“There’s No Escape From Your Smartphone”: The Intrusion Of Technology Into The Modern Holiday:

Did you know that Wednesday 24th September was “Go Home on Time Day” in the UK? Perhaps not. But even if you were aware of it, statistics obtained by Lana Clement of “Yahoo! Finance” from the “Working Families” charity indicate that you probably anyway stayed late at the office (if you have a job) or in the college library (if you’re a student). It would seem, however – in the opinion of Corinne Mills, Director of “Personal Career Management” (quoted in the “London Evening Standard” on 25th September) – that doing so is unlikely to have enhanced your prospects of promotion, getting a pay rise, or a higher grade from your lecturer.

In the “Sunday Times” on 28th September, the columnist India Knight lamented the fact that “we are stuck in overtime culture” and emphasised the generally accepted view that “long hours are bad for everyone, not least because people work better if they aren’t permanently knackered”. This was expressed in the context of her article about Virgin boss Richard Branson’s decision to allow staff in his head office to “go on holiday whenever they like and for as long as they want”.

A report by “The Guardian’s” Berlin correspondent, Philip Oltermann, on 19th September, revealed that the “basic working week” in the UK now consists of 42.8 hours ,more than in Germany and Spain (both 41.7), France (40.7) and Italy (40.4). These figures don’t take into account the fact that many employees, “with the advent of smartphones and e-mail” are  permanently “on call” even when they are at home or out with friends.

This is in no way an exclusively “British problem”. Under pressure from the unions, Volkswagen in Germany have “agreed to stop its Blackberry servers sending e-mails to some employees outside working hours”. The Daimler company, likewise, starting in August, have given “about 100,000 workers the option of having their e-mails automatically deleted while they are on holiday”.

Not all employees in the UK, it seems, would accept or want a similar arrangement even if it were offered to them. On the contrary, as the commentator Clarissa Tan pointed out in “The Spectator” magazine on 10th August, “We can no longer live without our iPads and iPhones, especially while we’re on holiday”. In her view, the “idea of escaping, switching off, is a thing of the past. Even when abroad, we’re at home because we’re in our usual place online. The real-world self may be on holiday, the web-self is not”. She noted that, when she was walking along the beach in Cornwall, “it was astonishing how many people were stooped over their iPhones, cyber-surfing when they could be surfing, scrolling when they could stroll”.

So what exactly, these days, are holidays for and do we really benefit from them? According to Ryanair boss, Michael O’Leary, they are “a complete waste of time”. He told the business magazine “Management Today” that he only goes on them because of the insistence of his wife and four children. Sir Winston Churchill, Britain’s Prime Minister during the 1939-45 war, regarded holidays as “enforced interruptions to an absorbing vocation”. For George Bernard Shaw, the Irish playwright and co-founder of the London School of Economics (LSE), a “perpetual holiday” was “ a definition of hell”.

Many people, though, would identify with the remark by the American philosopher, Elbert Hubbard, that “no-one needs a vacation so much as the person who has just had one”. As the journalist Mark King has observed in The Guardian, “The miserable, panicky feeling in your gut reminding you that you’ll soon be returning to work often begins before you’ve even finished your holiday”. Is there any way, he asked “to prevent all the energy and optimism you felt while lying on a sun lounger from evaporating overnight?” He proposed taking an extra day’s leave to recover from your journey instead of returning promptly to the office. Also, to immediately book your next trip, on the basis that “it’s much easier to throw yourself into a period of hard work if you have something to look forward to”.

Two of the main benefits of going on holiday, the “Daily Mail’s” health reporter, Naomi Coleman, has suggested, is that it provides “the perfect opportunity to catch up on sleep” (the lack of which can “lead to stress and poor mental performance”) and that you are “more likely to laugh, which really is the best medicine”. The website “bukisa-com”, while acknowledging that the word “holiday” usually “conjures up positive imagery”, has also debated whether in reality it’s “a bad thing, a burden on income, the ultimate disappointment.” It has become the norm , so Bukisa declares, “ to try to cram the short vacation with as many activities as possible, with the result that people return from their break exhausted, less energised than when they set out on their holiday”.

Going away for just one week also presents another problem. A survey by the travel insurance company LV (published in the “Daily Telegraph) concluded that “it takes four days to switch off, so that means you get only three days to rest and unwind”. Despite this, the psychologist Dr Glenn Wilson told the Daily Telegraph that it’s better to take a series of short breaks than one long, extended holiday -mainly because the “positive effects that going away has on mood, well-being and health tend to fade within two or three weeks”. Meanwhile, 25% of the currently employed adults questioned by LV admitted working while they were on holiday and a third said they spent an average of three hours 40 minutes thinking about their job during their break.

Filed under: Society, Travel | Posted on October 10th, 2014 by Colin D Gordon

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