Do You Take Workcations?

August 12th, 2008 23 Comments

So, I took a long weekend with my wife up in Seattle, and as I normally do, I took my personal laptop.

Before you laugh, it actually does make sense to take it on vacation. I can watch movies on it, look up local attractions, get directions, etc. Plus, I keep up with news and personal communication with it too.

I actually feel unprepared without my laptop. Go figure.

Problem is, it’s ever-so-easy to get some work done while I have a few minutes. I think we all dread the 500 unread messages waiting in our inboxes when we get back from vacation. So, why not ease your mind a bit and plow through a few while you have a moment free.

Oh wait, apparently that’s what vacation is for, i.e. free time, or so I was reminded.

This problem isn’t easily solved by leaving the laptop home anymore, since my iPhone allows me to bring all the same stuff with me, albeit in smaller and slower formats. These limitations do slow me down though. The only real solution is to put me somewhere remote with no access.

You’ve probably heard the term staycation, so I’m coining a new one, the workcation.

Workcations are a problem that’s worse at tech companies, assuming employees can actually take vacation time at all (not if you want to work for Jason Calacanis) and even more so for people who work from home (like me) who already have work/personal life boundary issues.

Making it easy to work also has the undesirable effect of making it hard to relax.

What do you think? Do you have workcations, or can you leave it all at the office? Any tips on how to leave it all behind and relax? Please find the comments. My wife will thank you.


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23 Responses to “Do You Take Workcations?”

  1. S. Venkataramanan Says:

    I take my Asus Eee PC 4G to vacation rather than the company laptop. Eee PC 4G is easy to carry, does not require a separate luggage, limited features, etc. Movies play very well with subtitles and the quality is awesome. I ensure that I don't have my work email configured on the Eee PC. Its difficult to avoid it, I know. But, whenever I go on a vacation, I keep my work PC switched on with Thunderbird running. This ensures that all filers are active and only the important ones remain in my inbox. This is not environmental friendly and I often feel guilty about it. But I don't take vacation that often. However, this reduces my inbox size to 200 emails from 500. Better. But still, once a while you are tempted to look into your work email. I think workcation is an apt word for the vacation in today's world.

  2. Jim Says:

    I suppose it depends on how high level your job is. I like to leave it all behind, but then I am pretty junior. I like to remember the line about how easy people are to replace in a job, and if you were to die, work would replace you (nothing personal against you, I mean in general) pretty quickly, but to family and friends, the gap would be a lot harder to fill, and you would be missed a great deal… That's what makes me tick anyway – thinking that work is just work, but family is the most important thing.

  3. Jake Says:

    Finally, someone who likes the Eee PC. I mentioned in the discussion about Mac vs. Windows, double the price, and everyone said it was too small. While I tend to agree, I think it's very cool and useful (and runs Linux).

    Anyway, creating filters is too much work for me to maintain, but that would help soften the blow of unread email.

    I think it would bother me that I have a laptop, and can't check email. I've pretty well memorized the account details, so not setting it up wouldn't be much of a deterrent.

  4. Jake Says:

    Well put. I doubt work would replace me; they'd just make Anthony, Paul and Rich do more work.

    You are correct though. I'll try that mantra next time.

  5. ontarioemperor Says:

    FYI, the conversation fragmented on this post. You can find a fragment here.

  6. Jason Says:

    Actually, I'm a big fan of folks taking a real vacation and turning off the laptop…. i find folks come back 10x more focused and energized when they take time off.

    work hard/play hard is actually my position on it.

    best j

  7. Jake Says:

    Thanks, maybe I need to point my FriendFeed plugin at your account instead.

  8. Jake Says:

    In theory, but I think you'll agree that in practice, finding time off when you're working at a startup is a difficult task.

    So, while you may encourage time off, actually taking it becomes an impossible task when looking ahead at product timelines with paper thin margins for error.

    Plus, when you have few employees, the absence of one is missed as a greater percentage of the whole, and in many cases at startups, the work doesn't necessarily wait for the vacationer to return, meaning it's delegated to others, creating a heavier workload for the unlucky ones who stayed at their desks.

    Startups are hard.

  9. bfernald Says:

    Some of my best travel experiences come from not having modern conveniences like maps, e-mail, and cameras, so I like to travel light. On the flip side, some vacations would have been impossible or much shorter without the ability to keep in touch with work from time to time. It's a delicate balance, especially when not traveling alone.

  10. bex Says:

    I think Foo Hack says it best:

    http://foohack.com/2008/08/why-im-not-working-o

    “I can’t work just 8 hours a day. Either you ride the biorhythm, with its highs and lows, and capitalize on every bit of go-time that your brain gives you, or you crank out boring hours for your handful of dimes. Healthy work-life balance is for bank tellers. An artist doesn’t stop being an artist when he goes home.”

  11. Jake Says:

    Me too. Probably the best vacation I ever had was on a remote island in the Great Barrier Reef, no phone, no TV, no Intertubes, not even newspapers. Too bad it takes such an effort for me to relax.

  12. Jake Says:

    Good point. Too bad the world around you doesn't always comply.

  13. steveballmer Says:

    No Vacations here people!

    http://fakesteveballmer.blogspot.com

  14. Raoul Says:

    I grew up in the UK, so whenever I call family and friends I get tortured by the stories of their latest 3 week vacation that they took in addition to the week skiing, the 10 days over Xmas. I'm not bitter at all!

    An observation, though, is that those organizations that have to deal with people being gone for one week out of 8 is that there must be better systems in place to hand over tasks and projects to other people. In North America we tend not to have those systems at all. If I'm gone, no-one picks up my slack, I just have to work twice as hard for the two weeks after I get back. Are there studies about the quality of work done in the period after people get back?

  15. Jake Says:

    Yeah I'm not sure why we have such “specialized” jobs, seems bad for business. Maybe it's a personal thing, i.e. my work can only be done by me. Maybe an intellectual thing, like teaching an advanced class or research, something that's tough to pick up w/o being inside the person's head.

    It's not the case in all businesses, e.g. manufacturing, so maybe it's a technology company thing. Development has been moving that way, and techniques like team/peer programming help keep the work progressing while someone's away.

  16. Gianni Says:

    My wife sympathizes. BEFORE we had running water in our summer house, we had wifi.

    I find it not easy to turn off – and I am writing this on my work computer smack in the middle of my summer break.
    Not sure I'd like to turn off entirely – scaringly similar to being dead…

  17. Jake Says:

    I completely agree, which is why bfernald's comment rang true. For people like us, you really need to make it impossible, since we can't be trusted to unplug and stay unplugged on our own.

    Hyper-connectivity is an addiction, like the blogger's disease Arrington and Om talk about.

  18. David Haimes Says:

    I am confident I could get another job if i was fired, but getting another wife to put up with me would be impossible. With that in mind I try to force myself to take some time away from work emails occasionally.

  19. Jake Says:

    Yeah, I don't spend the whole time working, but when I do sneak in some email time, I usually get in trouble. The best way to avoid trouble is to go where there is no connectivity, which is increasingly tough.

  20. Luc Glasbeek Says:

    I did an 11-day silent retreat earlier this year where not only I had to put my electronic devices in a safe (which is pretty standard), I also wasn’t allowed to bring along any reading material, pen, or paper. This was so unlike “me” that it felt very weird. I mean, I love ideas and knowledge, and I had no way to capture any of my own thoughts for 11…10…9…8… etc. days. I learnt to trust my memory and appreciate the power of reflection. I like to think I had some great ideas there, ones that have proven to be pretty important.

  21. Jake Says:

    Wow, no pen or paper, that’s pretty harsh. I would need something to keep track of all that deep thinking :) Sounds relaxing.

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