Has the Web Ruined Vacations?


...But I'll be checking email, voicemail and blogging regularly...

Welcome back from Memorial Day weekend.

But did you ever really leave?

Did you resist checking your Blackberry or iPhone for email messages?  Did you send any in return?  Did you update your corporate blog?  Or tweet about a work-related topic?  Did you get a jump start on that presentation?  Or even do some web-based research for an upcoming project deadline?

According to a survey by InterCall conducted by TNS in April, nearly one-third of us feel the need to stay connected to work during the weekend.  Men are worse with 32 percent checking in to work on the weekends (only 28 percent of women do so).

With more than 75 percent of the U.S. workforce using mobile devices, it is getting harder to find the boundary between professional and personal life.

As far back as 2006, 60 Minutes warned us that the 40-hour work week was history and that 60 to 80 hour work weeks were becoming the norm.  Why?  As 60 Minutes noted: “Why do Americans work so much?  The simplest answer is because we can.”

It’s hard to believe that in the 1930s the federal government actually advocated for a 30-hour work week.

So have we reached a time when vacations and time-off have become obsolete (at least for those workers in corporate environments)?  Vacation and time off in a structured way – where the dividing line between professional and personal was segmented by time seems long gone.  That we didn’t start work until 9 a.m . and that the work day ended at 5 p.m. seems a rather quaint notion today, but it was followed rather strictly in the decades following World War II.

But just like the lunch hour had been replaced by eating at your desk when you can shoehorn it into your day (sometimes at means eating at 11 a.m. and other days as late as 3 p.m.).  The idea of a “structured” lunch hour starting at noon and ending at 1 p.m. is a fragment of the past.  Is the concept of time-off and vacations heading in the same direction?  That there will be no structure to time-off – that we’ll all do when we can?

The way we work today is no longer segmented by time.  It is segmented by need and necessity.  That means working evening and nights.  And sometimes on Saturday and Sunday and even holidays and on vacations.  Business no longer waits for us to return from our leisure activities.  And technology has been a great enabler of this.  It is quite easy to attend a conference call while you’re at the beach.  It is possible to email colleagues and clients while on a cruise ship.  You can work on presentations while renting a summer cottage.

Has our time off been morphed in the same way?  Do we take our leisure time now when we can?  Have vacations become micro-bursts of time taken when we can?  An afternoon here.  A full day there?  Is a vacation something we do during the day and then catch-up on email and correspondence for an hour or two at night?

Can that even be called a “vacation” or “time-off”?  Or is it just downtime?

So what about you?  Did you stay away from work this Memorial Day weekend?  Or did you check your Blackberry?  Have we completely eroded the lines between personal and professional lives?  And is this a good or a bad thing?

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One Response to “Has the Web Ruined Vacations?”

  1. This is far too real. We are loosing the important boundary between work and the rest of our lives. We are adding to our stress and losing touch with our families.

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