A Harris Interactive survey found that more than half of employed Americans will perform some type of job-related task, including checking emails (30 percent) and text messages (18 percent), and taking phone calls (23 percent), while away. That’s an increase of 6 percentage points from a similar survey in 2011. In addition, the Summer Vacation Outlook 2012 survey by CareerBuilder shows that three in 10 workers stay in contact with the office while vacationing.
Dr. Jennifer Whitaker, founder and owner of Executive Brilliance, said that in a world where people are connected 24/7 via smartphones, iPads, etc., the notion of finding that work/life balance is getting harder to grasp.
“The rule used to be that if you call into the office while you’re on vacation, you’re not on vacation,” said Whitaker, whose company helps build leadership development, performance improvement and organizational design. “But it’s hard today because we are so connected. We are constantly texting, tweeting and Facebooking. People are rarely offline — personally or professionally.”
Whitaker said the continually unstable economy has forced workers to feel unproductive and insecure if they don’t do anything during down time. “It is important to shut down every now and then. One school of thought is that nobody wants to return from vacation to 500 unanswered emails or to miss something important. But you have to find balance.”
Keith Bowermaster, director of public relations at WellStar Health System, admits that he may check his email when on vacation to follow up on any items that may have been in progress before he left. He also knows that his staff will contact him if there is an emergency. But for Bowermaster, a vacation is a vacation.
“Every professional has his own opinion on how to enjoy vacation,” Bowermaster said. “I know my staff can handle everything and anything in my absence and would reach out to me in an emergency. So it’s nice to have that peace of mind. If supervisors, co-workers or customers know you’re available on email, they’ll continue to send you messages and expect responses.”
Russ Young, partner and business coach for ActionCOACH, said it all comes down to workers learning how not to major in minor things.
“Many of us make excuses or are in denial of what we could do if we got help in learning to drive the business instead of it driving us,” he said. “Understand and learn to delegate. Set specific times of the day for emails. Use the auto responder when you’re away. Call the office or business no more than once a day at a designated time to see if a fire needs extinguished.”
FIVE TIPS TO A BETTER VACATION
* Take a break from technology: Loosen the reins on those electronic devices before you leave for vacation. Remember: Mental prep often precedes physical reality.
* Use the auto responder: Prepare an “out of the office” email reply and voicemail that says you’re unavailable. Offer alternative contact info and a date of return.
* Trust your team: Show confidence in your staff or co-workers. Ask them to help while you’re away.
* Set limits and stick to them: If you’re going to check in, limit it to every other day or no more than 30 minutes a day. Do not return calls — they take too much time.
* Prepare to return: You prepared to leave, so schedule your return. Go to the office the day before you return for a few hours early the first day back to catch up.
— Source: Dr. Jennifer Whitaker, founder and owner, Executive Brilliance
Michael J. Pallerino has reported on business news for magazines and newspapers in the Atlanta area for more than 20 years.