Confession: I have taken a conference call while walking to dinner down Bourbon Street. I have also been pulled into a meeting while driving my parents over the Golden Gate Bridge and had to pull off at the rest stop to participate in an hour-long argument over which font should be used for a dashboard header. I’ve also submitted reports via my smartphone while waiting to board a plane at O’Hare.
It’s tough to go on vacation when you leave your head in the office.
My old boss used to check his email while brushing his teeth every morning and actually scheduled a monthly operations meeting with our CEO to occur three hours after he was to wake up from having a major operation (he canceled it when he realized that it was probably not the best scenario for success). Sometimes he and I would have IM conversations about PowerPoint decks well after midnight during the week. Needless to say, when he went on vacation, the only difference for his team was that his calls came from his cell phone instead of his office line.
While the IT role of the future trends to be more connected, is it healthy? When I asked a CIO how he was balancing work and life, he replied sarcastically, “What’s work/life balance?” We are always connected, so we’re always on. With increased mobility and desktop virtualization options, you can now log into your office computer and tweak the quarterly numbers from seat 35A somewhere above Nebraska. And while it would be a tough sell to get any of us to ignore unlimited connectivity during a normal week, a vacation should involve actually being on vacation.
Labor Day weekend is fast approaching. Consider making an effort toward balancing work and life.
Here’s how to work on balancing your life on vacation: Start weaning your team and partners from their constant contact by letting them know that you will be out of reach during a given time period, whether it’s because you’re planning the family trip to Disneyland or you just want to have a lazy weekend barbecue. Then make it difficult to perform work during that time period — difficult for others to connect with you and difficult for yourself to “just check email.” Close the laptop and leave it at the office. Most hotels have connectivity and a business center, and you know that if you really really needed something, you can get online somewhere — but it will prevent you from checking your email (and checking out of your vacation headspace).
And here’s the hardest part of balancing work and life while on vacation: Leave your cell phone behind. Give the phone number of a third party to one trusted person in the office, telling them that they can only call you in the direst of emergencies. If your co-workers have the ability to get you on the line by dialing 10 digits, chances are that they will, but if they had to call your admin to get the number and then talk to your husband or wife first — or if you’re really committed to balancing work and life, the front desk at the hotel — they’ll probably find someone else to answer their question or solve their problem.
And if that last thought causes you to get a little queasy, that’s exactly why you need to cut the cord while you’re on vacation.