Earlier this month I was confronted by a peculiar but innocent question from a young professional: “Do CIOs take real vacations, I mean, real long vacations with friends and family, free from all the worries of workplace and fighting fires that keep them at work beyond the normal hours?”
I began to wonder about the question. The more I thought about it, the more it troubled me; I mean, vacations without my email, phone, laptop, no connectivity; that was eons ago.
Today every executive, irrespective of hierarchy, is consumed by the need to stay connected with the workplace. Downloaded information and alerts keep the buzz going 24X7. Approvals via phone, business intelligence on the fly, are the norm; one cannot ever claim: “I was not informed” or “I did not have access to information”. To add to the clutter, friends and partners want to stay connected using various social networks.
So what is the vacation about? Working on the road with interruptions on the phone, balancing the laptop in between site-seeing trips, late night responses to emails with long attachments, talking to a vendor while soaking into the natural beauty staring in the face? For most of us who travel across time zones, the first reflex is to reach out to the phone to see what came through while we caught up with the forty winks.
What does it take to sell the Ferrari and become a monk who has no links with what we call ‘work’, while immersing into ‘life’. Is that a possibility in the hyper-connected, fast paced activity-conundrum? We CIOs created this paradigm for our enterprises to which every corporate employee is a willing slave.
Imagine if we did not answer the phone (may make us appear rude), stopped responding to emails and had an active ‘Out of Office’ message, let team fight the fires that make up a regular day at work; would it make a stress free day? Nine out of 10 times, people would say, ‘yes’, but nine out of 10 times they will suffer higher stress levels, wondering about what is, indeed, happening.
So is there a way out? I would hazard to say, ‘yes’. And it requires excruciating will power to execute; go at it one hour at a time. That is like taking baby steps and setting a realistic target because stating that I will not look at that device called the phone for a week is unlikely to happen. Feeling awkward, I called many CIO friends who took vacations recently and asked them if they did what I have outlined above. No prizes for the result of the survey.
I think Bob Dylan had seen the future when he wrote in the year I was born: “The answer my friend…”
Guess what, next vacation I am going to try it. (It’s always the next one, isn’t it?)