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Dying for a sabbatical? You’re not alone

May 26, 2021, 1:51 PM UTC

Welcome to Worksheet, a newsletter about how people are working smarter in these turbulent times.

In this week’s edition, S. Mitra Kalita looks at what the summer holds—and finds that lots of us are longing for a break.


It’s all moving so fast. Packed restaurants and piñatas at a kid’s birthday are back. So are the morning commutes and small talk and lunch dates and handshakes. Masks on, masks off. 

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer, and this already feels like it’s going to be a season like no other. As we return to old ways, here’s a plea: Let’s not. Slow down, ask less of each other, and, perhaps if you can, take some real time off. The American worker needs a sabbatical, and this transition feels the perfect, maybe only, time.

Many of you are already plotting. Online travel portal Expedia says Americans plan to take an extra five days of vacation this year. Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents say they felt vacation deprived—up 11% from five years ago. The study also found the U.S. took the fewest number of vacation days in 2020 out of 16 countries. 

“It’s a marathon not a sprint. We don’t need to go from 0 to 60 in the next week,” said Sayu Bhojwani, principal of Collective Future Consulting. “We can go from zero to 20 or zero to 30. Or on the other hand, let’s give ourselves a moment to think about all the opportunities coming at us—meetings, events, family gatherings—did we really miss those? Can we be more intentional about where we’re spending our time in person? Let’s build on that foundation to create a plan for the future.”

One of the reasons to slow down is because we actually haven’t figured out the important stuff. People received memos to head back to work by a certain date but still await notifications from their kids’ schools on what the plan for fall might be. Accenture’s research among C-suite executives shows they have adjusted on the work front, but 83% are “exhausted due to constant worry about their job and their family health” and 81% are “distracted due to the disruption in their family life,” such as someone falling sick or daycare closing. In the Expedia survey, 47% of people used vacation days this past year not for vacations, but to care for ailing loved ones or children stuck at home. 


Kalita goes on to write about how workers are finding ways to take breaks—even if a full sabbatical isn’t in the cards.

Read her full column here.

Wondering what else the future of work holds? Visit Fortune‘s Smarter Working hub presented by Future Forum by Slack.

This week's reads

Beach reads

Check out this list of books to improve your life and work and balance. (McKinsey Publishing)

Language matters

Stop saying "whatever" or addressing the room as "guys"... and other phrases to retire from your work vocabulary. (Fast Company) 

Doctors' orders

U.S. healthcare workers have been through a lot and need a break. (Harvard Business Review)

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