IT Employment

Vacation? What a quaint concept

Do you plan on foregoing your vacation this year out of fear or being overwhelmed with work? If so, you're not alone, according to a new survey from CareerBuilder.

Do you plan on foregoing your vacation this year out of fear or being overwhelmed with work? If so, you're not alone, according to a new survey from CareerBuilder.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Nearly three in ten IT workers say they haven't gone on or aren't planning on taking a vacation in 2009; 16 percent indicate it is because they just can't afford it; 11 percent are either afraid of losing their jobs or they feel quilty about being away from the office.

That's the data from CareerBuilder's annual vacation survey. And of those who are actually taking a vacation, there seems to be some confusion as to what the word actually means:

Seven in ten IT employers say they expect employees to check in with the office while they are away, with 50 percent indicating it'll be necessary only if they are working on a big project or there's a big issue going on with the company. More than half (54 percent) of IT workers say that during their vacations they plan to contact the office once or more, regardless of what they are working on.

I completely understand the fear of taking a vacation. It's a scary economy with so many unknowns that it's hard to relax away from the office. And with fewer people tasked with doing more, it's also a huge hill to climb just to get to a point where you can take a few days off.

Eric Presley, Chief Technology Officer at CareerBuilder, makes the following suggestions for ensuring your vacation really is a vacation:

  • Start Preparing the Office Today - The minute you start thinking about booking a vacation, talk to your supervisor and see if the dates you want to be away are a good time for both of you.
  • Leave a Plan Behind - A few weeks before you leave, start recording important information, key contacts, and any deadlines that will come up while you are gone and give it to a coworker who can fill in for you while you are gone.
  • Stick to a Schedule - While it's best to leave the office at the office, if you must do work, set limits and boundaries for yourself and your co-workers. Don't let activities on vacation be interrupted by work.
  • Set a Good Example - If you are the boss, take a vacation and limit your contact with the office. Workers will feel much better getting away and enjoying themselves if they see the boss doing the same.

And I offer one of my own: Try not to get sunscreen on your laptop.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

98 comments
kdavis
kdavis

The last time I took a vacation (i.e., more than a couple of days off at a time)was in 2002. I was called and told I was being laid off. I haven't taken off more than 4 days in a row since, and rarely that. Partially, it is because I am the only one doing my job, and I have to be available on Fridays; Partially because I have no money to go any where; Partially, because with a house full of teenagers and elderly parents to care for WORK is more of a vacation than home. Everyone has a different story. Someday, I'll get to go somewhere and do what I want instead of taking care of everyone else.

gnaydo
gnaydo

In my experience, you have not achieved a well running dept if it cannot run without you. There should be procedures in place that other know who to contact if problems should arise. It might sound like you are working yourself out of a job, but think about the work and effort you will need to accomplish to achieve this goal. Plus the added benefit of less stress on the job is a by-product. I too thought this was pipe dream until a tech manager put this in action and I saw the level of calmness on his face. A vacation should be like a planned project that you take care of all the details.

jsaubert
jsaubert

I've never felt bad about taking my vacation time, even in the middle of a project. Mind you, I try very hard not to schedule anything while there is something major going on but sometimes things come up while I'll be gone. Normally my Vacations are planed around specific conventions or events and I'm not able to just "reschedule" them and in some cases they've been planed a year in advance. (I have one vacation already planed/partly paid for in July of 2011, yep over two years away.) On the upside I'm very meticulous about getting the office ready before I go and everyone knows as far in advance as possible. There is a purple 1/2 inch ring binder that has become known as the "Folder of Knowledge" while I'm out. Everything that is even remotely pending, on a time line, is a known issue or going to happen while I'm gone goes in the folder. I'm also really lenient about people calling me on vacations. I even get a few end users that might 2-way me to walk them through something; 99% of the time they didn't know I was out of the office. Honesty, It kind of makes me feel needed when I get calls from the office. That might be silly but it's a sense of job satisfaction for me. On slow days I worry about my job security and I start thinking "Is my position really that necessary?" ... then when I start preparing for time off it hits me how many little things I just handle as they come up and don't even notice. My vacation time is very important to me and I take it for me not the office. If you find yourself that afraid to take time off there may be some other underlying issue besides the economy. Like fear of the company itself or uncertainty of your job performance. And that is not a healthy work environment. As long as you don't abuse the time off to dodge your work load there should be no issue.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

Comapny had better just deal with that. There are Laws you know....

Snak
Snak

My time is my time. If my employer doesn't like that - tough. Check in whilst on hols? No way. Not now, not ever. Screw that. Anyone who feels guilty because they're away from the office on vacation wants his/her head examining. Look - it's simple. The universe is 10.6 billion years old and it will continue for another 10 billion years at least. The amount of time I exist is a paltry 70-odd years (if I'm lucky), which, by comparison is pathetic. The point is, you only ever own Time. Your house and anything else you think you 'own', you only borrow whilst you can use it. If the only thing you ever own is time (and an insignificant bit at that) then you have a duty to yourself to sell what you must to live, for as much as possible and the time you don't have to sell, you should spend as you please. I do not lounge around on beaches (god, what a waste of time that is) but use MY time as I see fit - not puppy-dogging to some jumped-up idiot who thinks he owns me. When I am on vacation. I'm on vacation. Period.

delphiniumeve
delphiniumeve

I soooo need one, but I am concerned about taking one. I have been with my employer just short of two years. I negotiated extra vacation in lieu of the money the job is really worth. Due to the economy and the negative press my employer is getting, I am afraid to be gone more than a few days. My brain needs a full rest and reboot, but I doubt I will do more than a couple of days here and there. I even crave leaving the city in which I live...it is just not in my best career interest to do so right now.

a3vlutters
a3vlutters

Maybe you should move to a country where employers are obliged by law to send their personnel on vacation for at least two weeks a year. I'm not 100% sure it is always enforced, but it is the law in the Netherlands....

leo8888
leo8888

I have been with the same company for over 10 years working as a network admin. Last year I took 2 weeks vacation. The first to go out of state camping with my family and the second was supposed to be for relaxing and finding things to do close to home. With 3 days of vacation left I received a call from the office that one of our servers was down and since it was the one that stored our companies main database application I had to go in to see what was wrong. I spent most of a day trying to get it running before I found that it was a hard drive going bad causing intermittent problems. Then I spent the night installing a new drive, reloading the server and restoring data from backups. I worked from 10am to until after 3am during the whole process to make sure they would be up and running again for the next day. For all my trouble I wasn't even given the option of making up the time I lost that was supposed to be the end of my vacation. They paid me regular time and I returned to work the next week like nothing had happened. I try to keep a good attitude but the next time I go on vacation I may just turn my phones off since I didn't feel appreciated for the sacrifice of my time and the effort I put into getting things running as quickly as I could for them. Of course I learned many things from the experience and now have a more streamlined disaster recovery process in case something like this occurs in the future.

docotis
docotis

I haven't taken any time off since 1997. Even if I miss a day, it's so bad when I get back that it wasn't worth it. Fourteen months to go and I take the "well earned retirement" vacation.

thehooligan
thehooligan

Still gonna take my 2 vacations per year. NO CHANGES!

clgroce
clgroce

We don't have a choice. My company requires 5 consecutive days (non weekend) every year.

dbecker
dbecker

Threaten them that you will run for office. My vacations are set each year by the Holyday Calendar. The government agency for which I work will not touch that with a ten foot Pole, not that our friendly folks in Poland grow that tall!

aerocentral01
aerocentral01

As an entrepreneur, I realize that taking a vacation means three things: 1) I won't make any money while I'm away. 2) My customers won't receive any service while I'm away. 3) I'll be spending a lot of money on vacation, as I ruin my business. Everything I earn and then some will eventually have to be paid to the tax man. I can control all my expenses, to a high degree -- except those obligations my rulers capriciously place on me, to fund their wealthy contributors and to their parasitic constituents. These demands are unrelenting, and cannot be predicted, negotiated or even reasoned with, much less managed. So, my last vacation was in 1974. I plan on dying soon, of a heart attack, as I desperately try to stay ahead of the tax man. What a country! May the ruling class rot in hell. (Strong sentiments withheld, since this is a family forum.)

rball
rball

I don't like taking vacations since as a one-person IT team, if I leave, I'm bothered by phone ON vacation AND I have piles and piles of work when I get back that might take 2 weeks to catch up on. Co-workers might give me grief about stuff but they never realize the kind of insane hours IT pros have to put in to keep things running. Do the nurses ever have to come in at 2 am on a Saturday to cool down the server room? No. 'Nuf said. Give us our vacations and leave us alone :-)

sjohnson175
sjohnson175

We're just all too stuck in our old ways to go about it. It takes effort on the part of both the employer and employees to make it work though. http://www.culturerx.com/

mark.silvia
mark.silvia

One time when I was on vacation a co-worker called while I was on horseback on the beach and told him so. I also asked if this issue could wait until I return -- he said yes. I replied, then it can wait until I get back. Please only call for show-stopping emergencies. If it can be handle by your or when I get back. Don't call. I generally try to keep my personal life and work life separate. There have been times I have actually left the pager on my desk in plain view in the office to let them know that I mean business. Plus, I leave notes and detailed instructions so there is no need to call me. When I'm on vaction, I am on vacation, not a business trip.

nonyabizness_99
nonyabizness_99

"or they feel quilty" Quilty?? Is that the urge to make blankets instead of taking a vacation?

wlportwashington
wlportwashington

What is a vacation? I'd like to know. With the way the economy has been who can afford to go anywhere? It is way to expensive; since 9/11 it is a hassle to go by air; you get stopped in the train stations; and the rolling road blocks...looking for unfastened seatbelts and expired stickers (yea right. Explain the sniffer that you pass by). The way companies are tightening their belts, layoffs abound and jobs are offshored. For those that are lucky enough to have a job you most likley will have little or no help so you cannot take time off. And if you do management can replace you in a heartbeat with the glut of unemployed IT workers. In my case, I carry a broadband laptop with me at all times so I can remote into the office when needed so in reality, I never get a day off.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

Summer: 1 week as an adult leader for the troop at scout camp. Trying to ride herd on, and keep up with boys and young men 3 to 4 times younger than I am. And you think I talk a line of bull here, you should see me around a camp fire doing stories and skits. Fall: 1 week deer hunting. Key word, hunting, not shooting. Spending 8 to 10 hours per day in the frosty woods trying to figure out Bambi in 1 week what Bambi has been figuring out all his life. Guess what? Like most hunters, Me vs Bambi, Bambi usually wins. but it's fun trying, and sometimes I get to supplement the beef in the freezer with venison. Winter: usually 1 week for Christmas or New Years. Other week of earned time is usually eaten up by Memorial Day, July 4th, Veterans day, Thanksgiving, and a few sick days.

scoopboys
scoopboys

I'm taking a vacation day today, and (of course) VPN'd in to check email. Then, I saw this topic in the email from TR... Too many of us take vacation days but don't truly disconnect. When on vacation, we should leave our Blackberrys alone and NOT be reachable. Doing otherwise ignores the reason for taking a vacation - to get away. Honestly, none of us are so indispensable that we can't leave our workplace for a few days without it imploding...

raymond.greenfield
raymond.greenfield

Well do not have anyone get sick and die in your family because you will get laid off because you took too much time off when you come back

ken.lassiter.
ken.lassiter.

When I was younger and new to IT, I gave up a scheduled vacation with family. I have not since and never will again. Because I realized that if I fell off the planet today - the company would continue working without me the project would be picked up by someone else. Things would move forward without me. All companies have a COOP for "C" level personnel if they are lost or die. So why would anyone think that a company would not continue without you. BTW the vacation I gave up, was one my daughter started walking.

dkoch
dkoch

This whole idea of being "available" while on vacation is a uniquely American (and perverse) attitude. When I go on vacation I make sure I am off the grid - I work to live not live to work. It is a sad commentary on 21st Century American society that we have let employers convince us that they can't live without us (until they decide to fire us). But then again, that feeds into a lot of egos that simply believe they are irreplaceable. Ego and greed, gee, where has that gotten us in our modern economy? Sorry, kids. Call me an old fart or a troglodyte, I really don't care. My vacation is sacrosanct. If my employer can't get along without me for 4 or 5 days, he needs a better business plan. Just my opinion, and there's nothing humble about it.

KJQ
KJQ

It doesn't matter when I plan to take vacation because there is always some crisis that comes up just before I'm to start it and/or while I'm on it. I used to not check email or take calls while on vacation, but found myself facing an overwhelming volume of emails and problems to sort out upon returning from vacation. It takes weeks to catch up and caused me to actually dread taking vacation. Part of the problem is I have no one to fully take over my duties while on vacation as all of my subordinates are overworked as well, so the work piles up until I return. On top of that, for urgent things that come up my staff used to "take their best guess" how to deal with the issue. That meant spending hours to days to deal with/redo issues that weren't quite handled well. Now I check email and take calls on vacation. Yes, it means a number of interruptions. If I can answer an issue with a 5 minute call or email which prevents hours of "extra" work upon my return, it is well worth it in my opinion. Yes, I should have someone trained and able to take over for me, but it's not feasible in my fiscal situation. In my organization as the senior IT person I'm on the same level in the organization chart as the building's plumber - need I say more?

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

The US military requires everybody to take a month's vacation every year and for good reason. I only get 2 weeks in the current job, but I take every hour of it. I'm on call 24/7/364, so I can't really have a life. A vacation allows me to just disconnect from everything, turn off all the electronics, and [u][i]relax[/i][/u].

reisen55
reisen55

There was a world without blackberry. Since then, a vacation has turned from resting on a beach with a beer or a glass of wine to PRODUCTIVE 24 HOUR ACCESS THEY NEED ME NOW AT THE HOME OFFICE............ A co-worker I knew blew up at one of her colleagues for standing on-line at Disneyworld with his family texting proposals over his blackberry. She told him to put the damn thing down AND ENJOY HIS FAMILY. We have forgotten how to do that. 24-7-365 available has infected all of us and not for the better either.

andrew.dzierga
andrew.dzierga

Vacation is an extremely essential part of your well being. A report was just released yesterday pointing to increased health risk.

pete
pete

There are two ways of looking at vacations. You could take the attitude that the work is more important - that you can always take a vacation later. On the other hand you could just work yourself to death. Unfortunatly people do head towards extremes - which might account for why many business people die before their time. Stress is a killer and excess stress lowers your ability to do you your job quickly and accurately - it also stifles creativity. For that reason I'd think very carefully about ignoring vacations.

mirossmac2
mirossmac2

I hoped I might forgo mentioning the difference (between forgo and forego) but it would have worked better if I could have foregone all the above comments. Even so, my pedant soul cannot forgo the opportunity.

davidlewis7
davidlewis7

My only comment/question is What's a vacation?? I seem to vaguely remeber going on something by that name as a child with my parents. It is never even a consideration at this point in my life.

misceng
misceng

In UK and Europe the attitude is different. Vacations are treated as an essential tool for renewal. People are expected to have a life outside the workplace and come back from vacation refreshed and thus more effective. As an apprentice, employee and later senior manager I saw all sides of this. If a manager cannot arrange the workload to cope with vacations both for himself and staff he/she is not coping properly. Having worked with some Americans I am not sure that the pressures they worked under actually got more done. Fortunately being retired I can now enjoy 7 day weekends.

rschalie
rschalie

Our concept of the summer vacation is a leftover from the agricultural society where the children were needed in summer to help with the harvest. As this is no longer the case (at least in most first-world economies) I would avocate abandoning this concept. Most resistance can be expected from the schools, who will have to rethink their way of working (which in itself might be a good thing) as there may be no longer fixed periode in which all students will be absent and other periods in which all student will be present. Food for thought, i would say.

prhowe
prhowe

Yes, after a career in IT, (with never getting a vacation) all we can hope for is basket weaving, quilt making and mumbling incoherently. My last vacation, I (vaguely) remember standing on the beach in San Diego with a cell phone glued to my ear.

bigaussie
bigaussie

I run my own 1 person company and I am still able to take holidays. Obviously I remain reachable, but so long as all preventative measures have been setup, my clients are always happy to know I am getting a break too. I try to make sure I am reachable at least once every 24 hour period, but my wonderful clients are always apologetic when disturbing me. I think much is to do with educating those we support. They appreciate knowing more than their friends about their systems, and because they know more, they are less likely to make silly mistakes. IT should not be about shrouding everything in mystery, but providing knowledge and tools to assist end users with helping themselves. That leaves more time for other important things to get done - with less pressure. Maybe the attitudes in Australia are different, but in the main we are always happy to hear others are going on holiday.

OneShotStop
OneShotStop

I did the same thing yesterday. I had a day off and tunneled in to check and respond to emails. It's a hard habit to break.

Shellbot
Shellbot

its too easy to check in these days! I reckon if the place falls apart witout you, then it must be a pretty bad place to work, because obviously they not staffed appropriatly, or are too cheap to get an experienced temp in.

flanneryp
flanneryp

Simple fact, folks. We're all expendable - but we're not all expendable at once.

silvergrrl
silvergrrl

I'm with you. When I am out of the office on leave, I am NOT available by phone or email. I have a separate work cell phone that gets turned off, and pretty much no one at work has my personal cell number. I am a better emnployee because I draw the boundary between my life at work and my life outside of work. Interestingly enough, it always seems like SOMETHING goes horribly awry while I'm on vacation, and they manage just fine until I return. Sometimes they even solve it without me, and I get to avoid the whole drama. Double plus good!

PM III
PM III

Put the Blackberry down and step away. Move slowly. Do not make any sudden moves.

jlippens
jlippens

I agree with your "attitude" shift between the states and UK&Europe...we Americans put too much emphasis on what we do rather than who we are...thus our egos fall into "this place can't live without me". I guess I am an anomoly. Being in the tech world for almost 20 years, I know who I am is NOT what I do. Thus, I know where I work can do fine without me for a week, month or a lifetime. There's always another place, job, career just around the corner and someone will fill your shoes at the place you were.

Shellbot
Shellbot

In Europe you are entitled to what 20 days a year of leave, and if your company doesn't let you take them, they are breaking the law. Obviously they have some veto on when and how long you take at once..within reason. One of the reason I'd likley never move back to canada is the employment regulations..they are brutal compared to here. And on that note, I am off tomorrow morning..2 weeks holiday in France.

a.barry
a.barry

School isn't like work. If you miss a week, you are a week behind and have to catch up in real-time. Although I admit that summer vacations are perhaps an anachronism, I don't think a continuously running school where students could miss weeks (or days) as needed would accomplish much. However perhaps dividing the year into smaller blocks with more frequent shorter vacations might keep students from forgetting everything during the summer.

Shellbot
Shellbot

whats your beef? summer is a good time to take holidays because the weather is better.. generally anyways.. besides, you can take vacation any time of year, no one says it has to be in summer.. should kids go to school all year round ? you must have had a sh!ttee experience on sumemr holidays?? just cause you grow up and take and responsibilities, doesn't mean you have to be old and forget whats its like to be a kid. chill out dude

wlportwashington
wlportwashington

At least in Australia things are a bit normal. But here in the Big Apple if you stand still to long you are replaced in a heart beat.

dkoch
dkoch

I'm with you Ann. I come from a long line of Union activists and the idea of a company (or a career) owning an individual is anathema.

Ed-M
Ed-M

The UK statutory holiday entitlement is now 28 days (5.6 weeks) per year for full time employees, and is prorated for part time. That would include a combination of public holidays and personal vacations. In some companies it could be greater for more senior staff. Our office allows 32 days (6.4 weeks) for everyone. This amounts to at least 4 weeks personal holiday for everyone, regardless of seniority. Americans probably average less than half that. In our UK office with lots of American staff, this creates interesting cultural responses. Americans can tend to think of Europeans as lazy and pampered and Europeans sometimes think of Americans as driven and unappreciative of the finer things in life. The UK standard means that somewhere between 11% - 15% of the payroll expense is invested in *zero* productivity, a fact some Americans tend to pick up on. On the other hand, Europeans claim that the payroll investment in actual work time results in higher, per-day productivity because of the generous holiday allowance. I'm in a position to observe the actual metrics on this compared to the other side of the pond (albeit within a charity organisation where people's prime motivation for their work is entirely unrelated to pay) and have so far found it to be untrue. Where there is higher productivity tends to depend on other factors. Ed

Photogenic Memory
Photogenic Memory

LOL! America is very much like Asia now. Work work work work work! No work means no bucks. No bucks means no eats. Who has time for a vacation when you need to put food on the table. Welcome to modern America.

Kostaghus
Kostaghus

Most people tend to forget that their ACTUAL life starts AFTER 5 p.m. Working is not living. Working is MAKING MONEY TO LIVE. Replacing your life with your work IS WRONG!!!

richard.ots
richard.ots

There is a false dichotomy between the concepts "work" and "life".

dkoch
dkoch

Silly me, I thought we were talking about vacations. I didn't realize the crackpot political fringe was eavesdropping. Do yourself a favor and get a life.

bg6638
bg6638

Then you're in for a rude awakening when Obama implements his plans for a marxist-socialist society ............. thus Obama will own YOU!

Shellbot
Shellbot

I fully plan on enjoying!! Going with hubby and 2 mates..cheap drink, good food, good friends.. Its gonna be a blast!

sithomas
sithomas

"If working is not living, or at least part of living, then what is it? The opposite of living is dying. " Maybe Work = Living Death? Kidding! Seriously though I am a 'pampered European' according to what I read throughout this discussion. Last year my wife had to take the kids on vacation without me. This summer I have had to cancel my plans to go away for a week with my family in order to spend the time at home studying for an MCTS to help me survive yet another reorg / merger which is happening in the autumn.

Kostaghus
Kostaghus

I work for a living. Period. If you do that for fun, that's your problem. Personally, instead of "enjoying myself" in an office, I prefer doing this at the seaside, spending time with my family, or mountain hiking with them, or reading a good book, or... a million other things besides managing repairs of printing equipment (which is what I do for a living - and I mean BIG printing equipment not computer printers). The entire blah-blah about meaningfull... whatever that is, is just a way of hiding your lack of personal life! As to the charity thing... Nice of you to do that. I also DONATE for charity. However, devoting my entire life to that is not something I feel I was made for. I'm neither a saint nor Mother Theresa... I'm more of a sinner and admit it. I work as long and AS MUCH as I'm paid for. And I feel working is not what man was made for. After all, work had made man what he is, but lack of work isn't known to have ever killed anyone.

Nori Sarel
Nori Sarel

I enjoy my job a lot, but that doesn't mean that I don't wish I had every Friday off of work. If I didn't have to work I don't think I would be too terribly sad about. But I do enjoy work for the experience, learning and creative release it gives me. I get to do a lot of great things. However, I won't give up a day of my vacation to work because my personal live is very important to me and in the end a job is a job, but life only comes once.

Ed-M
Ed-M

If working is not living, or at least part of living, then what is it? The opposite of living is dying. Do you actually spend half your waking workday hours in such a state? What an enormous waste! We were made for meaningful, creative, productive expression of our skills and talents for the betterment and benefit of others as well as ourselves. Surely there must be some way to do that in your job, or to see your job differently. If you were working at our company only to make money to live, and not feeling any passion for the possibilities your job could have to improve living for others, then you wouldn't last long. You either need a new job or a new perspective. I don't say this in any kind of put-down way. Maybe this is a time to take stock and realise there may be a different job out there that you could integrate with the whole of your life. Wouldn't it be great to really look forward to coming work every day for the blessings and possibilities your job could create and not just the money? I work full-time (more than, actually) for a charity and get paid nothing by the them. I go out and raise *all* my support for living expenses through voluntary donations from friends, family, churches and other sources in order to have the privilege of doing the work I do (and to help meet human needs they are eager to help with as well). I can hardly get to the office fast enough in the mornings! Obviously, not everyone is called to do this kind of thing, but if you actually get paid to do what you do, surely there must be some way to think of work as part of your real life. Sorry, but I get really disturbed and saddened by your view of work and life (which is also shared by many others). You need a passion for something beyond yourself. Ed

Editor's Picks