Time Off

Time is a precious commodity, and so much of our time is dedicated to working. IT professionals often have jobs with good benefits, including generous paid time off. It’s very important to get away from work to relax and recharge, but, sometimes, it’s difficult to take those days that belong to us. Even when we do take the days, it’s difficult to completely break away without staying connected to work through our phones and email.

Scheduling is often a problem. What do you do if you plan time off, but there is something important scheduled during that time, and your manager thinks that you must be involved? Do you try to make sure that someone else can cover, or do you go ahead and work even though you are officially unavailable? I remember working almost every weekend one summer during a big project. I didn’t mind it so much except when I was stuck in the hotel working while my family was enjoying themselves on the beach. Could I have just trained someone else to do the tasks I needed to perform that weekend? Sure, but the only good candidates were not available because they also had so much work to do on the project. If I worked in a bigger shop, delegating responsibility would have been the best solution.

There are also unexpected issues and emergencies. In a perfect world, everything that could go wrong is documented, and the steps to follow when it does are in a runbook. If you work on a small team, or are the lone person in your role, keeping that documentation current is a big effort. Sometimes, just answering a question or two is helpful to the team even when you are away. While I was a database administrator, I took three vacation trips on cruise ships over the eight years I was in the role. (You can get internet access on the ship, but it is painfully slow and expensive.) While on the cruise, I would communicate via email every day with my junior DBA, who also had many other non-DBA responsibilities, to answer questions. It was difficult for me to relax because I couldn’t stop thinking about the servers and databases.

It also depends on the job. When I worked at a consulting company, I didn’t have to work for the customers on weekends, holidays, or during my paid time off, but I did need to watch for emails from my manger and the sales team. I also had to spend many Sundays traveling to client sites. Even while I wasn’t technically working, I was still not able to completely break away from my job.

In my new role as an editor, I plan to forget about work when I take my next holiday trip. The work will be piling up as I’m away, but I’m not going to think about it.

What about you? Are you able to break away from your job and use those precious days to relax? Tell us in the comments.

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