Does Anyone in IT Truly Relax on Vacation?

Real getaways for IT pros? Not. Here's how IT managers manage themselves on vacation

That IT professionals work on vacation is as obvious as sand on a beach. Some see it as part of the job bargain, and maybe there's something to relish about being indispensable.

One recent survey found that 67% of senior IT professionals are expected to be available during vacation, said TEKsystems, a staffing agency that conducted the research.

This percentage sounds low. Something in the range of 95% sounds more believable, but that's just a guesstimate based on telephone interviews and emails from some IT pros.

Everyone, it seems, does some work on vacation, unless they're joyriding with James Cameron 6.8 miles down into the cellphone signal-less depths of the Mariana Trench. On Mount Everest, at least, you can bring a satellite phone.

For IT pros such as Osvaldo de Lima, the CIO of ECOM Group, a 160-year-old multinational agriculture commodities trading and processing company, there is no escape from work, just accommodation.

De Lima keeps up with his emails, takes some calls, and says if he doesn't there will be too much waiting for him when he returns to the office. "[It is] to my own benefit," he said.

He will also delegate as much as possible. "Trust the team," de Lima said.

A vacation, nonetheless, says de Lima, still means he is not commuting to the office and is spending time with family. But you never fully put work aside. "That's the nature of our job; that's the profession that we chose," he said.

Brian Kelley, the CIO of Portage County IT Services in Ravenna, Ohio, said, "Work will always impede upon my vacations to some degree." Similar to de Lima, Kelley says that checking on things makes the return from vacation easier.

"By managing some work while on vacation, I can rest assured that when I return to work catching up will not be a major headache nor require that I put in long days to do so," he said.

Simon Wieczner, president and CEO of Snowbound Software, which makes document viewer technology, said vacations are "worth it, despite the interruptions."

"My goal is just to minimize the family time disrupted and remember that it would have been worse not to take the vacation at all," he said.

About 54% of managers expect work will be accomplished by employees during a vacation, according to a Harris Interactive survey of nearly 2,100 adults last month, commissioned by Ricoh Americas.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin, the CEO and executive director at Tribe, an internal communications agency, said that many employees will stay connected unless they are encouraged to do otherwise.

"When employees stay vigilantly aware and engaged 24/7, especially in the age of constant digital connection, it keeps them in a state of high alert," said Baskin. "And that keeps them from getting the necessary time to relax and recharge so they can return to work the next day or week energized and replenished."

Kyri Sarantakos, vice president of engineering at the online job-matching services TheLadders, said that at his company, when someone is on vacation they make sure that another person can cover the responsibilities.

"We like to avoid a single point of failure," he said. Sarantakos' approach is to keep vacation work disruptions to as little as possible. With the exception of a critical hiring decision, for instance, he will not dial into a conference call.

TheLadders has a flexible and unlimited vacation policy, and the company encourages employees "to use this time to recharge and find renewed energy and enthusiasm for the work ahead," Sarantakos said.

Pierluigi Stella, CTO of Network Box USA, a managed security services firm, has two perspectives, one that applies for himself and another for the people he manages. "I cannot spend a whole day detached from the office without wanting to know what's going on," Stella told Computerworld. "My vacations, few and far in between, are always in places where cellular phones work."

But while Stella will stay in touch with the business, he has a different view for the people he manages. "If they are in vacation, they are in vacation, and I expect them to be detached and unavailable as much as possible," he said.

Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed. His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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This story, "Does Anyone in IT Truly Relax on Vacation?" was originally published by Computerworld .

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