Do Web Workers take vacations?

31 Comments

When you work from the confines of your home office, is there really any time off?

In many cases our ability to make a decent living is directly correlated to the amount of work we can done, which more often than not means that there is never an off switch. Even if you take a break or a vacation, the business (and its problems) are always on your mind. Those who work in an office, get to leave their problems/work behind when on vacation.

But for web workers, work comes with them. Or at least for some of us!

If business is on your mind, how do you really disconnect – leave the Blackberry behind, get off the WiFi and just soak in the sun. What are your tips and tricks for taking a deep breath, and disconnecting? More importantly, how do web workers’ really take a vacation?

31 Comments

karlmccracken

This is probably the reason I’ll end up getting a ‘real’ job some day. Working from home has some great advantages (get up, go for a walk on the beach, watch the sunrise, make breakfast, walk daughter to school, and still saunter into the office before 9), but the lack of an ‘off button’ makes it pretty tough.

I took a long weekend over the summer, and went cycling along the route of Hadrian’s wall with a friend. No email. No laptop. No work. It was great! It was also probably the first real break I’ve had in over three years, as the laptop’s come everywhere else with me.

And this is generally how I get my downtime – short breaks, or from Jan – Sept, daily triathlon training. It isn’t exactly relaxing, but the physical exercise lets my mind run free and uncoil quite nicely.

Karl.

Chris

While I don’t get to participate in family holidays as much as I once did, the fact that my work is mobile means I can go away, to just about anywhere that has Internet and allow my family to have a holiday while I split the time between relaxing and working.

I try and push all the work to after 8pm when the kids are in bed so that they see Dad all day and then I’m free to focus 100% on work for 3-4 hours once they are tucked in and asleep.

As all my staff telecommute they can pretty much do the same, as long as the work gets done, we can be where ever we like in the world for as long as we like…. as long as the location has Internet !!

Valor

It seems that I’m in the same boat as a lot of people. I work because I like what I do, not just because it pays.. That being said, my job also affords me the lifestyle that I enjoy–skiing on weekends, trips to Europe, etc. This is one of the benefits to not being tied to a desk–our company has people spread out across the US, Philippines, and the UK.

True, there’s always work to do, and it can always be done, but a key for me is the mini-break, whether that be simply a coffee refill or a long weekend (a favorite of this thread).

Another benefit of working at/from home: taking off early, running errands, attending a child’s ballgame. I probably only work 40-45 hours a week, but they’re leisurely hours, not forced 8-5, M-F (gosh those are horrible hours).

jerseycool

I think anytme you have your own business this is a problem and there have been a lot of times when I was working for someone else that I really didn’t enjoy a vacation because of all the work I knew was waiting when I got back.

One technique I learned back when I was a beat reporter working 60-70 hour weeks, including weekends, was to shut off work whenever I wasn’t working. It’s not exactly easy to do but at leas you focus on the time off that you have rather than worry about what will happen when you are back at work.

ScottW

Interesting timing on this post, my wife has just starting harassing me that since I became a web worker I no longer take vacations. We do a lot of long weekends, usually one or two a month, but I’m just not able to leave the Blackberry at home.

For a while our place on the NC coast had no cell service so I was able to escape, this year they put up a new tower that even supports EDGE. Very much a mixed blessing.

I think the real issue is are you established enough to tell the world to wait for two weeks. In my mind, most independent web workers would need a year or two to really build a client base and lead pipeline that can withstand two weeks of downtime. That’s what keeps me out of the Caribbean.

mainasukhumvit

Working on vacations suck. Working over the holidays also suck. I like the work hard, play hard life style. When you do something, you do it all the way or not at all. I find that setting up ‘vacation periods’ in advance. Letting yourself know and your clients know beforehand and planning around those periods really enable me to unplug.

Its really worth it to be able to take 2 weeks off and come back refreshed with new perspectives and enough energy and internet withdrawal to make work fun (till the next vacation)

mike h

To me, staying at home is technically NOT a vacation. If I plan on just taking a day off and spending it at home, then I know I won’t really get a full day of personal time. A “vacation” requires leaving home (and work) for at least a few days, in my opinion. In that case, it’s really not difficult for me to turn off the cell phone and leave the laptop at home. It’s a simple decision to make, and once the car starts rolling there’s no turning back to get the laptop.

The catch is that the expectation needs to be set to my customers (or coworkers, or whoever depends on me) that I won’t be available. If that’s not acceptable to them, then 1) it’s time for me to find new work or 2) I picked the wrong people to work with.

Ryan Richards

I’ve worked from home for almost 2 years. Many people I work with are always saying “I would give anything to work from home!” – of which I always respond with “Think VERY carefully about that decision”. Most people do not realize all that is involved in worked from home – or I didn’t realize the impacts personally. When I first started working remote I endured culture-shock for about a month. This included:

-> IM Paranoia : Was afraid to leave my desk in case a manager pinged me on our corporate IM network. I didnt want them to think I was goofing off.

-> Social deficit: No longer was I in the same environment as my colleagues and superiors. Talking on the phone and webconferencing only goes so far. You definitely miss out on the face-to-face interaction with other people. I fixed this by working at various places on some days.

-> Feedback is a Challenge: In a corporate environment its hard to get a feeback guage on what you are doing. I think people inherently feel that since you are offsite, you are not available.

-> Work-Life Balance is a challenge: I work WAYYY more hours now.

There are TONS of benefits though – which I would not trade for anything ;) I love working from home but its not for everybody.

Ryan

jk

Graphic artists have the AIGA to help set some standard rates. Does the web have a similar standard? I know there are salary surveys, but have the independents gotten together to set rates? These rates aren’t hard and fast, but they give everyone a yardstick to measure each other, and say “this is what it takes for me to have a professional salary.”

Island in the Net

For the 4 years I worked as a mobile professional I took no vacation. Even though I have been a fulltime employee of a large pharmaceutical company I still have to be “reminded” by my boss to take my vacation.

Nakul Malik

I build and support call centers for a living and although my company is pretty small (6 employees + me), i havent had a single day off since i started a couple of years ago. If its not something at a client site, its concalls with them. or with the telecom providers, or something else. Oh, the glamorous life of a Telecom and network consultant!

Even before that, i dont recall taking a vacation since i started working about 7 years ago. Forget vacation, i dont even recall taking the weekend off.

I guess its the inner workaholic that wont lay off. 72 hour days have become the norm.

Gordon Scobie

We all seem to work too hard since the web came into our lives. We really need to reduce our working hours – for health and sanity.

Alfa

It’s a good thing I’m not laptop-dependent, although my biz (web content writing and blogging) definitely cries for it. I still live with my parents, (which is a win-win sitch for my parents and moi, really) and we have two houses, one which is a few steps away from our family business and my business (two separate biz) and one which is a good 15-minute ride from our family biz.

So, whenever I’d like to have a bit of a break, I’ll just go to the house which is 15-minute farther from the hustle and bustle, PC and Internet. If I feel like there’s a need for a longer vacay, Philippines is one big vacay paradise. 2-days off will do it for me.

brandon

I find that I get a little stir-crazy if I don’t have a real vacation a few times a year. By a real vacation, I mean no cell phone, no laptop, to checking email. It’s just not really a vacation if I have to constantly think about work.

Steven Krein

I block out entire days each week as “Free Days” where I don’t do anything business related. No email. No voicemail. No business reading. Every Saturday and Sunday are off limits to doing any work so that I can rejuvenate for a much more productive Monday-Friday.

Brandon Checketts

I just returned from a very enjoyable vacation to Orlando. Before going, I thought it would be difficult to leave work behind, but once we were there it was no problem at all. Of course, I brought a laptop with, but I only used it to move pictures off of the digital camera, and to check email once. I’ll admit that I sometimes thought about, but I think the key for me was just to enjoy where I was and the people I was with.

Amie Gillingham

Not only do I not take vacations unless the laptop comes with and the accomodations have wifi, I didn’t even take a maternity leave with either child and in fact answered tech questions from my postpartum recovery room. One of the hazards of running your own internet business, particularly with a company as small as ours (currently three employees including myself) is that it feeds your inner work-a-holic demon. I’m in the position where if I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done, coupled with an overwhelming sense of obligation to make sure my customers are cared for. Lord knows, I never worked this hard for someone else. Is there a self-help group for folks like me? ;)

Randall

This is entering my second year of working on the web, and it’s kind of killer on vacation. I’ve found that if I don’t work on the holiday, then I don’t get paid. On the web, it seems, there are no sick days, no holidays and you’ve got to have some way to keep going or else you go broke!

Steve

Shutting out the office is becoming a global problem. Even office workers are expected to keep the mobile on, and keep an eye on e-mails. The competitive environment now extends to vacation for office workers. The last few holidays has meant that I have been needed to check mail each morning, and then call in if something needed clarifying. Also the office seem to have adopted, well just give them a quick call attitude.

The important thing is to arrange things so that they can run by themselves for a few days. You guys in the US have this side a little easier with fewer vacation days than us in Europe!

Either way TAKE A BREAK, you need it, and if you can pay the bills you’ve earned it!

Charlie

Active holidays work for me. It’s easier to switch off work if your skiing down a mountain or skuba diving with the fishes. That said I can’t imagine taking more than a week away from the PC and work… I’d be scared it had all gone to hell before I got home.

Deirdre' Straughan

Just because I work for a company (as well as maintaining my own very busy website) doesn’t mean I get to switch off and forget office business at 5 pm – at a small startup, we all have plenty to worry about, even though the money is all coming out of the boss’ pocket.

On the other hand, being completely a freelancer (previously) never meant that I /couldn’t/ shut off when I wanted to. Going someplace completely without Internet usually does the trick – and, yes, there are plenty such places left in the world!

It helps if you remind yourself that the time you spend completely absorbed with family and friends and non-work activities will allow you to come back to work relaxed and refreshed, with new perspectives that may even help you on the job.

Greg

I’ve been in business for about 5 years now and I think that’s how long it’s been since I’ve taken a vacation. What I do do is take long weekends. I’ll notify my clients who currently have projects on the books that the office will be closed on such and such dates starting a week or two in advance. I’ll then check in with them in the days before closing to make sure nothing needs covered before I leave. This seems to work pretty good and I get a short burst of R&R.

The bigger problem being a web-worker is shutting down at 5pm and weekends. The phone will continue to ring and the emails continue to filter in. I don’t know if the problem is a side effect of having a home based business that clients are aware of, or my own reputation of responding quickly; or both. We have discussed doing a rate hike for evenings and weekends. If it’s that important that the client can’t wait until morning, then we’ll handle it and charge extra.

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