Tech-Free Vacation: Why Unplugging Isn't Practical - InformationWeek

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12/23/2014
08:06 AM
Roni Amiel
Roni Amiel
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Tech-Free Vacation: Why Unplugging Isn't Practical

Many of us crave a holiday break from technology, but sometimes it's easier said than done.

Most of us probably spend more quality time connected to various devices than we do with the people we hold dear. Sure, technology is remarkable -- but nowadays we crave a break from the work emails and phone calls that consume us. But is a true break from technology really practical?

Probably not. According to a 2012 Time magazine poll, 84% of people said that they could not go a single day without their cellphones, while 68% admitted they even sleep with their phone next to them like a teddy bear.

As freeing as an unplugged holiday may seem, it's just not practical for me in my role as a CIO/CISO. Take the consequences of working in a global market. This has forced me to increase my visibility and availability, and to maintain a high level of reliability when it comes to technology assets -- all of which I lose if I vow not to check email or take work calls.

(Image: Pixabay)
(Image: Pixabay)

There's also the role I play in security and risk management. Given the rising number of security breaches -- and knowing that hackers don't always attack during business hours -- I need to be available around the clock. Finally, transformative and disruptive technologies come into play. Though they're often helpful, they also mean that CIOs are further expected to be available should problems arise. In a hospital environment, for example, these technologies might include a decision support system or a clinical intelligence solution that clinicians rely on to make patient care decisions.

[Sometimes you can't unplug even if you try. Read 7 Excuses To Avoid Family Tech Support.]

But on a more personal level, disconnecting during the holidays would also impact my interactions with friends and family -- we Skype with relatives, Facebook with friends, and engage on Twitter, for example. Disavowing technology for my immediate family means less quality time with my extended family, too.

Though some people might view technology as a burden during time off, I'm actually thankful for it. Being connected means I can take a week-long vacation and not worry that my absence might cause a catastrophe in my organization -- because people know they can reach me if they must. (Still, not once in my career have I received "the call" while away -- that notification that a critical information asset failed and was likely to impact core services. Knock on wood.)

I learned very early in my career that taking time off and staying connected is a delicate balance. If a crisis arises where I absolutely have to work, I carve out a set period of time during the day to do so. I'm also able to recognize when my presence is not absolutely necessary, and I know when to just say no.

Here's what I recommend for balancing work while on vacation: First, be proactive about scheduling and build downtime into your schedule. In that time, focus on those activities that add value, and consider outsourcing or delegating the stuff that doesn't. Finally, realize that a little relaxation goes a long way in helping you recharge.

What are your plans for managing (or avoiding) technology this vacation? Let's hear your thoughts.

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Roni Amiel has served as the CIO and CISO at the Blythedale Children's Hospital since 2011. Previously, he worked as CIO/CISO for the office of the Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New York's Department of Health. He holds degrees and has completed academic programs in ... View Full Bio
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Ashu001
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Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
12/29/2014 | 9:19:32 AM
Re: Tech-free vacation - is it really impractical?
Progman2000,

While that maybe true at Lower Executive Levels it is'nt the case at Higher Levels(VP Level & C-Level )which we are primarily discussing here.

For those at the Lower Levels ;they just need to discipline themselves better if they are to achieve something concrete from their Professional Lives today.
Ashu001
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Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
12/29/2014 | 9:14:08 AM
Re: Tech benfits of being plugged in
ImpactNow,

For that to happen you have to incredibly disciplined (otherwise you risk turning your Vacation/Break) into a Working Holiday instead.

I know it can be done but just that it is'nt for everyone concerned.

Not everyone can achieve that perfect level of Work-Life Balance (especially on Vacation).

Those that can?Have achieved a very high level of Efficency.
Ashu001
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Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
12/29/2014 | 9:07:25 AM
Re: Tech-Free Vacation: Why Unplugging Isn't Practical
Ariella,

The Idea behind a Backup is just that.

They should be able to do the job in case the Main Guy is unavailable or not upto the mark in either case.

So did your Backup deliver?

If the Backup is a makeshift so be it;After all they are meant to be there just temporarily(while you wait for the Main Guy to landup or search for another new Main Guy).

 
Ashu001
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Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
12/29/2014 | 9:02:50 AM
Re: That's why you get paid the big bucks
Broadway,

I don't think the President is the right comparison-Obama seems to be on permanent vacation!

LOL!One has to actually wonder when he works].

But your point about everyone needing breaks to recharge is very valid today(more than ever).

So many of us are so badly stressed today its a wonder more of us have'nt snapped yet!

Technological Overload is no misnomer.Its a real and very serious condition today.

 

 
Ashu001
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Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
12/29/2014 | 8:59:07 AM
Re: Tech-Free Vacation: Why Unplugging Isn't Practical
SachinEE,

I don't think your Superiors will rebuke you if you decide to take sometime off.

You just have to learn to manage the Expectations better of your  Seniors so that they know that even though you are on Vacation you can always be counted on to Deliver whatever you promised to deliver.

By Full Disconnection-does'nt mean that you are unavailable on the Phone.If you put that at the back of your mind (and give your seniors that assurance) things can be managed much-much better.

 

 
Broadway0474
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Broadway0474,
User Rank: Ninja
12/29/2014 | 12:03:51 AM
Re: That's why you get paid the big bucks
asksqn, no matter how important a person to an organization or how much they earn, they still deserve a break. Even the president of the United States takes vacations. He may not "unplug" entirely, but he gets away from DC at least. Recreation, hobbies, family times --- they all can go a long way to recharging a battery and allowing someone to be more creative and effective when they return to work.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
12/27/2014 | 6:07:33 PM
Re: Tech-Free Vacation: Why Unplugging Isn't Practical
@SachineEE As I said, one needs a backup person for when the main one can't get there like doctors set up. The problem is the backup may not be as dedicated as the main guy. I used to have a single doctor practice for my kids. When he went away on vacation, he referred us to another practice. But when I called for my kid to be seen for a sick visit, they refused to see her b/c they wanted to close us soon. (Ironically, the place was only a block away, and we would have been ther in plenty of time). This was before Urgent Care places started springing up in my neighborhood like mushrooms after rain. 
asksqn
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asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
12/27/2014 | 5:08:34 PM
That's why you get paid the big bucks
"As freeing as an unplugged holiday may seem, it's just not practical for me in my role as a CIO/CISO."

 

Nor should it be given that you are paid far above and beyond a rank and file employee salary.
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
12/27/2014 | 2:04:57 PM
Re: Tech-Free Vacation: Why Unplugging Isn't Practical
@freespiritny25: I also think that where there are obligations, having a full disconnected term may feel insulting to others, especially your superiors who would then ask you about your dedication towards the company and probably rebuke you if your answer is less than satisfactory.
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
12/27/2014 | 2:01:49 PM
Re: Tech benfits of being plugged in
@impactnow: Whenever I go on holidays I too don't like to be disconnected, however that doesn't mean I would take each and every call from my work. I would only take the call if my boss or some other employee with the same, or greater rank than my boss calls, would I pick up the phone and answer, and not on all hours as well. I generally tell my staff to not call me at odd hours.
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