Firewall Your Vacation Time December 24, 2008 08:00

There was a mountain resort my family vacationed at years ago that didn’t have phones. A smart resort developer realized they could save the expense of running phone lines to condos, and sell it as a benefit. Even twenty five years ago this seemed odd and even a little dangerous to my ten year old self. Now it seems radically right.

Cell phones and email have led to a disturbing epidemic of workplace co-dependency. A survey undertaken earlier this year by Ipsos Reid on behalf of found that 48% of Canadian workers feel that electronic devices such as cell phones and blackberries make it harder to get away from work. This is a 7% increase over last year. If you are taking some time off this holiday season you may experience this problem yourself. It is not unusual to find in the first days of your holiday that your colleagues back at the office are relieving their separation anxiety by calling your cell phone with supposedly mission critical issues like misplaced files, or lunch ordering procedures.

If ignored these calls will eventually stop for two reasons:

  • The dependency has taken hold so completely that everyone freezes and all tasks related to you are relegated to the back burner. This isn’t so bad, because if your coworkers are that messed up at least you know they are not actively doing any damage.
  • They may regain a sense of autonomy and realize that they can carry on without your assistance resulting in an empowered workforce for you to return to. Now thats a good thing.

Before the era of ubiquitous communication when you went on vacation, you were on vacation. Today 29% of Canadians do not take all of their vacation time up from 21 percent last year, illustrating how fragile our vacation time really is. Prior to the proliferation of email and wireless devices, problems back at work were handled or deferred. Today, unfortunately there is a different set of expectations.

Give yourself a break and reset those expectations. It is becoming common practice to limit email and phone interruptions at work in order to get more done. It should also be standard practice to firewall your downtime. There are a lot of really good reasons you take time off. So take time off. Tell your colleagues you are unavailable, shut off the phone and ignore your email. They’ll manage.