I admit that when I am not at work, I’m like a Toyota Prius at a traffic light. The engine goes off; and only the display seems lit up. Taking care of the birds, gardening, and doing various other errands starts the engine up once again.
In the good old days, when 1200 and 2400 bps modem dial-up lines were the rage, and Digital Equipment Corporation paid for a second telephone line into your home, I was not as connected to my job. I spent a lot of time at my job, but when vacation time arrived, that time really was a vacation; I was not tethered to work.
Then came email; followed by cell phones. Those were followed quickly by ISDN, a clean, dedicated 56K bps line into your home, and ISDN was followed closely by the first DSL lines. The work tether bridge building had begun. Today, we are in constant contact, tethered together almost like the Borg.
Recently, I tried to take my October vacation. It started off with my working both weekend days on a nasty problem involving a root kit virus and a mail list server. The problem is still not solved completely, though people can use the list server for its intended purpose. We still have another weekend ahead to complete the job.
Then, I made the mistake of answering an email on Monday. Why I logged in to view my email was neither my boss’ requirement nor anyone else’s. It was just habit. After that, I went off the grid, and have not listened to a work voice message nor read a work email since.
In most businesses, let alone municipal government, staffing just meets demand or is not enough. A lot of people might not want to believe that about municipalities, but it is true. I am virtually the only person who does what I do, and while I am working to change that — even involving some job risk in the process — nothing changes immediately. So, I am essentially on call, unless my vacation includes going to Antarctica or North of the White Mountains. However, being on call is not the same thing as checking constantly to see if an emergency exists.
I strongly suggest that people go off grid at least once in a while. Who knows that the person who cannot contact you might gain some independence.