I tune out work during vacation. Does that make me a slacker?

Ok folks, I know it feels like I’ve fallen off the planet (at least my guilt tells me so).  I haven’t responded to work emails for two weeks, posted anything on this blog or even batted an eyelash at LinkedIn, though I’ll admit I responded to some emails on LinkedIn because there is no “out of office” notification available and I didn’t want to publicize to the world on my status update that I was MIA.

I know Agata had a few opinions on defining your own work-life balance; she found the 40 hour work week limiting.  My take?  I find time away from work refreshing.  When my vacation time comes, I say “Just Check Out” (enter Nike swosh!).  OK, I’ll admit I snuck in a half day of work in there because I didn’t want to bail on my colleagues…  I had promised to get a few things done before I took off and simply didn’t get to them in-office.

The media is all over the need to take time away from work to maintain health and productivity and I’ll back that up.  Unplugging is vital for my sanity.  Oh, remember the days when you couldn’t check your voicemail or email offsite… nothing collapsed.

The fine print:  when it comes to recharging, everyone is different.  For example, I need 8 hours of sleep whereas some can get away with 6.  I cannot skip any meal, especially not breakfast and I don’t understand how people can eat cereal and feel full (e.g. this morning I had 2 eggs and 2 pieces of toast for breakfast with salsa and coffee).  I must exercise to sleep at night and ultimately re-energize.  I devour chick lit and reality TV to escape.  I spend more time with my extended family than most people.  To get these things done I require time away from work.  I’m not a clock-watcher but there is only so much one person can get done in a day before they start being unproductive.  Taking time away from work does not make you a bad employee or mean you hate your job.

Let’s just not be haters of anyone whose working style is different from our own.  We all make our choices, we all have our own biology and we all have our own obligations.   We’re extraordinarily lucky to live in a free world, so to each his own.  Just get the job done.


Helen Luketic is the manager of HR metrics & research at BC Human Resources Management Association.  Besides editing this blog, researching and running the HR Metrics Service, she is busy working on a policy which would allow her to wear her Mini-Mouse ears to work.

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7 Responses

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  3. Helen, your post was refreshing! It can be so hard to tune out when you are able to check email or facebook or linkedin, but it’s so important. Unfortunately, the only times I seem checked out are when I’m half wasy around the world without internet access, but I’m trying to find ways to check out in the evening, on the weekend, and frankly, sometimes when I’m at work. I think taking a few minutes to do nothing (as my yoga intructor espouses) can be an amazing boost to your productivity.

    I also loved the fine print. It’s so important to recognize what re-energizes you, what drains you, and what your strategies are for managing that.

    Thanks for the great post!

  4. Helen – by penning (or keyboarding) this post, you’ve proven that it is good to recharge!

    As you say “Let’s just not be haters of anyone whose working style is different from our own.”

    Balance is both personal and situational. I think where HR needs to look at this is to recognize that flexibility is the key, not offering a prescribed menu of flexible options. (I’ve got my own blog post on this topic coming up). By creating structured flexibility, in essence, we enable clock watching and the feeling you describe: “is it ok to not work?”. Add to the flexibility, a chance for each person to describe themselves the way that you did and share as part of their profile/cube decor, or other way to allow their co-workers to see – a subtle way of setting boundaries.

    I was once told that I should meditate (which I have trouble doing), but instead I realized I needed a “ritual” which signified the end of the work day (it was a specific song) to tell my body to switch gears.

    But then again take my ramblings with a grain of salt, I’m an extreme case since I ran away from the city (and corporate life) to live on a semi-rural island where I have no work-life balance because it’s all mashed up together!

  5. Hi Helen,

    OMG – I have been tagged in a post. I have changed camps since your vacation. I had a little bit of a crash after the last few months, and my body decided that after 7 years of health that is was time to put me on my ass (literally).

    So this weekend, I took off for additional days to Whistler to rejuvinate. Boy did I love it! At the same token, I still love working my 10 hour days and sticking in everything in the middle and where it fits.

    I do however have a lot of respect for people who are self aware and understand what they need to make them happy. This is much better than everyone following one person’s lead (ie. me and my crazy work ethic) because it would lead to 1) a lot of turnover, 2) unproductivity, and 3) unhappy employees.

    PS – your not a slacker.

  6. First off – you are not a slacker.

    As a fairly engaged WC watcher, it was key to me to have the time I needed to engage in the WC. If I didn’t, I would have been dreadful to work with! 😉

    I also know that the key for me to be productive, happy and hard working, I need to ensure I have a work/life dynamic that is all about me.

    I was on vacation recently, and as a new manager, I started by checking my blackberry every morning. Why? For me, it provided peace of mind. There was nothing that was too urgent, or that my staff couldn’t handle, but being a new manager, I worry. So rather than fight that, I embraced it. Funny enough, by the end of the trip, I wasn’t checking it and things were working out just fine.

    Someone told me that in life sometimes you have to slow down to hurry up. Rest and relaxing (however you do it) certainly helps people to be even faster and more productive. This of course is IMHO!

    • Took me a while to figure it out but I think by WC you mean World Cup and not water closet? 🙂 As an avid WC fan, I concur with your points. Like the Olympics, who can possibily concentrate during a key match? You’re better off checking out and coming back to work pumped up.

      To everyone else out there, thanks for confirming that I am indeed not a slacker! I don’t think of myself as one either but I wanted to put it out there as a question to generate discussion, as I’ve read other career-related blogs that suggest that in order to be considered “engaged”, working 24/7 is what you have to do.

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