's difficult to travel with him as he is fun right before we leave to go home. If he isn't familiar with his surroundings he's a pain. I can only imagine how fun he is on business trips!
We both have lots of paid time off. We mostly take days, long weekends (at home) and one week in the Summer at the family cottage, which never feels like a vaca to me. I need to include a plane ride for that.
Guess I should start traveling with my friends.
05-18-2007, 08:58 AM
What Eva is not telling you is that if she is billing 37.5 hours/week and working 50 hours/week, she is pretty darn efficient!
Maybe I should have emphasized this part better:
To bill 37.5 hours a week, I generally have to work at least 50 hours.
You're right, though - it's probably more like 60+! I just get depressed when I think too much about it. :o :rolleyes:
05-18-2007, 10:37 AM
Thank you for reminding me how glad I am not to be part of law firm life anymore (at least for now:rolleyes: ) and I'm not even an attorney - I was a firm librarian.
DH's family has a house on Cape Cod, and we generally go there for two weeks every summer. In order to do that, I had to take a laptop, and spend about an hour every morning answering email and doing small research projects to keep up. The only vacation I went on where I didn't check email daily was my honeymoon in Belize, and then the world fell apart while I was gone and my boss told me I couldn't go on vacation again without checking in.
Returning from vacation meant a couple of 50 hour weeks.
Now I'm working in a university library, and I have 20 days of vacation plus 9 holidays - and no need to check in while I'm gone:D I'm very much looking forward to this summer's vacation.
05-18-2007, 10:58 AM
Thanks Eva for explaining. I didn't realize how much work a lawyer needs to do that is not directly related to working on a client's work. How do you keep track of it - do you have a sheet that you keep track of a task as you finish it?
And how do the bosses account for the fact that some lawyers are more efficient than others, whether it's just talent or the fact that some people are just not hard workers. And why the wide variance of requirement by firms? Do people want to go to the ones with a lower a requirement or do they flock to the ones with a higher requirement? Does one pay more or does one take new lawyers?
05-18-2007, 11:13 AM
And how do the bosses account for the fact that some lawyers are more efficient than others, whether it's just talent or the fact that some people are just not hard workers.
Generally the people who aren't efficient get weeded out pretty quickly. Even if you are a hard worker, you have to learn to be efficient unless you want to be working all the time.
And why the wide variance of requirement by firms? Do people want to go to the ones with a lower a requirement or do they flock to the ones with a higher requirement? Does one pay more or does one take new lawyers? Generally, (and there are of course exceptions to this rule) bigger more prestigious firms have the higher billable hour requirements, as do firms in larger cities. I don't think it is a questions of wanting to go to firms with one or the other kind of requirement -- they are generally totally different kinds of firms, with totally different practices, lifestyles, and career paths. And, yes, the compensation is usually quite different.
05-18-2007, 11:38 AM
And to add to Claire's post, efficiency comes with experience, so junior, more inexperienced attorneys will bill out at a lower rate than more senior, experienced attorneys. So a first-year attorney might spend 3 hours on a project that would take a sixth-year attorney less than an hour, but the differences in their billing rates should account for that type of gap in efficiency. Those things are not held against us, since it is presumed there is a learning curve in this profession. But yes, two attorneys of the same experience level should be producing at the same level, so if one is significantly less efficient, that will negatively impact his opportunities, and eventually he will probably be weeded out.
And keeping track of time is something I still struggle with, but generally, I have a pad of paper that I jot down what time I start working on something, and then when I finish it and move onto something else or get interrupted by something else, I jot that down too so I can keep track of everything I have done throughout the day.
Sorry, Sherri, to get your thread OT. :o
05-18-2007, 12:38 PM
Thanks so much for explaining Claire and Eva. I guess it's more than just pure curiosity: I have lately met quite a few lawyers at networking events, and I didn't want to ask them and appear uneducated.
To the OP topic: I don't think I take enough vacations. I have worked contract jobs at get very little vacation time. Since 9/11, I have also had quite a few periods of unemployment. So when I have been unemployed, I always feel like I need to save up for the next time of unemployment (or pay off debts I accumulated during unemployment). I also feel like I should use my money for things I "should" do - take a college course to improve my skill set (and with my jobs, the benefit of tuition reimbursement has not been offered) or do something with my house.
I finally took a vacation last fall after five years. I am not sure what I will do this year. I stuggle with trying to be financially stable, but also knowing that I want to see the world while I am still young and in good health.
05-18-2007, 02:52 PM
Eva and Claire have done an excellent job summarizing my issue. And, while I do work in a smaller city, the billable hour expectation for partners is a minimum of 1,850 hours, roughly 38.5 hours a week, and when you add in administrative and marketing/client development and work that cannot always be billed to a client - such as pro bono work, taking time off is really hard. I also have 3 kids, who are now at an age where they are in activities, and it becomes really hard to "make up" that time.
However, I am really starting to feel burned out and not motivated, and I think a vacation at this point is more than just an option. So, I will need to find some way to make it work. I was really curious how "normal" I was in my lack of taking vacations these days. I've read articles that have suggested that the vacation time taken in the U.S. is dropping.
05-18-2007, 03:47 PM
There was a good article in yesterday's NY Times, the Life's Work column. Here is just an excerpt, about women's ability to balance work and life:
This means more of what we have already seen: flexible work schedules, telecommuting, job sharing. Women in particular, but also a substantial percentage of men, have made it clear that is what it will take to keep them loyal. A study by the Families and Work Institute shows that 24 percent of women and 13 percent of men who work full-time would like to work part-time. And among the youngest workers, those now having children and most actively juggling family and career, Fortune magazine found that 61 percent would leave their job if they could find another that allows them to telecommute.
Which is leading companies to look deeper for flexibility. The law firm of Heller Ehrman, for instance, created a group called the Opt-In Project, which has spent the past year studying the way the firm does business. At the end of the month, the group plans to unveil a proposal to abandon the idea of billable hours that is deeply ingrained in the profession. “We can’t afford to keep losing all these people,” says Patricia Gillette, founder of the project. “The way we currently reward spending more and more hours at work makes no sense in a world where people demand balance.”
This growing demand for balance, or what I prefer to call sanity, is also leading businesses to accept that some employees will leave no matter how much flexibility exists, and that it is better to keep the door open for their return, rather than slamming it tight.
I really think society as a whole needs to find a different way to manage work and time. I would love to see men and women be able to do things like job-share, or have flextime, so that kids could have more time with parents. And parents wouldn't have to feel that one spouse has to work crazy hours to make enough money and one has to give up a career completely to care for the kids since the other spouse is constantly working.
Flextime or job sharing works for more than just parents though. Almost everybody will need that at some point to deal with a personal health issue, to go back to school/training, to deal with a dying parent, or ill sibling, etc etc.
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