Planning holidays this summer? Will you be able to take your mind off work altogether? For most IT professionals, this is far from obvious. With competition pressuring companies to operate 24/7 and with mobile devices ensuring employees’ availability regardless of location, IT staff are increasingly expected to stay in touch with the office even when they’re supposed to be unwinding. But is it really that hard to outsource IT tasks internally or to manage replacement?
Working Holidays Are The New Norm
According to recent studies, IT employees take less time off than in previous years, due to the expansion of tech-related projects and to the dearth of certain IT specialists. Even while away, they feel compelled to check in regularly, effectively turning summer holidays into remote working trips. “Some of them have come back and said ‘I don’t even think it was worthwhile taking a vacation, given that I was connected pretty much all the way through,'” reflects Jack Cullen, president of a global IT staffing company.
In fact, an industry-agnostic research revealed this year that on average, employees take no more than half of their allotted vacation time, and the majority of them have to do some work even on those few days off. According to another survey by a major US IT staffing firm, over 80% of organizations don’t adjust workload, arrange replacements or outsource IT functions during summer holiday season. No wonder then that a whopping 67% of their IT staff report having been involved in work during their vacations.
The reason? Apparently, it’s difficult to replace or temporarily outsource IT professionals’ work as they tend to have very specific areas of expertise. In addition, they are often involved in time-sensitive projects that are critical to their company’s success.
Ironically, the higher their position, the less they get to put their feet up: almost half of senior IT execs are expected to be constantly available, as opposed to 18% of their more junior colleagues. For some of them, being on call 24/7 has become something like second nature: “We’re a progressive company and IT is now the center of everything. That’s my personal preference – making myself available every week of the year”, says the CIO of a retail chain with a heavy ecommerce presence.
It Pays Off to Delegate
On the other hand, summer vacation season is an ideal opportunity for IT talent to shine as replacement for those on leave. It just takes a bit of planning ahead and the ability to delegate or internally outsource IT tasks. “People thrive on being challenged and […] when they have developmental and career growth opportunities”, says Jason Hayman, a research manager who specializes in IT staffing. He adds: if senior-level executives make themselves indispensable, that signals a deficiency in succession management. Whereas “if you’re setting things up so mid-level people can step in you’re going to build a foundation […] of IT talent.”
He cautions companies to avoid going too far: if they don’t help to keep up a sustainable work-life balance for their employees, complete with development opportunities and career perspective, they risk losing their best talent to the competition. According to industry observers, being able to disconnect completely is in fact more important for IT workers than ever before so they can recharge their batteries to meet the demands of the daily grind.
What’s your company’s policy on summer vacations? Can you afford to be unavailable at least for a few days?