Holidays are supposed to represent time off from routine day-to-day living. Going away for a holiday used to indicate a willingness to sever all ties with the workday life, including daily telephone calls from random friends and family. Holidays were a complete break designed to allow tired, stressed and over-worked employees time to recharge, unwind and relax before heading back to the hurly-burly pace of the work place. But wireless digital communication devices have put an end to all of that. These days’ people are accessible no matter where they are or what they’re doing. People panic if they find that they’ve left their mobile phones at home, because heaven forbid they miss a call or a text message. Whereas being out of contact used to be the ideal, it’s now considered a nightmare.
According to a recent poll by AP-Ipsos, one in five people couldn’t bear to be separated from their laptops during their last holiday and 80% of holiday-makers couldn’t part with their cell phones. To be fair, not all of those who took their laptops and phones with them on holiday used them for work purposes. Many (50%) simply checked their personal emails and voice mail to stay in the social loop. But 19% of people polled said that they worked on their holiday, 20% said that they checked work related voice mail messages, 15% said that they called in to see how things were going and around 40% said that they checked their work emails.
Not surprisingly more young people (younger than 40) hauled their digital baggage with them. 15% of those aged 50 – 64 took their digital devices with them, compared to 25% of under-40s. People under 40 were more likely to check personal messages, while those who checked work related messages tended to be slightly older. Of those who are digitally addicted, white men are the biggest culprits, as were those with high levels of education and high salary rates, which probably reflects the degree of responsibility or obligation felt by these individuals.
Geoffrey Godbey, professor of leisure studies at Penn State University, Pennsylvania, says that men in their late 40s and early 50s tend to be middle managers and feel that they simply can’t afford to be out of the corporate loop. They feel that in today’s’ competitive business world a holiday is a luxury that they can ill afford. Although some genuinely love what they do, so staying involved is no hardship. The key question is whether people work on holiday because they really want to or because they feel they are obligated to.
While all of this is very alarming, especially for those who don’t work on their holidays (and may now feel pressured to do so), the most frightening statistic from the poll revealed that only 7 in 10 women and 5 in 10 men read a book while on holiday. The fact that literature is taking second place to electronics should be of far greater concern to the masses than the psychoses of workaholics.