5 ways to unwire your holiday weekend

5 ways to unwire your holiday weekend

Summary: Some people don't mind staying connect to the office while they're on vacation--good for them. For everyone else, here are five tips that will make it easier for you to banish your Blackberry from the beach this weekend.

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This doesn't have to be your weekend.
There are people who don't mind being lightly tethered to their work worlds while they're on vacation, be it via email, cell phones or PDAs. They'll tell you that they enjoy checking in and making sure there are no fires waiting for them when they get back and can even relax better knowing everything is running smoothly.

And, well, good for them.

But the vast majority of U.S. workers wonder if the notion of a disconnected vacation that is a decisive break, however brief, from their daily grinds has gone the way of the rotary phone.

It's not always their fault. Much blame lies in the blurred line between work and downtime that comes with the proliferation of both wireless technology and perks such as flexible scheduling and working from home. Some toil in workaholic environments with coworkers and bosses who so frequently check in from the beach, they threaten to make them look bad if they do not. Others have actually been instructed to keep their Blackberrys on them, so they can keep tabs on a project or release. Yet a good lot of these employees had great intentions when they set out on vacation to do nothing but sleep, play, eat and drink for seven days but fell prey to free wireless and checking email out of a nervous habit or a blinking phone they couldn't bring themselves to turn off.

The good news is, there's hope for everyone. The Web is full of innumerable tips on how to avoid being chained to your laptop while you should be hiking. Here are some of the best ones:

1. Schedule your vacation at the right time: Though a well-scheduled vacation to some is to find one that spans the two most hectic workweeks of the year, an IT professional looking to increase the odds that they will not be bugged by the office will pick a period of time either before a project really ramps up, after a big release or in the brief downtime between two projects.

2. Reduce the need to be contacted: In the weeks leading up to your vacation, you should do everything in your power to make sure that your bosses, managers, coworkers and clients have no reason to need you while you're gone. Let your coworkers know far in advance when you will be going away, so to limit the "Where's Bob? We need him!" the first Monday you are out. Leave them with copies of important emails and phone numbers, and set an Out of the Office Auto-Reply that reminds people where to go with their concerns in your absence. Warn coworkers of anything that might come up while you are away.

Being a tad paranoid and trying to think of everything doesn't mean you'll never get called by a needy boss, but it certainly reduces the legitimacy of the interruption.

3. If you must call in, schedule it: For some people, checking in once, and only once, during a week's vacation can be exactly what they need to help them relax better. If you're one of these people, or your job requires you to call in, it's worth it to actually put your phone call on a schedule viewable by managers and coworkers, so you can get the maximum out this sunbathing interruption.

This could be applied to email as well. John Halamka, a healthcare CIO, says that when he goes on vacation, he only checks his email before his family wakes up and after they go to sleep.

"When I return to the office, there is nothing waiting for me," explains Halamka. "A great vacation is one that is easy to return from."

4. Bury/burn/banish your PDA: As shocking as this might be to workers who are certain that their PDAs have grown surgically attached to their hands in recent years, one salient fact remains: Your Blackberry has an "OFF" button. You can hit it at any time and not miss any emails or important messages--they'll simply be waiting for you when you turn it back on. When it is off, you'll likely realize exactly how much of an interruption it is, likely having not gone more than an hour without looking at it in years. You might... hope you're sitting down for this... even feel like you're on vacation.

"Soon enough though you realize that your team back in the office is fully capable of handling any fires," writes senior vice-president of Fox Sports Interactive, Brian Grey, on his blog. "And you also realize how much more impactful your vacation can be when your head isn’t filled with problem solving exercises tethered to your work."

Can't bring yourself to do it on your own? You might even opt for a hotel that will do it for you.

5. If all else fails, go (or say you're going) far, far away: What's the difference between going to Tanzania versus Tampa for a week? Well, for one, the zebras. But for this conversation the sad fact is that you're a lot less likely to get a call from work if they believe that you're in East Africa than in on the west coast of Florida. So whether this drives you to pick a more far-flung vacation spot or just pretend to your office that you have is up to you, but it is worth considering the connectivity dichotomy before you do.

Topics: Telcos, Collaboration, Hardware, Mobility

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4 comments
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  • Just give them the number of your hotel

    and let that make do. You're on holiday, and they can only contact you in an emergency.

    Ring in by all means, if something big is going on. But the idea of these devices blurring the distinction of being on holiday must be a no go, otherwise it defeats the purpose of "taking a break".
    fr0thy2
  • Another idea...

    Great story, Deb. I found the last tip particularly funny-- mainly because I know someone who often goes "overseas" and has no Internet access. I thought of another tip that people might find useful, though. If you must check your email while tanning on the beach, set a rule that you will only reply to urgent email. Whether that means putting urgent in the subject line or marking it with a red flag. Discuss with colleagues back in the office what 'urgent' really means. Make sure that they understand what falls in this category.
    LeslyB
  • RE: 5 ways to unwire your holiday weekend

    I have a very simple philosophy - if my management contacts
    me while on vacation while I'm on vacation about some kind
    of non-critical drivel (which is almost always the case), I will
    take another day of vacation or sick time for every five
    minutes of my time they waste. They, being management, are
    too stupid to realize this, but I do, and that's all that counts.
    Calling me on while I'm on vacation about non-emergency
    crap is grounds for justifiable homicide, and no court in the
    land would convict me.
    thetwonkey
  • It's not a vacation then.

    If you must be contacted, don't have alternates to take the load, etc, you just aren't planning. Nobody, not a single one of us, from CEO Steve Jobs through the newest of newbies can't simply disconnect for a week. It comes down to choice. My work asked me to carry my phone for my vacation, I said "why, I am leaving the battery at home".

    Honestly, I think that it is more the reverse, people simply can't imagine being out of touch for that long and therefore want to be somewhat tethered.

    Leave all electronics at home, use your kids cell phone or your spouses for emergencies, or go back to the way we all *ghasp* lived before, no cell phone at all. :D

    TripleII
    TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827