Thursday, June 18, 2009

Are You Afraid to Take a Vacation This Year?

Are you afraid to take a vacation this year?

The answer may depend on how secure you feel with your job right now. But if a recent study is any indication, the answer may be that instead of hauling your butt to the beach, you're going to make sure it's glued to your office chair.

According to a recent Towers Perrin survey of 650,000 workers, fewer people are "seriously considering" leaving their job: 71 percent reported they're not looking for work right now, up from the 64 percent recorded last year. Clearly, workers aren't messing with what they've got, whether they like it or not. They know the job market is tough, and they're hunkering down.

How is this impacting the way employees work? Looks like it means they're giving up some work/life balance -- and not complaining about it. While 55 percent of workers said they could balance work and personal responsibilities (down from 62% last year), the report found that "increased anxiety about work/life balance doesn't appear to be a function of a change in company policies."

Specifically, the study found that 70 percent of employees say their work schedules give them enough flexibility to meet personal and family needs, which is just about what it was last year.

"This suggests," the report says, "employees can't, or won't, take advantage of the flexibility they do have and may be putting pressure on themselves to work longer hours, whether to deal with expanded workloads, help overtaxed colleagues or protect their jobs."

So, I ask again: Are you afraid to take a vacation this year?

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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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