Taking Work on Your Vacation This Summer?

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Our family just got home from a peaceful week in a tent, at the edge of Yosemite. For one exciting, very wet day, thunder and lightening crashed around us. The rest of our vacation was sunny days by the river, swimming, fishing, and eating popsicles. I even read a whole Aimee Bender novel!

The absolute best part of the trip was all the focused outdoor time with our kids.

The second best part was that we had no cell phone reception.

This meant that I couldn’t give in to my annoying tic, wherein I check email on my phone every five minutes. Or maybe every five seconds, if I’m really worried about a work thing, or more likely, I’m just bored. Or procrastinating. I hate that I do this.

But with no cell phones working, I couldn’t check email (or news headlines, or stock prices, or Facebook). So instead, when I felt a twinge of boredom, I relaxed into the empty space of my unoccupied mind. It was peaceful. Therapeutic. I came home with a new resolve to spend less time staring at my phone.

Which brings me to this story my friend Steve sent about Americans working through their vacations.

Sixty-six percent of the 5,000 people surveyed said they will check and respond to email during their time off and 29 percent expect they may have to attend meetings virtually while on vacation.

In other words, most Americans work during their vacations.

That seemed sad to me. We all need down time. Especially the 88% of working parents with stress-related health problems.

But the even sadder part was the tone of the article, which quickly turned to advice about the “best way to blend vacation and work time.” You know, like, ask your colleagues to send you a single daily report email, rather than ad hoc emails, or find a proper business center where you can do your work with minimal disruptions.

“Modern work pressures mean that more and more of us work during our vacations,” said Guillermo Rotman, CEO of Regus. “The important thing is to minimize the inconvenience by working as efficiently as we can. Rather than struggle through three stressful and unproductive hours trying to work by the poolside, you could do the same amount of work more efficiently in a single hour at a business center, with free Wi-Fi, secure high-speed broadband and professional administrative support. You then have two hours free to relax properly.”

The important thing is to work efficiently on our vacations? Hmmm…I have a better idea. How about we just stop working?

I can see why it might be difficult for, say, Obama to do this…but are the rest of us professionals really so important that we can’t go away for a week and let other people cover for us? I don’t think so. I suspect that a lot of this working on vacation is really about trying desperately to appear indispensable, because we’re all afraid of losing our jobs. Which becomes a peer pressure thing. If everyone else works on their vacation, then you look like a slacker when you don’t.

Here’s my advice for your next vacation:

1. Tell people you’re going will be unreachable.
Say this with a nonchalant confidence. No apologies. If you apologize, it implies you are doing something wrong. Give people plenty of time to plan around your absence.

2. Pick a vacation spot with no cell phone reception.
Psst! Bay Area families! Tuolumne is great for this. And the only land line available is the pay phone in the dining hall. Be sure to leave your quarters at home. Better yet, leave the country, and avoid the Internet cafes at all costs.

3. Set your auto-reply message to the most annoying setting.
Have it send an “I’m not checking email” message to every single person who emails you, no matter how many times they email, rather than only sending a one-time only auto-reply. That way, every time someone sends you an email, they will be reminded that it is piling up in your inbox with all the others they sent.

What do you think? Are you going to work on your next vacation?

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