Work-Life Balance and Jamaica

It may be a sign of our times, but one of the more complex work-life balance questions I face every year –  a couple of times at least, thankfully – is the appropriate level of work-life balance to maintain while I’m on vacation.

There is no actual paradox in this seeming contradiction in terms. The reality is I have no inclination to wholly disconnect, and I’m pretty sure I am not alone on that.

True confession time – I still work a bit while I’m away.    I’d rather set aside an hour or so a day while I’m on vacation to deal with emails and urgencies than face 1000 unread emails and 100 pressing tasks on my first day back.

Truth be told, there are worse places to be in the morning than an oceanview cafe on a lazy resort in the sun, wearing my blue shorts and sipping on a coffee while answering emails and watching the world go by.

I should note that I’m generally surrounded by quite a few fellow travelers during these vacation work-breaks.  There are typically lots of folks pecking on their iPads and iPhones and laptops, right beside me.  In fact, I’d wager that for at least a few, a tropical thunderstorm might fall a remote second as a vacation crisis, compared to the quiet panic that would ensue in the face of an internet outage on the beach.

On a recent vacation, something significant and urgent actually did come up at the office – an opposing counsel who knew I was going to be away nonetheless caused a Statement of Claim to be served on my client the day after I left – after assuring me he wouldn’t.  That wasn’t fun. But it had to be dealt with, then and there, and dealing with these things is part of this job we’ve signed on to do, I believe.

Now I do understand that some might view this all as a pathology-in-motion.  And while I’m not sure the world is evenly split on this question of work-life balance during vacations – yet – I do note an increasing incidence in my practice of receiving email communications from colleagues who “are supposed” to be basking in the breeze and relaxing in the sun.

I suppose that every practitioner must come to his or her own terms with what “balance” truly means.  For many, remaining 15 percent “on” while away just doesn’t seem like any sacrifice, at all.  For others, this is clearly anathema.

As I say, perhaps it’s just a sign of our times that so many of us have such particularly close relationships with our Blackberrys and iPhones.  At home, office, and the pool.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

All of the above is essentially just a preamble of associations I’m having with a Jamaican vacation looming in my not-so-distant future.  I confess that to me, all the islands essentially are alike, but Jamaica has become a destination of choice, in no small part because its resorts’ internet facilities are so typically superior and reliable.

What do you think?  Is this discussion just a subtle indication that the world as we’ve known it has ended, or a frank acknowledgment of modern professional reality?

Or is it just that we stay connected because we can?

 – Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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