Guilty, No Question About it.

Last week, I was out on vacation! The past seven years, I have wrestled with the question – Should you work while on vacation? I have been extremely guilty in the past of doing too much work, while on vacation. I have to think way back, when being connected was impossible to really remember when I have not worked on vacation. There were no big plans, no travel destinations way out there – it was supposed to be about my wife and I (and our family). It was our 29th anniversary last week! Just spending time together, something we both enjoy doing together.

My goal for my vacation was not to log into work and do work. I really needed some down time to focus in on myself. I failed, somewhat… I was significantly better than in past vacations. Why better, but still a failure. I did take some brief moments and do some work. I did not grab the laptop and log into work, but I did use my blackberry to answer some emails. I was officially caught by my wife when we were out and about, I pulled out the smart phone and answered someone back on an email. She asked, was it really that important? Well, not really. Feeling guilty – I decided that I would not do anymore, I failed time and time again. I think I answered at least one per day. I did not answer them in front of her…

Have we turned our downtime into limited downtime? When I was a manager, I was really guilty of this. I started to notice that my folks, were guilty of this as well. Did they follow my example? Did they witness an unwritten or spoken expectation that they need to work on their vacations as well. How did all this get started? Should we pull the plug on always connected? I understand that this is a personal thing.. We all have to do what we like and think is necessary. The example we set, may have an effect on others that are watching.

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  • Brian L

    Interesting that you posted this. Because, last week I did send you an email. A work related one at that. I did see your OOO message and did not not expect a reply, or did I? When you replied, was I surprised? Yes…..and no.
    Did your reply take away quality time from your wife or did it open additional time this week because you already addressed the issue? Did you complete a task in downtime that would have otherwise been spent doing nothing or perhaps while standing in line or in an elevator? It’s about balance. It’s about ROI. And yes, managers should be concerned with setting expectations, even if unconsiously.
    However, you did set a goal. Was your feeling a failure because you did not hit your goal or was it because you did not set the right goal for you? Maybe next time you can set a goal to answer no more than the top 2% of your emails. If that feels good and you hit your goal, stretch it to 1%. If that feels good then go for the real “no work email” goal. If it doesn’t feel so good, maybe you hit your sweet spot. That spot will be different for different people and will be different for you dependant upon what you have to put on hold when setting the goal. Would you have felt better or worse had you not answered those emails?

  • Brian – you hit on the problem pretty well.

    From a standpoint of my personal workload, doing some of the work on vacation saves time and effort later. 100% agree! There is much on the smartphone that is not work related… when you open up certain things, you just want to get it done. Sometimes you just need to step completely away and rest.. recharge.. and re-energize..

    From a manager standpoint – I think the unconsious setting of the expectation is the problem. I went back and have looked at each individual that reports to me directly; and they are worked on their vacations. I maybe part of a problem, that I don’t want to be.