Taking Time Away from Work

As I write this, my mind is focused on my big holiday trip, just two days away. It’s a trip I’ve been planning for five years, and it includes our children, their spouses, and our grandchildren – eleven people in all. I’m still debating on whether to take a laptop along, but I’m leaning towards leaving it at home right now. Thanks to my smartphone, I can do most of the things that I should be doing while away from work right on it.

As an editor, I am not responsible for any servers. If a SQL Server is responding slowly, no one is going to contact me; I don’t get any phone calls in the middle of the night about an application being unavailable. Even though I don’t have the types of responsibilities that once ruled my life, I take the responsibilities that I do have very seriously. I’ve been scrambling the past few days, sometimes working late into the evening, to make sure everything is done before I leave. And I already know that the week I go back to work is going to be hectic if my deadlines will be met.

Workers in the US are notorious for not taking their paid holiday time. And it’s not like most of us get that much time off to begin with. Two weeks per year is typical. Those days off are precious, but many workers, according to the article, are afraid they could passed over for promotions, or possibly lose their jobs, if they are away too long.

It’s even worse in IT. Many IT professionals have specialized knowledge and skills. Often, especially at small companies, they might be the only DBA or systems administrator with no one available to fill in while they are out. Big projects, like mergers or ERP implementations, add extra work while the day to day tasks still need to be completed. They find themselves working long days and weekends just to keep up.

In some cases, workers can cash in unused time at the end of the year. When management of a company I used to work for realized that salaried employees took advantage of that quite often, they took the benefit away. Holiday time became “use it or lose it” even though managers often refused to approve any time off for months during big projects. It’s not like the IT folks didn’t want to take time off; it was just very difficult to do.

Workers, especially in IT, need to take advantage of time away from the job to spend with family, to travel, and to enjoy life. Employers should make sure that their employees know that they are expected to take time off, and they won’t be penalized for doing so. A company culture that rewards employees for not taking their time off benefits will also foster burn out and increased turnover.

I will forget about my responsibilities while I’m gone as I snorkel with manta rays and create memories with my family. Those responsibilities will be right where I left them when I get back.

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