Hump Day: I’m unavailable unless the pope and queen need me

Hump Day 2 croppedHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Moncton Times & Transcript

Unless you’re a student, teacher or retail worker, the concept of a snow day has largely gone the way of the dodo bird. While those who work in the school environment get a number of snow days off per year (except for this relatively snow-free winter) – and retail workers certainly can’t be expected to serve the public when their stores are closed – a large number of the rest of us are now expected to work from home. You can thank the Internet, laptops, smartphones and email for that.

I miss the old days. As a kid, it was always a thrill to listen to the radio and hear CKCW Radio’s Dave Lockhart counting down the school districts closed for the day due to a storm. “All schools are closed in districts 11… 12… 13… 14… and 15.” In Moncton, 13 and 15 were the important numbers, with 13 being the district for francophone schools and 15 serving anglophone schools. It seems like he always dragged out those storm announcements to make it extra torturous on us!

Ever since the popular adoption of email and the Internet in the 1990s, the concept of the snow day has quickly eroded outside of the school and retail environments. Today, many people can work virtually from home and be just as effective as working in person at the office. You can correspond by email, share documents, and even hold video meetings very easily. For the most part, there’s absolutely no excuse for not being as productive as you would be at your regular place of work.

Unfortunately – as far as our own ‘quiet time’ goes – this technology has also snuck its way into our personal lives. It only takes a second to respond to your boss’s email at 10 p.m., right? And it only takes a minute to answer the client’s question at 6 a.m., right? Heck, you can even work while you’re in the bathroom by reading and sending emails. Has it come to this? Are we even working from bed and the bathroom now?

I can honestly say that my smart-phone and tablet have no place in my bedroom at night, however if I was on the witness stand, I’d have to answer truthfully that I’ve sent the odd email or two from the bathroom. (I don’t do it often. You only have to get shaving cream all over your smartphone once to cure you of that bad habit!)

These days, even if you’re on so-called vacation, you’re half-expected to be available. I don’t know many people who completely disconnect unless they fly to the other side of the world – and even then they’re still posting their vacation photos to Facebook. Hey, if you can be on Facebook, you can answer a few work emails at the same time, right?

pope queen collage
The new standard of interrupting your vacation to return to work should only be if Pope Francis and Queen Elizabeth want a meeting with you.

Smart employers don’t allow this to happen. In fact, really (!) smart employers will insist that their employees completely disconnect from work even though they may be tempted to check in or respond to emails. No one is that indispensable that they can’t take a few days (or weeks) off. It takes planning, though. And it takes will power on both the employer and the employee sides of the equation.

I work for myself, and I fully admit to being completely unable to disconnect. I’ve responded to emails at 11 a.m. and 6 a.m. – and everything in between. Holidays? ‘Tis to laugh! What’s a holiday? If you email me, you’ll likely get a response. In fact, when I die, all I ask is that someone slip a fully charged smartphone and a charger into the casket with me. (Please ensure the casket has electricity for the charger.) If you email me after death and I answer, though, please do me a huge favour and dig me back up after you’ve regained consciousness from fainting.

From time to time, though, I’ll just get exhausted and force myself to take time off. This was the case over Easter when I told everyone that I was unavailable for four days. Was I perfect? No, but I did pretty darn well, if I do say so myself!

Actually, I told people not to bother me unless they drove by my house and saw Pope ‍Francis and Queen Elizabeth knocking on my door. Then, you might want to call to let me know that I’d better not ignore the doorbell. Until that actually happens, though, I’m going to force myself to disconnect from work more often for my own sanity.

Having the pope and queen asking you for help should be everyone’s minimum requirement for interrupting your vacation!

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