Vacation too wired? You're not alone

Andersen Consulting says a whopping 83 percent of people who vacationed for a week or more stayed in touch with the office.

Andersen Consulting says a whopping 83 percent of people who vacationed for a week or more stayed in touch with the office.

You're sprawled out on the beach sipping your drink, which, of course, is punctuated by a colorful toothpick umbrella. You're bathing in the sun while waves lap at your feet.

But something is still wrong.

You're miles away from home -- and that, in your hyperwired, information-overloaded mind, is the problem.

Feeling disconnected from the office, you just can't resist tiptoeing across the sand and up to your hotel room to check some work e-mail.

Sound familiar? You're not alone.

Workers are having more trouble than ever unwinding and unwiring themselves while on vacation.

According to a study by Andersen Consulting, 83 percent of people who vacationed for a week or more stayed in touch with the office.

Most checked voice mail, but 16 percent took a laptop, and most of those used it to get their e-mails. One poor soul said he returned 300 e-mails while supposedly getting some R&R.

And one out of every 25 people scored the keep-in-touch trifecta -- bringing along a cell phone, a laptop and a pager on their vacation.

"Staying connected is increasingly becoming a fact of life in the new economy," Thomas H. Davenport, director of Andersen's Institute for Strategic Change, said in a statement accompanying the study. Practicing 'triage'

Added Andersen Chief Scientist Glover Ferguson Jr.: "Overall, business has extended into a new phase of a highly competitive, highly charged environment."

He said most people are contacting the office not to work, but to make sure that important job tasks are handled by the right person in their absence.

"A lot of this e-mail access that occurs on vacation is exactly that -- triage," he said.

Among the other study findings:

  • about one-third of the respondents said they were "not thrilled" at the prospect of staying in touch, but recognized it was necessary;
  • another 25 percent said they stayed connected so they didn't have to deal with a backlog when they returned;
  • and 25 percent said they were "grateful that we have the technology to stay in touch."

Andersen conducted a telephone survey of 306 people from across the United States whose household income totaled $75,000 or more. The respondents worked in sectors ranging from health care to high technology to construction.