How Do You Want Work and Vacation to Interact?

Taking a vacation from work is something we all need to do more often.  The American worker does not take enough of their given vacation time at any given point. A recent study done by GfK Knowledge Panel found that 55% of Americans had unused vacation days in 2015. Beyond whether or not workers are taking vacation comes the issue of how work and personal life interact with each other when vacation time is taken. Listed below are five scenarios that are common to us all. Don’t look at any scenario as the “right way.”  Instead, think of which scenario best suits your personal tastes. How you choose to navigate vacation is perfectly fine as long as it is your choice.

Scenario 1: No (or little) Vacation. Vacation? Who needs that when you got work to do and money to make. If your company will pay you for unused vacation days when you leave then you have even less reason to take days off.   Work hard and cash those days out when you move on.

Scenario 2: Vacation Taken/Time Donated.  Vacation sounds great so you decide to take it. You are so happy to visit the parents two states away or visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. You’re out of the office physically (you even set up your autoreply telling people that) but you are on your cell phone or laptop every chance you get to deal with work. You’re donating your vacation/personal time to the company and you’re glad to do it (or are you?).

Scenario 3: The Work-cation. You’re with the parents or at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and for a finite amount of time a day you have decided to deal with work so that things are manageable when you get back. You’ve negotiated with your boss that you’re going to claim 6 hours of vacation per day instead of the standard 8. There’s less chance of negative spillover because you are prepared for and agree to the terms.

Scenario 4: The On-call Vacation. . You go on vacation and you tell work to only contact you in an emergency or on an as-needed basis. How you report your time will depend on the scenario. I once had to deal with an incident while on vacation that ate up a day so we didn’t input that as a vacation day. That was rare and most of the time small interruptions were ok as they did not eat up major time.

Scenario 5: True Vacation. Turn off the tech and enjoy the time off. I think this is the concept of vacation most of us expect or at least were raised to expect. For many of us the world of work is far more complex but this is still a great and desirable option. The downside of course is having mounds of email and tasks to do when you get back. You’re willing to deal with that because recharging your batteries here and now is what matters most to you.

Like I said, there is no right or wrong in any of these scenarios and there may be times where one of these options is going to be the most logical. The key is to exercise control over these scenarios.  It is when the scenarios are dictated to us that we begin to feel burned out, undervalued, or insignificant. Being forced to unplug from work can be just as ineffective as having vacation eaten up by office assignments.   Understand and advocate for how you want your work and vacation to interact and increase your work life satisfaction.


Paul Artale is a work-life and leadership expert. For more information please visit

4 Ways to Work with Your Significant Other and Keep Your Sanity

Work-to-family conflict is when events that occur at work bleed into your personal life.  Taking office drama and stressors home with you can have a negative effect on your health (mental and physical) and strain the relationship between you and your loved ones.  Over the past few months I have discussed different factors that can help or hinder work-to-family conflict.

These factors are all legitimate but neglect one extremely challenging situation: working with your significant other. Continue reading “4 Ways to Work with Your Significant Other and Keep Your Sanity”

The Work-Life War that Needs to End and How Managers Can End It (Part II)


Last week I discussed the tension that exists in the workplace between employees with children vs those without.  You can read last week’s blog before continuing here if you wish to get a deeper understanding.  If not, then what is important to note is that in the discussion of work-life issues the animosity between the two groups mentioned is often a byproduct of poor communication and a workplace culture that gives advantages to one group over the other.  Managers are at the center of this battle and in some cases are fueling the fight.

Here are 6 simple suggestions to help managers ease the tension.   They are not all encompassing but they will help.

Continue reading “The Work-Life War that Needs to End and How Managers Can End It (Part II)”

The Work-Life War that Needs to End and How Managers Can End It (Part I)

Work-life balance is a pain point for a lot of people. It seems that no matter what the industry, no matter who the person, there is always a reaction of ‘oh yea, I need help with that” every time I mention my speaking and research interests in the area.

There is a second, almost as common and often more uncomfortable reaction I get and it goes something like this:

“Work-life balance? Yea it’s important but I don’t matter because I don’t have kids or a spouse.” Continue reading “The Work-Life War that Needs to End and How Managers Can End It (Part I)”

4 Ways to Truly Appreciate Graduate Students All Year Round

This week marks the end Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week (GPSAW) across the country.  Although I am biased, graduate and professional students are a significant part of the campus ecosystem. Graduate students serve as instructors, administrators (a 20 hr. a week Grad Assistant is just a ½ employee in my book), innovate thought, and add a more mature dynamic on our campuses.

Taking time to celebrate, thank, acknowledge, and pamper grad students is something all campuses should have done this week. But what happens after this week? Do we go back to forgetting them and focusing on undergraduates again? I hope not. Here are 4 suggestions you can implement on your campus to make sure graduate students are appreciated and heard beyond the free donuts, massages, and swag that comes with GPSAW.

Continue reading “4 Ways to Truly Appreciate Graduate Students All Year Round”

3 Reasons You Need to Have the Work-Life Conversation With Your Boss

If you want to improve your work-life balance then there is one action step you must take. It’s a very logical action step but sadly, it is a step most employees unhappy with their work-life situation either fail to do it or avoid altogether.

That action is step is: to have the work-life conversation with your supervisor.

There are 3 very simple reason for you to do this. Continue reading “3 Reasons You Need to Have the Work-Life Conversation With Your Boss”

3 False Assumptions About Graduate Student Leaders

There is an underlying assumption that graduate student leaders do not need much support because they are more mature and experienced than undergraduate leaders. Although this may be true in some cases, this notion is based on 3 faulty assumptions. It should be noted that these assumptions are often subtly embedded in our structures and activities vs overt attempts to limit the graduate student leader experience.  In other words, campuses don’t mean to limit this experience but sometimes do so without realizing it mainly because they buy into one or all of these false assumptions. The assumptions are: Continue reading “3 False Assumptions About Graduate Student Leaders”



*I should note if you want a more detailed description of my lessons from the WCPS please watch this video:


It’s been 4 years since I made the semi-finals and had the honor to compete in the World Championships of Public Speaking (WCPS).  It is one of my more significant accomplishments as a speaker and definitely the greatest accomplishment I have achieved as member of Toastmasters International.   After the contest I decided to focus more on keynoting and seminars but there are 5 key lessons I took away from the process that I think all speakers should know.


The Simple Work-Life Lesson I Discovered in the Delivery Room

The phone at my office rang at 10:30 AM.  It was my wife Sherri.   Her words were short and filled with emotion.

“The doctor wants me to check into the hospital.  They said we’re going to have this baby tonight.”

The commander in me instantly took over as I made calls to arrange care for my son, take care of my work duties, and generally put my affairs in order before rushing home to collect the hospital bag and ….well….. Sherri.

Two hours later we were given a pretty sweet delivery room complete with a queen sized bed, great internet connection, and a crock pot.   I had no idea what the crock pot was for but I thought: Wow, if this is a long delivery process I can probably slow cook some chili in here.

Continue reading “The Simple Work-Life Lesson I Discovered in the Delivery Room”

Etsy’s Parental Leave Policy and the 5 Principles that Make it Awesome


When you think of Etsy you mind will probably conjure up the image of a marketplace for crafty people to sell their goods and earn some cash. That’s what I thought about the company until last week when they revealed their new parental leave policy. I stopped reading Juliet Gorman’s blog revealing the new policy about half way through so that I could shout “that is freakin’ awesome” across my house.  The rest of the blog was equally as awesome by the way.   Why all my excitement? Well…here’s an outline Etsy’s parental leave policy and you will see why:


  • Employees are given 26 weeks of paid parental leave for the birth or adoption of a child (that’s six months)
  •  At least 8 of those weeks must be taken consecutively within the first 6 months of the child’s arrival.
  • The remaining 18 weeks can be used flexibly over a two year period.


Although 26 paid weeks of leave is incredible given the culture in the U.S. workplace, there are some deeper lessons we can learn from Etsy’s new practice.  The awesomeness doesn’t just come from the number of paid weeks employees are given.   For me it comes from 5 principles that seem to be behind this decision.


  1. Great Work-Life Policies Retain Talent. Etsy’s decision was done in part as a talent-retention strategy. The tech industry has been more progressive in the work-life realm and Etsy realized that they needed to be competitive or ahead of the pack in order to retain talent. Retaining talent also saves money.
  2. Family Situations Are Different Today. Etsy’s decision was also rooted in addressing employee needs given the changing family dynamic that is the reality of our current society. We all know the one income household is a rare beast in today’s society. Family structures are different than they were decades ago and the new policy allows employees enough flexibility to create the best arrangement for their family. This last point is important when you consider that an employee’s partner may not be working at a company with flexible policies or even sufficient benefits to cover income that may be lost as a result of going on parental leave. This paid time off can help bridge gaps in schedules and minimize the financial dilemma many new parents face as a result of unpaid or partially paid parental leaves.  
  3. Research Matters. The decision was rooted in research…..or at least they mention it to explain their decision.   Whether it was about the benefits of bonding with a new child or teaching managers about how to battle workplace biases against employees taking leave, Etsy clearly did some homework on this one. The emerging researcher in me appreciates this.
  4. Walking the Talk. Etsy’s leadership team backs the decision, including their CEO who took the full 5 week paid leave under their old policy when he adopted his son. Having a policy is one thing, but having management support and utilize the policy sends a very positive message to everybody else in the company.
  5. See No Gender. Etsy’s policy is gender-blind. The father in me appreciates that. The smart alleck in me asks “Really? Do some companies still not offer equal parental leave to the parent who did not physically give birth?” Something else for me to research, right?


It is one thing for a company to talk about having a work-life friendly environment or being an employer of choice but it is another thing to step up and create not just policies, but a values-based culture that supports those claims.   Etsy’s actions are an awesome step in an awesome direction and I hope more companies learn from their example.