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Work on vacation a necessary evil for managers, IT employees

I work (a little) when I'm on vacation. But that's not a bad thing, is it?

I'm writing this column while on vacation.

Please don't misinterpret this statement to mean that I consider myself so indispensable to my team that I must write this column now. Or that my company has me on an "e-leash." Nope. All it means is that I had some downtime and decided to write a column to get a jump on next week. That got me thinking about people who indulge in work while on vacation.

I'm not on the beach, though, like our columnist CIO Niel Nickolaisen was when he filed his last column. (Are you kidding? Risk all that sand getting kicked into my laptop?) Or Spencer Hamons, CIO, SLV Regional Medical Center and a judge for our Leadership Awards, who finished the paperwork while on a beach in Hawaii (his first vacation in four years). My editor works on vacation (although she swears not that much). I know this because she forwards messages to me from her BlackBerry, as does my publisher.

The week before I left for vacation, I did double time on the editing (my editorial staff did double time on the writing and production work). Let's face it. It's hard to take a week off -- let alone two or three a year. There's always too much to do, and it would be easy to say, "I've got too much to do." But I don't like other people editing my staff's copy and I wanted to get it done so I didn't have to think about if it was getting done.

It's been an easy week for my staff, I think.

Work on vacation, especially in this wired world we live in, is not uncommon. According to a 2008 vacation survey conducted by, one in four workers plans to work while on vacation. Of the nearly 7,000 U.S. workers polled, 37% of those identified as IT employees plan to contact the office while on vacation, compared with 50% of sales professionals and just 15% of retail workers.

Just recently, I talked with a half dozen CIOs about taking time off. Not surprisingly, they all admitted to conducting some work during vacation -- but it is mostly about staying connected. Admittedly, some of them do it because it's expected. In that same study, 19% of IT workers said their employer expects them to work or check voicemail and email during their time off. And let's be honest -- many can't take the time off because there really is that much work to do.

For me, knowing that everything is going smoothly back at the office helps me relax -- even while on vacation.

But most, like me, do it because it actually makes our lives a little easier. So far (three days into my workweek), I've received 365 emails (95% is stuff I don't need or read). I can face Monday a lot easier if I take on those emails a little bit at a time.

So today, like many of our readers, I'm putting in a little work on vacation. No big deal. We're not workaholics. We're simply engaged with our jobs. Our jobs are a huge part of our lives (and a reason we're able to go on a vacation) and checking our BlackBerrys or writing a column while on vacation shouldn't be viewed as a bad thing. That's right. For me, knowing that everything is going smoothly back at the office helps me relax -- even while on vacation. If I find out the s**t has hit the fan, well, let's make that something to cover in next week'scolumn.

But you'll have to check back in with me in late October. I'm taking another short vacation -- to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where I plan on sitting on the beach, a lot. (Let me know if you have any recommendations about vacationing there). But as this will be precious time with my daughter, who will be on a short break from college, I probably will not be writing a column on the beach, like Niel. However, if Verizon works in San Juan, I will probably be checking my email.

So, keep me posted.

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