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What vacation? Expect to work while you're away

Esther Shein | July 11, 2014
In these lean times, backups aren't what they used to be; it's inevitable that IT staffers will be called to help, especially when an important issue is brewing.

A 2013 survey by TEKsystems, the largest IT staffing firm in North America, revealed that more than 80% of organizations made no staffing or workload adjustments during IT staff summer vacations. Some 67% of the 200 respondents at all levels of IT indicated their vacations have been interrupted by work demands.

There is also no rest for the weary when it comes to senior IT professionals, since working vacations are increasingly becoming the norm. The 2014 TEKsystems survey, which included responses from 224 IT staffers, found that 47% of senior IT professionals are expected to be available 24x7 while on vacation (up from 44% in 2013), compared to 18% of entry- to mid-level IT professionals (a decrease from 20% in 2013).

These statistics map to other studies. An April 2014 Glassdoor online survey of 2,022 adults (not specific to IT) said that the average employee takes only half of his or her vacation time, and 61% of respondents said that when they do take time off, they do some work.

Getting worse for senior-level staffers

For some IT workers, the problem seems to be getting worse. The percentage of senior IT professionals who said their workplaces did not expect them to be available during vacation shrank from 33% in 2013 to 30% in 2014, according to the most recent TEKsystems survey, while the percentage of entry- to mid-level IT professionals not expected to be available increased from 71% in 2013 to 74% in 2014.

Generally speaking, the more senior your position, the higher the expectations that you'll be available, especially when problems occur, says Jason Hayman, research manager at TEKsystems. One reason that expectations for senior execs are typically high is due to the fact that they tend to be more involved in mission-critical initiatives, he adds.

If you get to this beach in Recife, Brazil -- or any other vacation spot this summer -- you might want to make sure you also have a laptop or some other means of working. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

"Additionally, their specific expertise is more 'rare' as compared with entry- to mid-level IT pros -- so if something happens there is not another resource to allocate to that effort," because senior IT staffers often possess very specific/niche skill sets that cannot be easily replicated, Hayman adds. And to keep projects moving ahead while they are out, senior IT execs need to check in and provide resolutions to whatever may be causing a project to halt momentarily, he says.

While not specifically geared to vacation time, a 2013 survey by Robert Half Technology found that 73% of CIOs check in with work "often" or "somewhat often" on evenings and weekends. The survey of 2,300 CIOs at random U.S. companies also found that only 14% said they never check in outside normal business hours.

 

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