Every­body chill now

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - -- Richard Ma­honey [email protected]­gar­rynews.ca

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.

Less stress

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.

Fright­en­ing statis­tics

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.

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