'Holiday'? What's That?

Charlene OHanlon
Once upon a time, people celebrated the holidays by spending time with their families and staying away from the office. But "Once Upon a Time" is the stuff of fairy tales, and we all know that the days of not working during a holiday are long gone.

One thing has remained the same: We're still staying away from the office. But the very technology that has enabled us to telecommute and be as productive as possible while on the road has also made us an 'always-on-call' society, never fully unplugging from the office. Be honest: How many of you have snuck off to check your e-mail or to take a covert peek at your smartphones during this so-called "down week" between Christmas and the New Year?

Hosting provider Intermedia recently released the results of a survey that proves how much we still think about work even when we're supposed to be relaxing. The survey, which looked at the New Year's resolutions of U.S. workers, noted that only 19 percent are resolving to reduce the number of times they check their office e-mail and voicemail during their time away from the office. (The survey also said 61 percent of respondents pledge to keep their business e-mails and documents more organized in the coming year, and 37 percent are planning to be better about responding to business e-mails and calls more promptly. Both are hard habits to break, so I wish those respondents well.)

Granted, there are times when work is a welcome respite from the holidays and the family conflicts that can sometimes arise. But there are times when work becomes a substitute for living a real life (you can tell those people by the telltale tapping of toes and inability to relax when they're not sitting at a computer), which can be especially destructive during the family-oriented holiday season. It's those people for whom the line between work and home are blurred so much that it simply doesn't exist anymore.

My advice for anyone believing they need to log on during the holiday season is this: Get a kitchen timer and put it next to your computer. Set it for 15 minutes. Then log on to your work account. When the timer goes off, log out and walk away from your computer. That way, you can achieve a healthy balance of work and home life during the holidays and actually return to a relatively empty inbox come Jan. 3.

That, my friends, is my gift to you this holiday.

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