Everybody chill now
The annual “Construction Holiday” in Québec is a unique tradition that ought to be emulated by Ontario. During “les vacances de la construction,” which this year began July 23 and ends August 5, almost all construction workers and tens of thousands of other Québec residents are taking a break.
About one-quarter of the entire labour force in La Belle Province is on holiday during the same two-week period. And the people have money to spend.
Over the past few weeks, the Commission de la construction du Québec sent out more than 148,500 vacation cheques totalling about $400 million.
This represents an increase of approximately ten per cent in the total value of payments paid out in 2016. This difference is mainly due to increased construction activity during the last six months of 2016.
While about 80 per cent of construction workers are officially on holiday now, some work is still getting done.
This vacation period is obligatory for the entire construction industry.
However, some work is excluded from this summer vacation period, including a large share of civil engineering and roadwork projects. In addition, emergency, repair, maintenance, renovation and modification work can continue.
The two-week Summer holiday has been in place since 1971 after being implemented by government decree.
The only downside to this custom is that so many bad drivers are all taking to the highways at the same time.
A widespread two-week shutdown is not practical in all sectors, obviously.
For example, at this time of year, Mother Nature determines the schedules for farmers, particularly in a wet year.
Whenever it is not raining, hay producers are not heading for the beach; they are rushing to the fields to make hay while the sun shines.
However, in many other lines of work, a Québec-like chill-out would be feasible in other parts of the land.
The benefits would be ample. For one thing, workplace stress levels would drop. “I am replacing two and a half people this week.” That is a common lament heard at places that have staggered work schedules. While coworkers are off getting tans and posting fabulous photos on social media, the non-vacationing employees are staggering under the weight of an increased workload. They have their noses to the grindstone and are bending over backwards as they take on extra duties. When it finally comes their turn to take a break, the harried dedicated labourers require two or three days in order to fully transition to “vacation mode.”
Another huge bonus produced by a mandatory vacation is that it would force people to get away from work.
Unused vacation is a huge issue, hampering productivity, robbing the economy of stimulus, and contributing to an overall grumpy atmosphere.
Studies have estimated that 34 million vacation days are unused every year by Canadians. Surveys have found that everyone agrees that all work and no play is a bad combination. Yet less than half of all workers use all of the vacation days they are entitled to. And an estimated 15 per cent never take a vacation.
The billions of dollars retained by employers will never be accessed by employees because many businesses have a “use it or lose it” policy.
These devoted workers are not doing anyone a favour by forfeiting their vacation.
The importance of leisure has been well documented.
Most human resources professionals will tell you that rested workers have a positive effect on performance, morale, health, productivity and retention.
The trouble is that few people place a value on leisure time, even though there is ample evidence that time away from the grind can directly affect mental health.
Research has shown that vacations contribute to higher positive emotional levels and less depression. Plus putting the feet up lowers blood pressure and trims waistlines.
And, if you spend that vacation reading good books, you will expand your mind and your conversational skills.
Some people have actually reported that they have returned from a holiday feeling more reconnected with their family and friends.
This claim belies the commonly held fear that the surefire way to test any relationship is to take a road trip or spend a “vacation” hanging wallpaper.
Have you bleisured?
A trend that is still trending is bleisure, blending business-oriented trips with some R and R. When the boss is paying for the plane ticket, the employee has to foot only some of the expenses.
Technology enables a traveller to be in constant contact with the office, permitting workers to take longer trips that mix business with pleasure. This practice is bound to become more popular as businesses try to recruit, and retain, spoiled millennials, who want to have it all, efficiently, and at a high speed.
On the other hand, “staycations” are also still popular. Day trips to explore your own backyards are a great and cheap way to recharge the batteries.
Our part of the world offers a multitude of accessible escapes, permitting one to get off the beaten paths, make a few discoveries, and still be back home before dark.
Staycations and daycations will be even more appealing this year with all the 150th birthday celebrations taking place. The Lonely Planet gushes about Canada, its number 1 destination for 2017.
Canadians are apparently “bolstered by the wave of positivity unleashed by its energetic new leader Justin Trudeau,” and have “dynamic cities that dominate global livability indices and a reputation for inclusiveness and impeccable politeness.” These traits will no doubt attract hordes of tourists from overseas.
Meanwhile, many Canadians have financial reasons to stay close to home.
Although the Canadian dollar has rebounded recently, it is weak compared to the American buck, meaning a trip south of the 49th parallel will be pricey.
While Massena has its charms and Lake Champlain is lovely, the porch has a certain allure when you know that our dollar is worth 80 cents American.
We could all be chilling collectively if Ontario opted to do like the Québécois and try to introduce a province-wide two-week break.
As they say, a change is as good as a rest.