Categorized | Career

Career Matters: Take a Real Vacation

Posted on 04 November 2008

For an annual summer getaway, my family heads off to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, a paradise of beachfront properties and solitude (and the occasional pesky horsefly). Dates are circled and, each year, I make a solemn vow to devote this time to recharging tired batteries and gaining new perspectives on work and life.

It rarely happens.

Alas, I’m a victim of my professional passion. My beach gear, once limited to swim trunks, flip-flops, and a boogie board, now includes laptop, cell phone, and a pocket PC. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget the batteries and cords that power our gizmos and keep us connected in this 24/7 world.

If the lure of work is too much to resist, plan your vacation in a remote corner of the world.

Passion or Pathology?
I know what you’re thinking: Loser! Workaholic! But that’s not the case. Like many people today, I simply enjoy what I do. When you work at something you love, it’s not work, right?

OK, back to reality. Getting away is just as important as working hard. Burnout and fatigue set in when we do not take breaks from our careers. Without time away, you tend to lose your edge. Creativity suffers. A dose of mindless fun is a necessary shot in the arm for productivity.

But can you ever really get away from work? Many professionals are expected to maintain constant contact with customers, vendors, and teammates. The deadlines keep coming, and many of us perform two or three job functions in this era of hyper-efficiency. Waiting is no longer an option. I’m not alone on the beach with my cell phone and laptop. Forty percent of the workers recently polled by CareerBuilder say they stay connected to work when on vacation; of this group, 22 percent say their companies expect them to stay in contact.

We can blame technology to some extent, but we also need to consider the passion we put into our job performance and our obsession with staying “on” all the time. In a recent USA TODAY story on the 24/7 nature of corporate America, Glenn Altschuler, professor of American studies at Cornell University, said: “There’s no going back to the clear distinction between work and leisure that existed for 200 years.”

Vacation Management
It’s easy to take a vacation, but it’s difficult to disconnect. Most people take time off, but the quality of that time suffers. All-or-nothing vacations are not realistic for many of us. A more viable solution requires workers and supervisors to manage getaways like they manage other aspects of work.

Recently, CareerBuilder came up with three simple solutions for minimizing work while on vacation:

  1. Plan Ahead. Get important deadlines and tasks out of the way before you leave–and notify all co-workers and vendors that you’ll be away. Set up contingency plans with staff members and appoint a single person to serve as your work filter. If the lure of work is too much to resist, plan a vacation in a remote corner of the world where laptops and wireless phones simply won’t work.
  2. Establish a single method of communication. Choose voicemail, e-mail, or cell phone and let your business contacts know that they can only reach you through a single channel. This allows you to leave some of your gadgets behind and will cut down on duplicated requests.
  3. Establish a specific time of day when you can be reached. By isolating vacation work to specific times of the day, work matters won’t constantly hang over your head.

Supervisors should always try to lead by example. Corporate leaders are often the worst at getting away. Not only do they miss out on valuable rest and relaxation time, their actions send a strong message to the rest of the team that taking a vacation is inappropriate or unnecessary.

Vacations are very important to me, but I’ve never been able to completely leave the office. In truth, I secretly enjoy a little business stimulation between boogie boarding and seashell collecting with my daughters. But each year, as we’re forced to meet higher customer demands and greater competitive efficiencies, I’m growing more and more possessive of my down time. A total disconnect may not be possible, but I’m determined to minimize vacation interruptions this year.

So, if you see me on some sandy beach this summer, feel free to say hello. Just don’t call it work.

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Resume Tips says:

    Number 2 is so important. Remember the saying, “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.” If you don’t set boundaries, you will definitely receive a number of unnecessary cell phone calls, emails, calls to your hotel — the whole nine. The easiest way to avoid unnecessary interruptions is to let your business contacts know that they can reach you through email only and that you will be checking in a few times a week. This way you won’t be put on the spot with a phone call. If you must allow cell phone calls during your “vacation,” tell your business contacts to use your cell number for extreme emergencies only. If you truly want some R&R and you want to return to work feeling rejuvenated and ready for action, leave all gadgets behind.

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