Can IT take a vacation? The answer will surprise you

It’s summer time and that means vacation time for your staff. Taking a vacation — whether you’re a regular employee or president of the company — is a good idea.

You’d think that was obvious, but growing research says that many IT workers in the channel are not getting that message. In a recent study by, workers reported that they are not taking vacations — and if they are, they’re taking work with them, which hardly qualifies as “getting away from it all.” In the survey:

• 30 per cent of workers plan to take the office with them and work while on vacation.

• 30 per cent said they will contact work while on vacation, up from 25 per cent in 2010.

• 24 per cent said they can’t afford to take a vacation this year, up from 21 per cent in 2010.

• 16 per cent said they gave up vacation days in 2010 because they didn’t have time to use them.

In a separate poll by Regus (provider of workplace facilities), 66 per cent of survey respondents said they will check and respond to email during their time off, and 29 per cent expect to attend meetings virtually while on vacation.

Advances in technology have made it possible for workers to bring gadgets along with them on vacation so they can stay connected, and for IT staffs that can be a blessing and a curse. Since employees can still work while they’re away from the office (for example, performing equipment resets via their smartphone), this doesn’t give them a chance to really relax and forget about what’s going on back at the office.

It’s also not healthy for a business to be reliant on just one person who may feel too important to take any vacation time. Not just because of the health concerns for that one person, but from a security standpoint, as well. In addition to making sure employees take vacations, make sure there are backup and contingency plans for covering that employee’s work. The plan needs to be more than, “We’ll just call when something breaks.”

Vacations over the summer can be tricky for IT groups, who tend to use the time for upgrades and other maintenance projects, mainly because other employees at the company are often taking their own vacations. If your company uses summer for these purposes, it’s even more important to have your staff take vacations in the fall or spring, to prevent burnout and other health issues.

Many tech departments are considering mandatory vacations as a best practice, which may rub employees the wrong way, especially those Type-A staffers who say they don’t need a vacation or who think they are too valuable. But the benefits to the company (and the employee) far outweigh these concerns.

Again, you’d think this was obvious, but one in three workers are still not getting the message.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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