If you are currently living in the Northern Hemisphere, it is summertime. The thermometer is higher along with your kids' energy level and number of reruns on television.
Another signal of summertime - a greater number of people taking vacations from work.
Over the past few months, my husband and I have had several family members and friends at our lake house who were doing just that -- taking a vacation from their jobs. (We continue to be honored that they spend their precious few vacations days with us.)
The lake house is in a very remote, rural area, with only slow and limited options for internet service. While our family and friends might not be perfectly representative of all working adults, I can conclude (rather uncontroversially) that there is a wide range of differences in individuals' desire to stay connected with work and their comfort with being out-of-touch from the daily activities of their job. Some found the lack of high-speed connectivity a positive feature of the lake house while others stayed glued to their iPhones. (One even ended up in the water.)
Have you noticed the same from family members, friends, and colleagues -- do they differ on the extent to which they unplug from work while on vacation?
While you've probably observed this difference, have you also observed that the reasons for their behaviors also differ even when displaying the same level of connected (or disconnected) behavior. The more connected among might be thought of as workaholics or conscientious or truly worried about losing their jobs. The least connected might be viewed as having greater work-life balance or a job where constant connection is not needed or a job they dislike.
Without some additional knowledge it is difficult to tell (or judge). According to Professor Terri Kurtzberg from Rutgers University, who studies technology and communication in the workplace, technology has evolved so quickly in recent years that there’s no consensus on when it’s inappropriate, or even unhealthy, to use it for work during downtime...We don't have any standards on what's normal and reasonable to expect from someone right now.
Suspending judgement based on others' "plugged in" behavior should also be extended to more subtle indicators. Consider the automated vacation email responses you've received in the past few months. While some organizations have a standard message, others allow for employees' customization. These automatic messages can be interpreted to reflect individuals' relationships with their jobs, their dedication, and their desire to appear as though they are staying connected with work.
For fun, if you want to test your biases on staying connected during vacations, think about what these phrases from some out-of-office automatic email responses indicate to you?
I agree with Terri Kurtzberg, we are in a grey area now in terms of expectations for staying connected -- and what these behaviors say about our work and its relationship to it. These norms will begin to evolve as the next generation of workers enter the workforce. They are the technology natives, after all.
What do you think will emerge in years to come?