By the end of her weeklong vacation, Sherry Myers negotiated three real estate contracts from the beach.
Myers, a vice president and partner of The Norton Agency, said she feels like she needs to stay tuned in to what is going on back at the office even when she’s planned to get away.
“I don’t know which is worse,” Myers said laughing. “Being able to (work) while you’re gone or not knowing what’s going on.”
With the instant access technology provides, the only thing Myers can’t do while she’s away is show available properties to clients.
“They could be thinking I’m at my desk,” Myers said. “They don’t know that I’m away, that I’m working on the beach.”
Myers said the only difference between being in the office and being on vacation is she’s a “little more laid back.” That means she lets her calls go through to voice mail until it’s more convenient to call back.
If Myers’ vacation sounds familiar, that’s probably because more and more people are staying connected while they are taking a break.
“I have more peace of mind staying connected than I would if I were completely disconnected,” said Tom Edwards, director of heart and vascular services at Northeast Georgia Medical Center. “Until I’m actually at some point in my life retired, then I’ll be disconnected for sure. In the meantime, I really prefer staying connected just to keep things moving. It’s not that I’m indispensable. That doesn’t have anything to do with it.”
Edwards said he just takes his responsibilities seriously and can’t be out of pocket for very long.
The health administrator takes short trips to the Carolinas and the Georgia coast to play music with his bands. But even when he’s on stage, his Blackberry picks up emails from work just in case.
“I tend not to worry because I have good managers,” Edwards said. “But there is always some little something that will come up.”
Scotty Hall, a property and casualty agent at Turner, Wood and Smith Insurance in Gainesville, said his job working in sales means working “366 days a year” even while on vacation. Hall is getting ready to take a trip in a couple of weeks but knows from past experiences he’ll need to check up on things back at the office while he’s away.
“It’s really hard whenever you’re in a sales position because you could lose a client if you’re not available,” Hall said. “If someone needs something done, we feel like we want to be there for them. But at the same time when we’re on vacation, you want to have that family time, too. So it’s almost like you get up 30 minutes early while you’re on vacation and do some of your work while everyone else is still asleep. Then the rest of the day is yours.”
Dr. Mark King, a psychologist with Psychiatry and Psychological Associates in Gainesville, said the never-ending contact with work is a problem he’s heard a lot of his patients and their spouses complain about.
He recommends people simply make a plan before going on vacation to relieve some of the stress that comes with not working. Just as travelers outline their itinerary, they should outline what they feel is important enough to respond to and let someone at the office know what those problems might be.
King said it also helps to have someone at the office field those duties while you’re away.
“I’m attached to a cellphone 24/7,” King said. “But I do make arrangements for other people to take my calls for me while I’m on vacation. ... But that doesn’t mean that they’re not capable of calling me and saying something has come up and only you can answer it.”
Hall said he checks his work email from his phone about four times a day. Fortunately, he has an assistant at the office who can help him take care of some things when he’s away.
Myers, too, said she’s fortunate to have the help of co-workers, but she prefers to stay involved.
“I think for those of us with type-A personalities it’s so hard to turn lose of everything to someone else, even though we know they can do it fine,” she said.
However, next time Myers goes on vacation she said she’s going to make it a point to send a few more tasks back to the office so she can relax.
King said people feeling the need to check on things while away from the office is similar to an obsessive compulsion. The need to check on things is often a way to “compartmentalize anxieties.” Constant checking often makes it difficult for people to relax while they’re on vacation.
“I believe anxiety is often at the root of people feeling like they have to do something,” King said. “What if someone calls me? What if I get an email? What if I don’t do this? Typically, the response to that if left unchecked becomes kind of distorted thought. But if you think about it logically, that can wait until I get back. I don’t respond to that.”
It’s important to find ways to relax every now and then.
King said taking a vacation often has two purposes. The first purpose, if traveling with family or loved ones, is to reconnect and replenish love with people.
“And it’s obviously a way to calm yourself so you can come back to your daily routine and be charged rather than come back depleted,” King said.