The trouble with holidays

Subject: Automated Out of Office Reply

Thank you for your message. I will be away on annual leave until 23 September 2013. In case of anything urgent, please contact my assistant, Amy, on x243. She will be able to help, if you don’t mind waiting for about a week. Honestly, I’ve seen funerals move faster. In fact, why don’t you try Bob instead, on x342. He gets things done. He’s a go-getter. He knows the business too. What, he’s on Jury Service? Great. There’s always Gemma on x456. She’s nice. You’ll enjoy dealing with Gemma. If you’re willing to hear all about her organic hemp espadrilles or last night’s episode of Britain’s Next Top Celebrity Kitchen Animal Rescue for the first week of your conversation. Which you probably don’t. Who else is there? Jeff the grad? A bit keen. Janet? A bit new. God, this is depressing.

You know what, don’t call anyone’s extension. Save yourself the pain. Wait till I get back from my break. Or better still, call me on my mobile. We’ll be done and dusted in 5 minutes. I can’t turn the thing off anyway. I’ve tried, but I get cold sweats and a migraine. I’m supposed to be chillaxing at a Norwegian wellness resort, so going off-grid could end up ruining the whole flipping holiday. The irony. Plus I’d come home to 7 frazillion emails which will take me the rest of my life to read. Yes, my mobile will be on if you need me. I’ll be much happier connected. My week off will be more relaxing.

Wait, that’s ridiculous. This is my only holiday of the year. I’m a wreck. I’m burnt out. My lights are on, but I’m out for a walk around Tesco’s in my pyjamas. I need the mental rest. That’s the point. I need to stop THINKING about work. I should be comfortable devolving responsibility in my absence. Trust my colleagues more. Delegate more. Disconnect from the world. Be energised and hungry when I get back. Like a leopard on caffeine. And if I can’t trust in my team’s ability to manage without me, it’s my problem, not theirs. And I need to mentor and encourage them until they can cope. That’s my job, isn’t it? That’s what being a manager is. Yeah right, who’s got time for mentoring and coaching these days? I already work 27 hour days. Maybe I’m not managing my time properly then, and I’m focusing on the wrong things, and I’m a terrible people manager, and I should’ve recruited better people, and it’s all my fault. This situation is actually OF MY OWN MAKING. I’ve created a monster. And it’s taking over my holiday. And my life.

You know what, I might just do what my wife does. She said, the day you get back from holiday, delete every unread email from your inbox, claim your PC got wiped, and see if anything bad happens in the next 48 hours. If the world doesn’t end, you probably haven’t missed anything. You probably weren’t missed either. Not sure if I’d go there, mind you. My pride couldn’t take it. I need to know the business can’t function without me. Which it can’t, can it. Could it? Perhaps it could though. What if I went on holiday and everything just carried on as normal? Is it possible I’m… dispensable? Am I just a work-obsessed control freak, whipped up into a frenzy of self-importance by my digital devices, permanently on, permanently wired? Is this what technology is doing to me, to us all? Turning us into introverts on a power trip? Whatever happened to sharing, connecting and collaborating? Are we emailing ourselves to death? What’s wrong with us? What’s wrong with me? I think I need a holiday. I’ll call you when I get back…

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