Economy, Technology Bring Work to Vacations

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Sep. 3, 2012 12:00 am  

Who has time for vacations these days, anyway? Actually, plenty do - but they're taking work with them, and both technology and the economy are responsible

Johnson said that during her own vacation in July, she corresponded with employees on three of the four weekdays she was off.

"Based on today's economic times, you have to do more with less," said Michael Smith, human resources manager for the Clinton National Airport in Little Rock. "People leave and are terminated, and companies don't want to fill those positions, so you've got less and less of a team to work with. You want to take PTO, but the only other person who wanted to cover you is no longer working there. This is something a lot of other companies are faced with. It's a growing trend. You have to have that work-life balance, but there's so much work and not enough people to cover it."

Vogt said the work-life imbalance had something to do with the diversity of the American economy.

"We have such a strong service industry," she said. "That doesn't often come with vacation benefits, and we have a fairly strong agricultural industry as well, in most states, and I think the school year has changed in some pockets of the U.S."

Smith said his management position means that he is usually on call. The airport itself employs about 165 workers, mostly hourly. Smith said the work-life imbalance hadn't hit the airport as hard as some other workplaces.

A Continuing Trend

The future doesn't look too good for those who want to totally unplug from work.

"I see it getting worse," Johnson said. "There are more tools available to stay attached. We're in that type of society. And I feel there's a psychological side to it: Some people are email junkies. They hear the beep, they look down, see emails, and they have to check them. I think employers ... maybe they don't take advantage of it, but they don't discourage it either."

"If vacations are to get away and relax, then yes, vacations might be in danger," said Vogt. "And I think it will rest in the consumer's purview to decide whether [workers] can leave and be away from the office. I think some will succeed and others will not. I think the vacation - in terms of getting that relaxed, unplugged and balanced life - I think for some, it's harder to achieve that outcome if they aren't able to leave their office behind."

Vogt said she tends to stay connected when she's on her own vacations. But does she work away from home?

"I try not to," she said. "I think I'm like other people. If they do a little bit every day, then when they get back it won't be as bad. Taking care of a few things on vacation means that Monday, when I do hit the office, I'm not snowed under. I think that's what motivates a lot of people to stay connected."

(There remains one place really hard to reach: the middle of the ocean.)

 

 

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