Survey: More workers check in even on vacation

An increasing number of U.S. workers who take vacation are performing work-related tasks on their so-called off time, according to a Harris Interactive survey of 2,212 U.S. adults.

More than half of employed Americans will perform some type of job-related task while vacationing -- reading work-related e-mails and taking phone calls -- according to findings released July 16, 2012. That’s an increase of 6 percentage points from a similar survey in 2011.

Men were more likely than women to perform job duties while on vacation (56% versus 47%, respectively), and single workers are more likely than married workers to have a boss, client or colleague ask them to perform a task while on vacation.

The online survey was conducted within the U.S. in May 2012 for TeamViewer, a provider of remote control and online meetings software. Among respondents, 1,309 were employed full or part-time or were self-employed.

Its findings:

• 30% expect to read work-related emails on summer vacation.

• 23% expect to receive work-related phone calls.

• 19% will want access to a document on their home computer; 13% will want access to a document on their work computer.

• 18% expect to receive work-related text messages.

• 13% expect a boss, client or colleague to ask them to work while on vacation.

• 15% of single Americans versus 6% of married Americans expect a boss, client or colleague to ask them to work while on vacation.

• 39% of employed Americans living in the West versus 25% of those living in the South say they plan to read work-related e-mails during summer vacation.

Additionally, CareerBuilder found in its Summer Vacation Outlook 2012 survey that three in 10 workers contact work during their vacation and 23% once had to work while the family went on vacation without them, similar to its 2011 findings.

Thirty-seven  % of managers expect employees to check in with the workplace while on vacation, although most say only if involved in a big project or major issue, CareerBuilder found.

The findings are based on 5,772 full-time U.S. workers age 18 and older and 2,303 hiring managers and HR professionals. Harris Interactive conducted the online survey in February and March 2012.

‘Paid, paid’ vacations

Some employees check in because they don’t want to be overwhelmed with an overflowing inbox of work when they return, fear being out of the loop while on vacation, or from a “misguided hero syndrome.”

CareerBuilder suggested managers can help employees maximize their time off by helping them prioritize tasks that need to be done before and after they’re on vacation, consult with them on what work is most important, and what can be eliminated or postponed until their return.

Rosemary Haefner, VP HR at CareerBuilder, noted that not only is it a manager’s responsibility to help employees with work/life balance when it comes to vacations -- even if finances keep employees close to home -- it’s advantageous for a productive work environment.

“Workers who maximize vacation time are less likely to burn out and more likely to maintain productivity levels,” she said in a news release.

“Heavy workloads and financial constraints can make it difficult to get away from work, but even if you’re not traveling far from home, a few days away can have a very positive impact on your health and happiness.”

Brad Lorang, CEO of technology start-up FullContact, is taking a radical company approach to vacations with a giant experiment he calls “Paid, Paid Vacation.” The company gives each employee $7,500 for one 15-day annual vacation. To receive the money, though, the employee must actually go on vacation, unplug from technology, and not work.

“In today’s world of e-mail, iPhones, Androids, Twitter, Facebook and devices on our person 24/7, we’re always connected. It’s not healthy,” Lorang wrote in his blog. He should know; his blog includes a photo of himself and his fiancée riding camels, the pyramids of Egypt before them, while his eyes are glued to his electronic device.

“Perhaps it is a sense of ownership or desire to feel needed, but in many company cultures (especially startups), there is often a misguided hero syndrome that encourages an ‘I’m the only one who can do this’ mentality,” he wrote.

“That’s not heroic. That’s a single point of failure,” he observed. “If people know they will be disconnecting and going off the grid for an extended period of time … at the end of the day, the company will improve. As an added bonus, everyone will be happier and more relaxed knowing that they aren’t the last line of defense.”

Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor for SHRM Online.

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