Can you take a break from your vacation?

Thanks to mobile computing, the job follows some people everywhere

The upside of mobile computing is that you can work anywhere, anytime. The downside is that you can work anywhere, anytime.

That's true for many people, anyway. While some may be able to truly unplug and disconnect during their recreational time, a lot of people develop 24/7 work habits and can't shake them even on a vacation. CFO magazine, for example, cited a recent survey by Robert Half Management Resources of 1,400 chief financial officers, which found that 69 percent of them check in with work at least twice a week while on vacation, and 33 percent check in at least once a day.

Is it really a vacation if you’re just teleworking from an unfamiliar location?

Of course, for some people, working in the off hours is a choice. The New York Times has a story about the New York Nightowls, a group of entrepreneurs, software developers and freelancers that meets every Tuesday at 10 p.m. to work on whatever they want to work on, staying at it as late as 4 a.m. For those folks, part of the appeal is the productivity that comes without the distractions of the usual work environment. For them, it's a sort of vacation, and the idea is catching on in other cities.

This makes us wonder how our readers, tech savvy as they are, handle their own time “away.” Do you find yourself checking in with the office, or with colleagues on work matters? Do you manage to unplug? And if you do work on vacation, is it by choice or because of the demands from the corner office? Do you like to work an unusual schedule, coming in at dawn or working until midnight to avoid the rush and crush of the middday hustle?

We recently asked people to try unplugging for the Fourth of July, but that was only one day. How do you manage a week or two? It is possible – I just spent a week without Internet access of any kind, and although I wouldn’t necessarily want to live that way all the time, for a week, it was dandy.

Let us know your experiences in the comments section below.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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Reader Comments

Tue, Aug 3, 2010 Wisconsin

If I will be near power, I'll take my laptop along on vacation to check the status of apps running back on the office machine. Saves me time when I get back. But then I'll also use it to reprogram my GPS, etc. I also like wilderness backpacking, and there isn't any power in the world that will keep me in contact with the office when I am two days from the nearest road!

Tue, Aug 3, 2010 Paul

I worked many years in tiny business (2-20 people) with limited time away. I went many years with no vacation, and I wasn't even the owner. Now, while I'm the only one in my agency that does what I do (no back-up), I still disconnect while away. I came to realize that, if they can't get by without me, then there's a serious structural problem. Staying in touch either postpones the inevitable failure, or shows that they can get by without me. I'm OK with either outcome.

Fri, Jul 30, 2010 Idaho

It's easy to unplug when you vacation in an area that has no cell phone coverage and no electricity! Nothing, other than life or death is that important so pick up the fishing pole and drown some worms!

Fri, Jul 30, 2010 WebSlinger DC Metro Mess

As a programmer, I have deadlines-not work hours. Since the deadlines are not self-impossed, I'm always dancing to someone else's tune. I manage 2 weeks of time unplugged yearly - over the winter holidays when project side staff are all doing their party face-time. Outside of those 2 weeks I haven't had a "real" vacation (or weekend) in over a decade. On the upside I can start work @3am or put in time over the weekend. I can be productive inspite of commute and meeting time constraints - all while still spending a precious few evening hours nightly with my family. My attitude: I'll have all the time off I want when I retire. Productivity==job security==the means to retire.

Thu, Jul 29, 2010

My Daugther, bless her heart, comes and takes my cell at 8 PM. She says that is her time,and she means it. She has helped me keep perspective. I love my work, but I love her too. Each has their place in my life. She had a talk with me and told me she felt she had my time, if work didn't need me. Made me realize she should not be second place. We agreed on the time that would be hers. I told work I would be unavailable then, and I mean it. It has worked out very well. Same on vacation- every other day is connection free. This year, I may make that two. I have good people, they need to know I trust them to continue to do well, even when "the cat's away"..

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