Does Mobile Technology Ruin Vacations?

By Stephanie Blanchard, Digital Editor — July 15, 2013

According to a recent survey from Ricoh, conducted by Harris Interactive, employees feel a great pressure when they are out of the office—and it comes from the top. In fact, 54% say their bosses "expect" them to work during vacations.

"In today's environment in business, there is a fear of irrelevance, especially in areas where the employee has responsibility," said Terrie Campbell, VP, Strategic Marketing, Ricoh Americas Corporation, in an interview with Mobile Enterprise. "Am I out of sight, out of mind, or are decisions being made that will negatively affect me?"

While a good percentage will keep up with emails, many will simply not take the time out of their vacation to create a presentation. Even for those who truly enjoy their jobs, there is noticeable pushback when it comes to intrusions on personal time—more than half of respondents would rather have a root canal than work during time off.

"That’s a strong indication about how strong the emotions are around the subject," Campbell said.

This is confirmed by another recent survey, also conducted by Harris Interactive, on behalf of TeamViewer, a provider of remote control and online meetings software. Almost all participants in the annual Work/Life Balance Index (89%) said they would react badly if asked to work on vacation.

More than a third would do the work — unhappily. Thirteen percent said they would shut off their devices altogether while 11% would pretend they did not receive the text or message. An additional 6% said they would actually start updating their resume during their vacation and look for another job.

The Wi-Fi Factor
Even if an employee wanted to do document revisions, without gritting teeth, it’s difficult. Only 24% say their employer makes it easy to access work-related documents from home or a remote location, according to Ricoh's survey.
Emails, in contrast, don’t seem to negatively affect individuals, and actually makes it easier for a third of respondents to return to work. Is this because connectivity is constant now that mobile devices are prevalent?

“The iPads and huge wave of smartphones has made it much more convenient to communicate,” Campbell replied. “Now I don’t have to stop and find a hotspot. Now I don’t have to stop and connect a laptop to a network, enable the VPN, open the email, etc.”

Before the recent wave of technology took over, however, Campbell said she would have to find a particular location with the correct bandwidth. Once there, she would spend a chunk of time to clear out all the emails in the inbox, so she would not have to make frequent stops in search of additional Wi-Fi. Now, individual emails, she said, can be each addressed on the fly.

Speaking of Wi-Fi, Campbell found it surprising how big a factor it played in determining a vacation destination—64% look for free Wi-Fi. “I can understand from a business perspective but a vacation standpoint is the most surprising. Why? What are you planning to do?”

Plus, frustration levels go up, not just with the employee, but the person’s family, or whoever may be traveling with the individual. When travel companions are suddenly subjected to annoying office chatter, whether in the car, by the pool or while touring a scenic area, the disruption is unwanted by a good majority. Of those surveyed, 67% said, "family members get ticked off when loved ones work on vacation."

Finding Balance
Ricoh’s survey did not determine who was mobile on a regular basis, so it’s possible that such workers feel more comfortable dealing with work while on vacation. (Ricoh plans on following up on for future reports.) With the results, the company also plans on addressing four different key dynamics going forward: the impact of smart technology, cloud to secure data, the generational workforce, and how such a workforce interacts with technology.

"Mobile remote workers that need this technology will be part of solutions influence," Campbell said. However, the results of the survey also have much broader reach than what the surface implies. For example, she hopes that enterprises can use the data to change company-wide policies, including human resource protocol.

"We have an opportunity, every company, has the opportunity, to create better relationships with their employees by taking a stand on this issue," she stressed. Some are currently better at saying your personal time is your personal time, but there is room for improvement across the board. "Let’s build respect back into these boundaries," she concluded. "We lost sight of this, we need to think about this: the family unit needs to be respected."

(Editor's note: I wrote this while on vacation in Maine, but didn’t mind, simply because I love writing!)
Related articles:
Small Business Is Big on Mobile
Are you Addicted to the Internet?
The Smartphones of Summer

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