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How many paid vacation days do you get each year? How many do you take?

When adding up the number of paid public holidays and other paid (nonvacation days), how many paid days off do you have? How many of those did you use?

According to the Visual Capitalist, the U.S. is not the most stingy country in the world when it comes to paid holidays. That honor goes to Micronesia, with nine. The U.S. has 10.

Likely, as someone who works for a university, you are taking more than 10 paid days off per year. But how many?

More interestingly, do you take all your allotted vacation days? According to a study by Qualtrics, in 2021, employees in the U.S. left an average of 9.1 vacation days on the table.

Thinking about vacations and university jobs is complicated. For tenure-track faculty, using the language of vacation days to capture the idea of paid days not doing work is problematic. Professors work around the academic calendar. They likely can’t take a week off during a semester in which they are teaching. (Or, at least, most don’t—in my experience).

The time off that a professor takes not doing any work is highly dependent on exogenous forces related to the requirement of scholarly productivity (publish or perish), teaching schedules, committee assignments and administrative duties.

If you’ve seen any research on the averages and ranges of full days that professors are doing no professional work, please share. My guess is that that number would be low.

Faculty, at least nowadays in the era of highly competitive professional pressures and endemic understaffing, likely will take chunks of days when they are doing other things besides some form of academic work. But these same faculty members will almost always spend some time on these “vacation days” doing something related to their job.

For many professors, a “vacation” is a day when they can get some writing and professional reading done without constant interruptions of meetings and emails.

Higher education staff, at least pre-pandemic, have always had less control of their time than their faculty colleagues. In the before years, most academic staff came to campus and worked each day. (Many also did work nights and weekends, depending on their roles.)

Post-pandemic, the way that professional higher education staff works have evolved. This evolution of academic staff work aligns with broader changes in professional work. Things have become more flexible.

Nowadays, hybrid working arrangements, where some days are spent working from campus and others from home, are no longer unusual.

What does a more flexible professional academic staff work culture mean for vacations?

I hypothesize—and again, I’d like to see the data—that academic staff are taking fewer fully offline vacation days than before 2020.

My guess is that when it comes to vacations, professional academic staff act more like tenure-track faculty. They take “vacation days” but are still answering some emails and maybe jumping on a critical Zoom meeting.

Do you have an allotted number of vacation days? If so, are you taking these vacation days as fully off-line days, unavailable to and disconnected from your campus?

And if the answer is no, that you are not taking all of the vacation days your university allows, then why not?

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