Sunday, June 17, 2007

When getting away from it all really isn't getting away from it all

The weather has turned hot and humid, which means many people have begun thinking about what type of vacation they will take this summer.

For the last year, most folks have been grinding away either at their place of work or at school. The grind can be frustrating especially during the dead of winter when warm temperatures and daylight are in short supply.

For many, the hope of a relaxing trip to a sunny, warm location is a primary way of making it through those times. However, the results of a recent Associated Press-Ispos poll show vacations may not be as relaxing as they used to be.

According to the poll, a fifth of all vacationers are now taking portable laptop computers on their trips.

Reasons vary for doing this, but the primary reason given by those who were polled was so they could keep in touch with their jobs.

So it's come to this? While the technological explosion of the last 50 years has made life better, it has also imposed its will on society in unwelcome ways.

Don't get me wrong; I am grateful for the many quick and efficient ways we can now keep in touch with each other. E-mail, cell phones, and other advancements have been good for us. It is re-assuring that people can contact each other in a hurry when necessary.

However, count me as somebody who considers the results of this poll as validation that better technology doesn't always translate into a better quality of life.

The very fact that many folks cannot go on vacation without having to stay in touch with the office shows that abuse of this technology is taking place.

Why is this occurring? Primarily, this is occurring because of the convenience that technological advances have provided. Simply put, it is much easier to do things that required much more effort only a few years ago.

Because of this, the business community is under more and more pressure to provide services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If that does not happen, a business runs the risk of falling behind in the market place.

Of course, this then trickles down to the employee. The pressure to do more can become unbearable.

For example, just because somebody goes on vacation does not mean they will stop receiving e-mail at the office. People will continue to shoot them questions that need answers even though they may be away.

This presents the vacationing employee with a dilemma: do I just ignore my e-mail until I get home or should I try to answer a few each day?

It may be easy to say that people should wait, but not so fast my friend.

The results of waiting can be overwhelming. It is not uncommon for folks to have hundreds of e-mails waiting for them if they avoid their mailbox for a week.

When this happens, the pressure is on to answer all those e-mails as quickly as possible after returning to the office. Of course, this is nearly an impossible task. Then, folks start getting peppered with e-mails from people wondering why you did not respond to the e-mail they sent you last week. It goes on and on.

It really is a vicious cycle, and unfortunately, things will likely get a lot worse before they start getting better.

Now that it is becoming commonplace for folks to work on their vacation, do we really believe employers will ease up and insist that their employees really get away from it all?

Of course not. Most employers are content to increase what is expected of their employees.

However, this will likely result in more cases of worker burnout and cause their employee to look for another job.

So, in the long-term, it will be the company that loses out. I guess that is too bad, but that is what they get for pushing their luck.


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Joltin' Django said...

"According to the poll, a fifth of all vacationers are now taking portable laptop computers on their trips."

What's wrong with that?! You might need to update your fantasy baseball (or football, or hockey) roster ... !