The just shoot me vacation: Stay tethered; Forget two weeks; Install a fax in your room

The just shoot me vacation: Stay tethered; Forget two weeks; Install a fax in your room

Summary: This in from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas: You must bring your smartphone, laptop and every other work-tethering item on your vacation. If not you'll just worry about being laid off.

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This in from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas: You must bring your smartphone, laptop and every other work-tethering item on your vacation. If not you'll just worry about being laid off. 

Here's what America has come to---a two week vacation is deemed too long and you have to at least look like you're working. Hell, why bother with the vacation at all?

It has been apparent for some time that the U.S. is nutty when it comes to work. Just ask any Brit, Aussie or Kiwi about U.S. vacation habits. 

Now here comes the press release designed to stoke the stay connected worries. The money quotes:

Workers will be reluctant to take a long, two-week vacation.  For many, even a weeklong absence from the workplace will produce too much anxiety to actually achieve a stress-free vacation.  They will make due with stretching holiday weekends, such as Memorial Day and Independence Day, into four- and five-day getaways, thus minimizing the time away from the office.

Where companies are making relatively quick decisions about staffing levels, being out of sight could lead to being out of a job.  This does not mean that employees should avoid even short getaways.  However, now more than ever, it is critical that vacationing employees stay connected while out of the office. 

That one cracks me up. Rest assured if there are layoffs they'll find you. 

Challenger’s advice: take your cell phone, laptop, pager and hand-held electronic organizer wherever you vacation.  Let people know they can reach you if necessary.  And enjoy some peace of mind knowing you are not putting your work at risk by going away.

As work-life balance grows in importance, some commentators deride what some call office-obsessed people who cannot shut off work even while vacationing.  But the same office-obsessed worker is recognized by the employer as someone who puts the needs of the company first and therefore will likely survive any workforce reductions.

And just in case you weren't worried enough:

The advice of wellness experts who urge workers to cut off all contact with the office while on vacation would be fine in a Utopian world.  But we live in the fiercely competitive real world, where employers cannot afford to put any piece of business in jeopardy because you are purposely unreachable.  Now is a particularly bad time to provoke any doubt about your commitment, because the pool of available, skilled replacements grows daily.

The general theme of Challenger's advice isn't to actually work, but to look like you're working. That's productive. Here's Challenger's advice with my comments in italics:

  • Arrange with your hotel to have a fax machine installed in your room.  Chain hotels favored by business guests already have done so. Yes, your boss will be damn impressed that you have a fax machine in your room---especially since he hasn't used one since 1995.
  • While most of the large hotels now offer Internet connections (some free, some for a fee), some of the smaller hotels and motels favored by budget-conscious travelers may not.  Prior to leaving, visit websites that can help you locate Wi-Fi hotspots near your hotel. Translation: Spend your vacation in Starbucks.
  • If traveling internationally, check with the hotel or car rental agency about leasing a cell phone capable of receiving/making international calls. Or call your carrier for a global card. 
  • Do not change your voicemail to say you are on vacation and unavailable.  Customers may respond by seeking out a new source where someone is available.  Many newer phone systems allow you to forward calls to a cell phone. Yeah, that would be great for me. PR calls at the beach woo hoo!
  • If you don’t have call forwarding, check voicemails throughout the day and respond personally. Damn, I'm screwed. I don't do this when I'm working. 
  • Check e-mails regularly and respond or arrange for someone at the office to respond. This is just in case one of those 1,000 emails a day are worth anything.
  • Provide cell phone number, hotel phone number and/or e-mail to your supervisor so they can reach you. That way it's easier to find you amid layoffs.
  • Make sure your laptop or smartphone is set up to retrieve your emails on the road. Probably doesn't apply to our audience. 
  • During the workweek, check in with your supervisor and/or a colleague in your department at least twice a day (once in the morning and once in the afternoon). The goal: Be as annoying on vacation as you are during the workweek!
  • Make sure you have synched up your PDA so that your calendar, Rolodex, e-mail history, and to-do list are current. And we're trying a vacation why exactly?
  • Make sure to bring the various chargers and A/C adaptors for your cell phone and laptop. The only sane advice here. This applies to all travel. 

Just shoot me.
More for the long weekend (if you dare to take one):

Topics: Collaboration, Hardware, Mobility, Telcos

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50 comments
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  • Who should get laid off?

    So if you have to remain contactable because you are so important to the company means a) its unlikely you are going to be made redundent - next pay review ask for a rise! b) get your boss fired as his personnel resourcing skills are crap. Succession planning should be there for all people.
    StephenInScotland
  • Forget that crap...

    I don't "tether" on evenings and weekends so I sure as hell am not going to do it on vacation. Lay me off... I will find another job! >:(
    tonyhunterajh
    • That's the spirit!

      I worked in state government for 25 years, and only twice did I see a situation that required an immediate response, outside of normal working hours.

      Want and need are not synonymous. or My time is not your time.
      Hans Schmidt
      • Poor planning on your part

        does not constitute a crisis on mine.
        frgough
  • RE: The just shoot me vacation: Stay tethered; Forget two weeks; Install a fax in your room

    Ironically Eric Schmidt of Google tells students at U of Penn this week to "shut down their computers' - find some balance in life - see

    http://dealarchitect.typepad.com/deal_architect/2009/05/turn-off-your-computer.html
    vmirchan
  • RE: The just shoot me vacation: Stay tethered; Forget two weeks; Install a fax in your room

    This is absolutely ridiculous. Basically this company is stating that you should never stop working, and there is no such thing as a work/life balance. No more family time, no more personal time, dedicate your life to WORK. Being a net admin I know there are times when you must be available if *it hits the fan, but people must understand that flexible schedules do NOT mean working around the clock 24/7, ESPECIALLY when taking time off to wind down.
    brian.richter@...
  • RE: The just shoot me vacation: Stay tethered; Forget two weeks; Install a fax in your room

    To be honest...that's just another day in the life of an IT worker. I hate taking long breaks away from work as I know I'll come back to two weeks work.

    And then there's the stress of making sure everything is handed over before you go, that there's no loose ends or project deadlines that are looming.

    Before a holiday I'll easily spend a week doing 12+ hours a day.

    Oh. And I work in England as well. NOT the US.
    Average-IT-Guy
  • Oh, please

    If these guys want to live to work, that's fine with me, but When I take a vacation, I'm on vacation. The company cell is on the nightstand and the company laptop is in the home office. The van is parked and the keys are next to the cell phone. My personal cell goes with me, as does the personal laptop, but everything corporate stays behind.

    I'm already on call 24/7/364, I'll be d@mned if I'll be on call when I'm taking the vacation time I've earned.
    NickNielsen
  • Statistics? Proof? Sounds like gonzo speculation...

    Are there any hard numbers of companies that lay off people on vacation? Is this a new corporate policy being rolled out? Seems like this is gonzo speculation if not. Professionals know what projects they're working on, the deadlines, and when they can go on vacation.
    scott1329
    • There's nothing to prove

      Really, this is caterwauling by the paranoid. I'm sure there are executives that made layoff decisions based on who took vacation - after all, if you're not 100% DEDICATED~, you're worthless today, or it could have been political backstabbing - but if they are, to hell with them, they're not worth the long-term stress they cause anyway. Even in a down economy, other jobs make themselves available.
      superbus
    • Not laying off people on vacation...

      ... Its people who *take* vacation. However its just speculation in any case. Obviously they can't say they let you go because you took vacation... I can just see the $$$ court settlement now.

      In any case, there may be people who can work longer hours than me, but effectiveness is the key. Not the number of hours you work.
      TBone2k
    • Pay attention

      I've known MANY people who came back from vacation and their desk was gone and they were laid off. Corporate America has no respect for non-management. Hell, at Gould in Melbourne Florida, a manager was caught boinkin an employees wife by the cleaning lady. Both of THEM kept their jobs.
      sfriedrich
  • I guess I am SOL

    I need to get a cell phone, a blackberry, and a portable generator to power my laptop at the NFS campgound. I'll also need to look into recharging my new netbook via solar cells while backpacking. I have to forgo some food or rain gear to carry that, I'm sure.

    not
    cwallen19803@...
  • Forget the vaca. You are now expected

    to be working evenings and every weekend to show your commitment to the job. And I work with people who do it all the time. They ping their boss on IM in the evenings to make sure the boss knows they are online. It's pretty pathetic. And you can tell everyone is getting neurotic from being constantly working and on call.

    Putting in a 60 hour week on a salaried job really drops the 'effective' hourly wage.
    Telexer
    • You are now expected - #10

      I once worked for a guy (20 years ago)who was incompetent - in over his head. He used to call his boss, the Director, a couple of time a day just to let her know he was on the job and "do you need me?" But the sh tuff on his desk piled up day after day...
      Hans Schmidt
    • AMEN!

      And yet with shrinking headcounts & increasing workloads (including all of the special projects to find ways to save $$$ sapping your time) your productivity level is expected to increase.

      At least with our furlougs we are told NOT to work unlike paid vacation time. We'll see how well that goes.
      jhimes
      • The UK

        Being in the UK I see thing perhaps not being as extreme as this but it is getting there. We over here also worry bout loosing out jobs in this climate and that means the employers powers to push us around if they so choose has increaced. Often it feels like with one hand they will say you are not expected to work extra hours and with the other that it is expected that you will do all you can to meet deadlines (which usually means extra hours at no extra pay). At least I have a job but it is pretty sad when things get to the extreme of feeling work potentially dominating everything else. I have more holiday than US workers allocated to me but in practice I rarely take all the holiday I am allocated for the stress of the amount of work which will be building up while I am gone.
        CarlJokl
    • I don't allow my employees vacations

      Especially the women and minorities :).
      No_Ax_to_Grind..
  • People like this just aren't worth it

    I remember what my first boss said to me, after I got out of school.

    One night, I was staying late working on some middling projects; I was fresh, and wanted to impress, so at 5PM (when my shifts were 6:30AM - 2:30AM), I was still building some PCs, checking others, and working on the smaller projects we had.

    He comes by and asks why I'm still there; I let him know I was working on stuff. He pulls me aside and tells me to save that crap for important projects (like days we had to drive out to remote locations in NY, from CT). He also told me something that has since been proven out: he let me know that the more you do for employers off the clock, the less they care about it, and the more they come to expect it. His line of thinking was that he used to do everything at a prior job he had, and when he needed something, they were nowhere to be seen, and started to ding him for not doing what he had been doing... when he was still doing well over what was expected in the job description!

    Any employer that makes it compulsory to be tethered to your job 24/7 isn't worth it in any economy; the stress and neurosis that comes from such a lifestyle is shortening the life of anyone involved. I'm not married and have no children, but my time is mine, and when I am married with kids, I refuse to hurt them because my boss and a few co-workers are neurotic.

    If I were to get laid off because my time is mine, great; unemployment benefits are six months long, and I'm sure with my skills, I'd find a job eventually. Even a pay cut is better than killing myself for people that would have my throat slit if it improved their personal prospects.
    superbus
    • Amen To That!!

      Working 24/7 for some incompetent clod just isn't worth the pain and inconvenience.
      itanalyst2@...