Taking a Vacation from Vacations: Recession Makes Us Workaholics


I'm coming off a long weekend that was preceded by a family emergency that kept me out of the office a few days last week and digging out from a pile of work that accumulated during my absence. So it seems like a good time to ponder a couple of news items regarding work/life balance, a topic that I suspect is near -- though probably not dear -- to many readers of this blog.


According to a CNN.com item, the recession is making workaholics of us all. The layoffs that have been coming fast and furious since the third quarter of last year, including at companies like Microsoft that had seemed somewhat impervious to layoffs, have left many people too nervous to take a vacation this year. Yet because of all the stress generated by the down economy, they could really use one, says Miami Herald columnist Cindy Goodman, author of a blog called The Work/Life Balancing Act. She writes:

The people who still have a job are really feeling overwhelmed and overworked. They're afraid to take vacations, but at the same time, they need them more than ever.

Thirty-five percent of respondents to a recent CareerBuilder survey had no plans for a vacation this year. Of those, 20 percent said they were afraid of losing their jobs and/or would feel guilty being away from the office. (Guilt is fairly common among folks whose jobs were spared when coworkers lost theirs, wrote IT Business Edge's Susan Hall in February.) Seventy-one percent of respondents said they just can't afford a vacation right now. Perhaps also influenced by recession-fueled fears, 28 percent of respondents planning a vacation intend to check in with the office at least once while they are away.


While CareerBuilder offers tips designed to ensure a vacation is devoted to leisure instead of work, such as not scheduling time off near project deadlines and leaving important information with coworkers so they'll be less likely to contact you while you are away, employment firm Challenger Gray & Christmas takes the opposite route, advising folks to take a working vacation if they must take a vacation at all. Among its tips: Check with your boss at least twice a day. Forward calls to your cell phone, and make sure you check messages and return calls. Make sure you are always have access to a wireless Internet connection.


Interestingly, a Challenger spokesman says it isn't about a working vacation. Rather, it's about "staying connected and letting people know you are available." Sounds like work to me.