David M. Russell

Dedicated slackers!

In Commentary on September 10, 2009 at 11:21 am

Australians are frequently regarded as liking the good life just a little too much. Other people around the world seem to be convinced that our lifestyle advantages of sun, sand and surf lure us into a hedonistic mindset that puts work a very distant second to the noble pastime of enjoying ourselves to the fullest. Funny thing is, even us Aussies tend to agree with that assessment.

New evidence, however, suggests we may just have to see a different reflection in our mirror. The fact is that we are so dedicated to our jobs that we actually run away from taking annual leave. So great is our aversion to taking time off that we have accrued an extraordinary tally of 123 million days of time off.

What is worrying bosses is not that we won’t take holidays. That much they can handle. No, the problem is more prosaic: the accumulated liability of all that leave is a massive $33 billion. Now that kind of accrued debt can keep sleep away.

While bosses are starting to be concerned about this situation it is the tourist industry which is really beginning to develop grey hair as a consequence. All this dedication to staying at work is sending electric jolts through their hip pocket nerves. They don’t like it and they want us to change. So much so, they have prompted the production of TV ads to prick our consciences into having a holiday.

The response so far has been muted. It seems one in four of us is a committed leave-hoarder with five or more weeks of vacation time sitting unused in our entitlements.

An interesting aspect of this hoarding mania is that many of us really think work is important while just as many believe that if we actually walk out the door for a while, some of our ambitious colleagues will steal a march on us. Talk about paranoid! The Global Financial Crisis hasn’t helped, either, with many workers wanting to stockpile their entitlements just in case they get the sack.

The challenge we all face is to work out whether we are hedonists (taking all our leave as it becomes due); martyrs (the company would grind to a halt without me); scaredy-cats (the axe-blow of the sack could cripple my career at any time) or maladjusted misfits (can’t trust any of those bastards I work with). Whatever category we may belong to, the tourist industry and bosses just wish we’d take a few days off to think about it. As soon as possible, please! Our country needs us to slack off. Now that’s a turn up for the books, eh?

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