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Vacation tip: Leave the laptop behind

Working on vacation

TEXT OF STORY

Tess Vigeland: This Thanksgiving weekend, some poor souls inevitably stayed behind to work while colleagues left to visit family and friends.

What I don't understand are those of you who do go on vacation, but take the office with you.

Thanks in part to wireless technology, it's now a heck of lot easier to stay in touch with work. But is it truly a vacation if you're still logging hours on the laptop? Here's Marketplace's Sam Eaton.


Sam Eaton: There's a new reality for the American vacation: not only are people bringing work with them, many aren't even going. Expedia.com's 2007 Vacation Deprivation Survey found that, sadly, Americans have fewer vacation days than any other industrialized nation.

And worse, they don't use the ones they get. The average worker leaves three days a year unclaimed, more than a fifth of their annual vacation time.

Liz Ryan runs an online forum for working women called WorldWIT. She says the reason Americans are giving up vacation time is simple: They're afraid of being overwhelmed when they come back.

Ryan compares it to that famous "I Love Lucy" scene where Lucy takes a job at the candy factory and can't keep up with the conveyor belt.

Liz Ryan: When you leave a white collar job today, the candy keeps coming down the belt. You know when I used to do business travel in the 90's to Europe and we would look down our noses and say these people all disappear during the month of August, have they no sense of competition? Hey, they were a lot smarter than we are, because when everybody goes on vacation at the same time, the candy stops coming down the belt.

But chances are, there is someone in the company who can take your place at the conveyor belt while you're gone. Productivity expert and author Laura Stack says the problem is people are paranoid that their replacement will outshine them.

Laura Stack: People think "Well gosh, if everything functioned fine without me, you know, maybe they don't need me." There's a little bit of a fear that I'm disposable.

Stack calls this paranoia a holdover from the dot-com crash when layoffs were a daily occurrence.

And then there are the technological advances. Those always-on, connect-from-anywhere Blackberries and laptops that tend to blur the line between work and home.

Stack: We aren't good as a whole as Americans in general at setting boundaries and turning off. We don't turn off the outside world.

Stack says if you don't forget what day of the week it is, that vacation really isn't a vacation.

I'm Sam Eaton for Marketplace Money.

About the author

Sam Eaton is an independent radio and television journalist. His reporting on complex environmental issues from climate change to population growth has taken him all over the United States and the world.

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