The American Work Ethic is Nonsense, Go On Vacation!

The American Work Ethic is Nonsense; Go On Vacation! | Macleod & Co. The Holistic Marketing Agency

By Tanya Korpi Macleod

The American Work Ethic

41% of American workers do not plan on using their paid time off. Even though 96% of everyone surveyed recognized the importance of using it.

We all need to get away, change our perspective, relax our minds, recharge.

That comes out of new experiences. New experiences OUTSIDE of the office.

I’ve got 25 years of career under my belt. Ten in the US, ten in Europe, and the last five self-employed in America.

Let me tell you, the whole American work ethic is nonsense.

When I started in advertising I changed jobs every 18 months, primarily so I could take a few weeks off between jobs.

That was the only real reason to change jobs. And because of the status quo set by the American work ethic, that was the only way I felt comfortable taking that time — because I didn’t have a project to manage and there was no client that could learn to love someone else. (Call that madness, but it’s a lot less mad to me than staying in the same chair for decades.)

Then I moved to Europe.

Everyone there gets at least 20 days (a month!) of vacation and they take it. Let me give you the pros and cons as I observed them:


When you want to have a meeting with more than 5 people, you’re guaranteed at least one of them is on vacation. Probably doing something infuriatingly cool.


People are not control freaks about their jobs.

People get just as much done as in any American company.

People cooperate and support each other, or work around each other.

I was way less anxious.

Now I own my own company with 10 employees.

And I just got back from a three-week vacation. I checked my mail a total of 6 times. I had a secret email sign that I versed everyone on so that I would know if it HAD to be opened. I didn’t check as often as I said I would at first. Then I checked way less. Then I stopped checking. Take that American work ethic!

Then my perspective changed.

I started thinking about my life, my business, my family. I started to see what is important and what isn’t and I started to see the forest and get out of the mud.

When I came back I was so jet lagged I could hardly think. But I felt deeply rested.

Profoundly rested in my mind and I have a renewed perspective. I made changes that needed to be made long ago. I saw things differently and with clarity. And that? That is good for business.

But then I look at my staff and of course I can’t afford to give everyone a month off every year, but equally I can’t afford not to encourage people to take time away.

If you don’t change your perspective you’re not effective.

You’ve lost sight of the big picture, you’re not operating at full capacity and you stagnate.

Mini breaks work a mini bit.

I don’t want someone who’s incapable of being present with their friends or spouse or kids (always messing with their phone) because they won’t be present for our clients or their coworkers or for me.

Put the phone down. Focus. Talk to me. Then go make a social media editorial calendar and write a blog post.

Big breaks work a big bit.

They re-energize you and probably those around you to a degree.

Go stay in a yurt (where our creative director is right now), take time off to send your kids off to kindergarten (like our copywriter), fight with airlines (like our social media guy) or, you know, hang out somewhere cool.

Then you’ve got something to talk about, and you see that the world is much bigger than your job (and your phone). It’s only then that you’re allowed the space you need to make the connections you need to drive real creativity.

You’ll get more and more interesting things done when you return.

You’ll like yourself (and everyone around you) better. You’ll be more interesting. People will miss you.

And if you come back and your job has been usurped by another or the client loves someone else or your colleagues have forgotten your name… was it ever really yours to begin with?

About the Author: Tanya Korpi Macleod is the founder of Minneapolis-based Macleod & Co. After more than 25 years of marketing and advertising experience in the U.S. and Europe, Tanya noticed that chasm that often exists between an organization’s theoretical marketing “plan” and its realistic ability to execute it. This led her to pioneer in the concept of “holistic marketing,” which redefines marketing as the complete process of bringing a product, service or company from inception to maximum ongoing profitability. Her mission is to show organizational leaders that a holistic mindset not only promotes a healthier culture, but a more profitable business.

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