Monday, June 13, 2011

Do CIOs really take real vacations ?

Last month I was confronted by a peculiar but innocent question from a young professional, “Do CIOs take real vacations ? I mean real long vacations with friends and family free from all the worries of workplace and fighting fires that keep them at work beyond the normal hours ?”. I began to wonder about the question and the more I thought about it, the more it troubled me. I mean, vacations without my email, phone, laptop, no connectivity; that was eons ago.
Today every executive irrespective of hierarchy is consumed by the need to stay connected to the workplace. Downloaded information and alerts keep the buzz going 24X7. Approvals via phone, business intelligence on the fly are the norm; one cannot ever claim that I was not informed or I did not have access to information. To add to the clutter, friends and partners want to stay connected using various social networks.

So what is the vacation about ? Working on the road with interruptions on the phone, balancing the laptop in between site seeing trips, late night responses to emails with long attachments, talking to a vendor while soaking into the natural beauty staring in the face ? For most of us who travel across time zones, the first reflex is to reach out to the phone to see what came through while we caught up with the forty winks.

What does it take to sell the Ferrari and become a monk who has no links to what we call “work”, while immersing into “life”. Is that a possibility in the hyper-connected fast paced activity conundrum ? We CIOs created this paradigm for our enterprises to which every corporate employee is a slave.

Imagine if we did not answer the phone (makes us appear rude), stopped responding to emails and had an active “Out of Office” message, let team fight the fires that make up a regular day at work; would it make a stress free day ? 9 out of 10 times people would say yes, but 9 out of 10 times they will suffer higher stress levels’ wondering about what is indeed happening.

So is there a way out ? I would hazard to say yes and it requires excruciating will power to execute; go at it one hour at a time. That is like taking baby steps and setting a realistic target because stating that I will not look at that device called the phone, laptop, or tablet; for a week is unlikely to happen. Feeling awkward, I called many CIO friends who took vacations recently and asked them if they did what I have outlined above. No prizes for the result of the survey.

I think Bob Dylan had seen the future when he wrote in the year I was born “The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind, …”.

Guess what, next vacation I am going to try it. (it’s always the next, isn’t it ?)


  1. Anonymous10:25 PM

    Its interesting that you say 'every' executive. And I feel that percolates from the fact that CXOs behave that way and unknowingly set similar expectations across the organization. If CXOs learnt the art of personal time being personal time, all would be at a lot more ease.
    And I am forced to believe that India is worse at this than some of our global counterparts. Would you agree?

  2. My observation is that the behavior is universal and not limited to any geography. Most executives acknowledge the dysfunction, that is a good sign; I hope that change will follow

  3. No connectivity with office seems that you are not in the planet earth. Theoretically it can be done but does it practical to cutoff for weak? I don't know as I have no guts to even try that. Yesterday only when I was coming back to India and I was in flight somebody very important from office was looking for me.He got quite angry to learn that my phone is unreachable.He called the oversees location to check where I am and as soon as I landed in India and going through immigration process I received a call from him. This is bizarre but True.

  4. That is so true Arun! I honestly feel better when I check my emails on vacation, although not as frequently, but once a day is a must. Otherwise its always the 'wondering' feeling that you write about.

    Honestly, the 1st question people ask a hotel is 'Do you have Wi-Fi?' :)

    Keep the posts coming!

    Best regards,