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Working Vacations
by Carasue Moody

If you’re one of those people who stays in touch with your job while on vacation by calling the office or your boss, checking E-Mail messages or if you leave your cell phone number with someone at work, you’re not alone.

An article published in SBN Philadelphia reads:

“About 83 percent of American workers who had more than seven days vacation since April remained in contact with the office, according to a survey from Andersen Consulting.

The survey was conducted by telephone, and respondents were full-time workers with household incomes of $75,000 or more. Mobile devices were popular with holiday seekers, with 60 percent bringing one on vacation. Cell phones (56 percent) were the most popular of these, followed by laptops (16 percent) and pagers (13 percent).

Of the workers that brought cell phones, 61 percent left the number with somebody at work; of those, 39 percent received work-related calls while on vacation. Workers who brought laptops also checked work-related e-mail; of those who checked, 83 percent responded while on holiday. Workers who did not came back to an average of 37 e-mail messages per week of vacation.

Voice mail was also popular with workers on holiday. About 33 percent of those surveyed checked their voice mail while on vacation. More than half of these – 54 percent – checked at least once a day. Of those that checked, 62 percent responded.”

For many of us, the responsibilities of “the job” go right along with us to the seashore, mountain resort or wherever we go to seek respite. It isn’t easy to just disconnect from work and even if you could, it may not be wise to do so. The business world doesn’t stop and wait for us to come back after we’ve been tanned and refreshed and then resume from the point where we left. Staying in touch with the day-to-day events at work can prevent the stress of going back to work and walking clueless into a crisis in progress or a list of e-mails that may take a full day to respond to. Staying tuned in smoothes the transition back into the world of reality.

Even if you’ve carefully timed your vacation to coincide with a predictable lull in business, thoroughly coached and trained the support staff to continue in your absence, it’s still advisable to check in periodically just to stay in the loop to advise, assess and evaluate. And if a crisis does develop, you’ll still be able to contribute your input to help solve it.

Checking in doesn’t have to interrupt your vacation. Planning for the time to call the office will free you to enjoy the time you’ve set aside to relax, have fun with your family or explore something new. And unless something major arises that absolutely requires your physical presence, your vacation should not be interrupted or altered. Before leaving for vacation, you should arrange for an assistant or colleague to have a condensed list of “current events” ready to relay to you when you call. If you try to make your calls at the same time of day, those people can be prepared to fill you in. If you plan to respond to e-mails, block off some time every day or two to address them but don’t steal that time from an activity that was designed to take your mind away from work.

Some statistics quoted in Business Digest from Kiplinger’s Personal Finance reveal some interesting observations regarding vacation time, workers who don’t take vacations at all and those who stay in touch while they’re away, stating that:

“Vacations are hard work:

• Percentage of adults who plan to take vacation in August: 35%

• Workers who say they’re too busy to use all of their vacation: 16%

• Adults who never take vacation: 20%

• Employers who allow workers to roll over un-used vacation in definitely: 26%

• Average annual vacation days in the U.S. compared with Italy: 13 vs. 42.

• Time it takes to return to normal productivity after vacation: 1.5 days.

• Workers who check their business e-mail while on vacation: 42%

• Employees who check in with their boss by phone: 34%

Time spent away from the routine demands and pressures of the job is vital to mental and physical health. It helps to counteract burnout and maintain focus when returning to work. The concept of vacation is to allow for a balance of work and play. You can stay in touch with your work without spoiling the necessary break from it. You don’t have to toss your cell phone or laptop into the pool in order to enjoy your vacation. Staying in contact with the job may be necessary for some of us but don’t let it cheat you out of the healthy diversion you need.