May 16, 2011
I’m off on holiday soon and having the usual panic about what might crop up at work while I am away. I am also waiting for the inevitable moment at 4pm on your last day in work before you go away, when everyone starts emailing you out of the blue! It’s always something that will be difficult to hand over and you feel like you’ll never get away.
These days it seems we’re getting worse and worse at switching off from work and having genuine free time. New technology like Blackberries and laptops are now commonplace and the lines between work and home have been blurred. A holiday abroad usually means a definite break from work and from emails and so you can’t just say to colleagues ‘I’ll keep an eye on things while I’m away’. In fact in the city banking sector now, due to increased regulations, staff are forced to take two weeks’ leave from work each year, in one block, so that they are unable to hide any ‘Nick Leeson’ style irregular dealings.
Many people lament the rise of the technology that means we’re available anywhere, anytime. Some people miss that complete break from work. However I think others love working whilst on holiday to prove that they ‘never switch off’ even if it’s not strictly needed. I have a friend who plans client meetings around weddings so that he can always arrive late and announce to everyone “sorry I’m late, stopped in to see a client on the way”.
However, I think the new flexibility can offer a lot of benefits. I work part time and am able to do this in a much more flexible way than would have been possible a few years ago. I also think that the blurring of work and home isn’t always a bad thing. I witnessed a good model of this when I sold to the Scandinavian territories about 10 years ago. Ahead of their time, they seemed to have a different attitude towards work than our own. I remember calling a Finnish client to chase up a purchase order and he was on the beach with his family. I was horrified and was saying ‘Teemu I’m so sorry to have disturbed you’ to which he shouted ‘no it’s great to talk to you’. They didn’t seem to have that British attitude of ‘it’s 5 o’ clock and I’m out of here, thank God’.
So, like all things a balance can be struck between enjoying your work, but also of having a good break or holiday every now and again. Unless you have your own business or carry out life changing surgery, it’s very unlikely that the world will collapse if you go to Spain for a fortnight.
However, if you’re in over your head at your hedge fund firm, maybe you’ll want to go further afield – and for more than a fortnight!
Posted by Jenni Malley
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