In bad times, vacation can be first casualty

July 06, 2008|By Marcia Heroux Pounds | Marcia Heroux Pounds,South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Kristen and Michael Nevils are planning a summer vacation to Atlanta with their 14-year-old daughter this year. Staying with Kristen's sister, rather than at a hotel, will save money. But the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., family is trying to decide whether it is more economical to fly or drive, or whether they should take the trip at all.

"People are so squeezed now with the cost of gas going up. The last thing on their priority list is a vacation, although it's needed because they're stressed," says Nevils, who works in recruiting and is the author of Screw the Joneses, a book of tips on surviving a financial crisis.

American workers have the blues, and it is not just because of gas prices. Workers are dealing with a higher cost of living in an uncertain economy, where they are faced with smaller salaries or potential job loss. Extra financial stress has brought a "general malaise" to the workplace, says Wayne Hochwarter, professor of management at Florida State University's College of Business.

Many employees have trouble detaching themselves from the stress caused by escalating gas prices as they walk through the doors at work, Hochwarter says.

He interviewed more than 800 full-time commuting employees this spring when gas prices were rising, but before they passed the $4-a-gallon mark. Of those surveyed, 52 percent have reconsidered taking vacations or doing other recreational activities.

"People are really taking the time to consider what they're doing and look for viable alternatives," Hochwarter says.

In rough economic times, rest and relaxation are the first workplace casualties, according to a Yahoo HotJobs annual vacation survey. Of workers surveyed this year, 57 percent report feeling burned out by work - up from 49 percent last year.

"More than half are saying they're going to skip vacation to save money," says Tom Musbach, senior managing editor for Yahoo HotJobs. "It's pretty serious. Vacations are not luxuries, they're necessities."

Workers are having to choose between luxuries for their families - something they did not a couple of years ago.

Parents may not be able to send their child to that pricey summer camp. Instead of that summer trip to the Grand Canyon, workers may opt for a vacation closer to home - or at home.

Workers also may forgo a vacation for fear of jeopardizing their jobs. Musbach says 35 percent of workers who responded to the HotJobs survey say they feel under constant pressure to improve performance.

To avoid the extra stress that might come with going on vacation, book it early, making sure your boss knows your work will be done and your job covered, he says. If you don't plan to respond to work e-mail or phone calls, communicate that as well. "That kind of agreement around vacation is going to make things easier," he says.

If you cannot afford a two-week vacation, take long weekends this summer, Musbach suggests.

Hochwarter says if raises and promotions are hard to come by, workers need to find other ways to motivate themselves.

"Find a way to reconnect with parts of the job that make you feel satisfied," he says.

Marcia Heroux Pounds writes for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

DEALING WITH STRESS AT THE OFFICE

*Take short breaks throughout the day, especially after a stressful event. It can help you refocus your priorities and put life in perspective.

*Let your boss or co-workers know if you are stressed, overworked, stumped by a difficult situation or frustrated by leadership. If you are willing to admit you are stressed, you can begin to work to remedy the situation.

*Work from home once a week to save gas and the stress of commuting. Maybe your boss will be more open to the idea - especially if your drive to work is long.

Source: Yahoo HotJobs

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