Do you bring your Blackberry with you when you go on holidays? Do you take the odd furtive look at your emails while you’re supposed to be relaxing? Or do you go the whole hog and take your mobile phone, laptop and everything else you need to do your job? If so, you’re not alone if the results from a recent survey by Accenture are to be believed.
They surveyed 200 Americans (admittedly a smallish sample) and found that while 79% of respondents agreed that maintaining a healthy work-life balance was important, 53% admitted to working while they were on holiday. This was as high as 71% for those born before 1964 (the so-called “Baby Boomers”). Isn’t this contradictory?
Well, yes. And no.
Work-life balance isn’t simply about the number of hours an individual works. What works as balance for you might not work for me. One person’s acceptable 70-hour week may be the stuff of nightmares for another.
Similarly, while some people like to keep a strict dividing line between their work and personal lives, others are happy with a certain amount of overspill between these two domains. Balance (or more correctly, our continued efforts at achieving balance) is a relative concept, not a once-size-fits-all prescription.
Taking work on holiday may be symptomatic of problems with managing workload – you can’t get it all done, so you take it with you. However, it also may be a way of avoiding a return to work that consists of an email mountain and dozens upon dozens of unanswered phone messages. If you simply dip in to emails to stay on top of crucial developments, it may help to put your mind at ease and assist with relaxation away from work.
If however, you’re simply doing your regular 9 to 5, just wearing some ill-advised Speedo’s by the pool, you might have a problem. This may signify an inability to switch off from work demands or indeed a belief that the office can’t survive without you. Newsflash: it probably can and will.
Holidays should be for recharging our batteries, getting some time to relax and contemplate. If you’re working just as hard on holidays as you are at the office, you’re not getting that time to recuperate and recover from work, so your return to work won’t be characterised by the increased energy and well-being that a holiday should provide.
The important issue when it comes to working while supposedly on holidays is this: are you in control of this situation or are you under pressure to stay in touch with your employer? If the latter, it’s not really much of a holiday at all.
And me? I chose to take my laptop with me on holidays earlier this month so I could make some progress on my doctorate. But this also allowed me to check emails just before coming home so that my first day back at work didn’t simply consist of wading through my in-box. It worked for me. I started back at work relatively relaxed and in a positive frame of mind.
Your mileage, as they say, may vary.