Why there's no such thing as a holiday any more

21:19, Jul 03 2014
RIP HOLIDAYS: Are work-free holidays just a thing of the past?

RIP holidays, we remember you fondly.

We remember how we used to walk out of the office on a Friday afternoon knowing that we wouldn't have to worry about work for two glorious weeks.

Somewhere along the line it came to be expected that we would take phone calls, check emails and still be 'available' for any problems that might arise, no matter where in the world we might be.

Technology might have improved our lives in many ways, but holiday relaxation is definitely not one of them.

If you think I'm exaggerating, I read an article about an American company that has brought in a mandate to leave employees in peace when they're on holidays.

This was news.


The fact that a company needs such a mandate says we've gotten it wrong somewhere along the line. 

Weren't uninterrupted holidays once taken for granted?

The problem with changes like these is that they creep in slowly and we come to accept them, grudgingly or otherwise.

I spoke this week with someone who is on a six-week trip and said I hoped his office was leaving him in peace.

"Not really," he said, "but that's the way it is these days."

I wonder how much of the blame can be laid with employers and how much we have brought it upon ourselves, by thinking we're indispensable? By fearing someone might question our worth if we're out of the loop for too long?

In 2012, the consultancy Euromonitor International predicted "digital detox" holidays would be one of the top trends in leisure travel, as we became increasingly addicted to our phones and other communication devices.

Hotels were starting to offer packages where guests would check their phones in on arrival, sometimes receiving discounts or rewards such as massages for doing so.

Euromonitor predicted the trend could spread to other areas of travel, such as technology-free tours or cruises, promoted as a way to truly relax and reconnect with loved ones.

Two years down the track, the concept has failed to take off.

Some hotels have tried but the vast majority of travellers either need or want to stay connected.

We all understand the benefits of taking a proper break from work, in terms of recharging the batteries and clearing the mind; unless you really hate your job, you generally come back more energetic and enthused after some time away.

Bringing back the interrupted holiday - if it has not already had its ashes scattered - would take a disciplined approach from both employers and employees.

It would be great to see more companies introducing a mandate against contacting people who are on leave, but we also need to learn to switch off ourselves.

Putting an out-of-office message on your email is a good start; you can use it to direct people to others who can help in your absence.

If you're going overseas, turning off the data on your phone or tablet is not only advised for avoiding big global roaming bills but it can also take away the temptation to look at your emails.

If you really need to keep an eye on things, you can hook into free wifi in a café once or twice a week and do a quick skim of your inbox while you have a coffee.

I've found simply turning off email notifications can stop you feeling like you need to check your smartphone all the time.

Anything that constantly pops up on the screen is very hard to ignore: one minute you're taking a photo of the beach and the next you're answering an email about next year's business plan.

I heard an amusing story about a businessman's wife who got so fed up she threw his phone in the ocean, but surely it shouldn't come to that?

Does your boss bother you when you're on holidays? Do you have an escape strategy? Post your comments below.