Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Real Decision '08: Should I Work While on Vacation?

I got sort of depressed the other day when I tried to remember the last time my husband or I did not put in some work time while on vacation, including our second honeymoon a couple of years ago.

It used to be that when you went on vacation, you maybe -- maybe -- called in from the road to make sure the office hadn't burned to the ground while you were gone.

But then we became entangled with pagers and cell phones, laptops and Blackberries. And the "workless" vacation seemed to be a thing of the past.

So, as I head off for vacation this year, I pondered what I need to take with me besides the bug spray and some hiking boots. The laptop. Some research I need to peruse. A couple of business books I need to review.

I told myself I could put in a few hours of work while the kids go fishing or early in the morning when everyone sleeps in and I get up early, as always. I told myself what a good use of my vacation this would be because I'll be away from all the distractions of my everyday professional and personal life.

And then I nearly kicked my own ass.

Because none of that thinking made sense. Why even take a vacation if I'm going to drag along all the things that are making me so stressed out these days? I know I need a break. My creative juices have dried up. My critical thinking skills have taken a hike. My organizatinal efforts are laughable. I have just enough common sense left to realize that I'd be making a huge mistake if I took even a smidgen of work with me.

I know some people don't feel this way. They are disciplined enough (or so they say) to work only a little bit while on vacation. Some claim they're so bored on vacation they have to do a bit of work to keep from going completely whacko. Others contend that their families or friends don't really care if they work while on vacation.

But the research tells us differently. Our bosses want us to take vacation. Our long-term health demands that we take time away. And our personal relationships -- well, I guess if you'd rather send a few e-mails than watch your child build a sandcastle or go sightseeing with friends -- that's your decision to make.

But for me and mine, we're going laptopless this year. Our cell phones are for emergencies only, and the only book I'm taking is some totally frivolous novel that will hopefully make me laugh out loud.

I'm at peace with my decision, and actually very excited. I feel like a kid cutting school (ahem, not that I ever did anything like that), and plan to be totally selfish and be on vacation.

At this point, some of you may be shaking your head at my decision. You may feel that you can work on vacation and get the same benefits of time away that everyone else does. Or, you may feel like your business or career will fall apart if you aren't tethered in some way to your job.

But I'm going to try it this way. Not because I don't think I have anything to lose, but because I think if I don't, I could lose a lot.

How about you? Are you going to work while on vacation this year? Why or why not? (If you don't see your comment published right away, please be patient. I've gone fishing.)


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Miriam Salpeter said...

It's so funny to read this post today, as I am making a decision about a driving vs. flying vacation. One of the factors in my mind is how long I'll be away from my blog and my business. Flying would leave little lag time, while driving would require more time away.

Of course, time away is part of the plan, so it's a crazy factor to consider. (The bigger factor is how long I want to be in a car with 3 kids!)

Thanks for the reminder that time away from work is actually the POINT of a vacation!

Hope you enjoyed it!

Miriam Salpeter
Keppie Careers

Anita said...

I know that for the first 24-36 hours, it will be hard for me to relax completely, which was one reason we added more days to the vacation. That decompression doesn't happen right away, and I want to make sure that I don't just start to relax and then turn around and come right back to work. I think building in time when you return is just as important. Here's to a great vacation...for both of us!

Karen said...

Life is short-- enjoy it! All this stuff will still be waiting for you when you come back. Unplug, unwind and take in every moment of this vacation. You deserve it, especially since you gave up your second honeymoon to work!

Kathryn/ said...

Hi, Anita! Hope you have THE best time and that you chose a book that really will make you LYAO! Take two, just in case. Have you tried Sophie Kinsella yet? The Undomestic Goddess might just do it. (No, I'm not her publicist...) :) Dare I say it? Have FUN!! And take it easy. All that trite stuff that makes all the difference and that you deserve! Kathryn xoxo

Anita said...

Thanks! I think it's very appropriate that you use the word "deserve." I've fallen into the trap of feeling guilty if I'm not working -- or at least thinking about work. But you're absolutely right -- it will still be here when I get back. I think that makes me want to get away more than anything!
Thanks for posting.

Anita said...

Years ago, I made the mistake of reading "The Lovely Bones" when I was on the plane back from a London vacation and was just SO depressed after a wonderful holiday. Sophie sounds just like the ticket...and I will make sure I take a couple. I do plan to have a lot of fun, and thanks for your best wishes.

Scot Herrick said...

Part of going on vacation is to have the work stuff as prepared as possible so you don't worry about it.

Kate and I went to Ireland for two weeks in February. I had all of the blog posts up to publish while we were gone. All the rest was cared for as best we could.

When we went, we had Internet access across the country. But, I limited myself to less than a half hour a day -- and that to check for comments on the blog.

That much was OK. Another time, we went to a place with no cell service or Internet access. Totally old school vacation. It was exceptionally relaxing.

I don't advocate working on vacation. Otherwise it is simply doing the same thing in a different place.

Anita said...

My original plan was to have blog posts for when I was gone. But, things got a little more hectic (as usual, right before a vacation), and I just decided the blog needed a vacation, as well. So, I hope you and everyone else will return when I'm back from some days of R&R.
Thanks for dropping by!

Erika said...

You deserve a good, long vacation! My husband and I left behind all semblance of our normal lives when we went to Israel for two weeks and it was the best trip we've ever taken. The world will revolve without you, I say, so go revel in your untetheredness!

Trisha said...

I don't even know if I will be able to take a vacation - but if I do, yes I will do at least a little bit of work.

Patricia said...

I try to stay away from blogging and anything work related on my vacation. It isn't easy. My last vacation I thought I would just go online for a bit and the next time I looked up three hours had gone by. What a waste of a beautiful vacation day.

You have made the right choice. Thanks for reminding us that a vacation is for a time away from work, not a time with work.


Dan McCarthy said...

Anita –

Yes, of course, no working while on vacation. But no blogging?! Are you crazy?!

Seriously, hope a have a wonderful vacation and I look forward to your return.

Anita said...

Wow...that sounds like the trip of a lifetime. I'll bet you use a lot of those memories to sustain you when you're having a bad day at work!
Maybe you'll be inspired by me to take some time. As you can tell from these comments, everyone deserves it and should take it without feeling guilty and without doing any work!
I've gotta learn to cut those blog apron strings sometime....

Spandrel Studios said...

My husband and I have NEVER done work while on vacation.

Once, 12 years ago, a boss asked me to check my voicemail a couple of times during the week I was off, but to keep the fires to a minimum, I'd planned and worked ahead, and also found adequate enough coverage for my projects, so that when I did check, my voice mailbox was empty! Hurrah!

When I log in even over the weekend, it mentally pulls me back into work so that Monday comes and I don't really feel refreshed from the weekend.

Pushing people too hard to stay in touch during their downtime risks burnout and with it, mistakes, a lack of creativity, and poor morale. It's short-sighted, and should be avoided at all costs!

Anita said...

Dear S.S.,
Working on vacation often happened for us because we would often take vacation before or after a business trip, but what always happened was that the work just merged...and stayed...while we were supposed to be off.
I understand completely what you mean about weekends. I've already put in several hours today (Saturday), and know I will face a couple of hours more. Yuck.
Thanks for posting -- your unwillingness to work while on vacation and taking time to prepare the way is something we should all try to do!