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

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.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

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.
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