Friday, August 6, 2010

Always On, Even on Vacation

On the subway to the airport for this vacation, I answered a query from a current client regarding a project due a week after my return. By the time my family and I arrived at the airport, I have negotiated the project and received the final files for it. I wrote this post on the plane to New Orleans. While waiting at the gate, I used my husband’s Smartphone to check that I had not only written, but also turned on, my out-of-office outgoing e-mail message.

Modern technology makes such seamless work out of the office possible. A recent article in the New York Times decried the fact that family members are so engrossed in their constantly-on devices and services that they do not talk to each other anymore. That was evident when we were waiting at the gate: my son was listening to music on his iPod, my husband was answering an e-mail on his Smartphone and I was reading posts from e-mail lists to which I subscribe on my Blackberry. A few years back, when we had one plain cell phone for the entire family, we sat at the gate each reading a different book – less technology, but not more communication.

Because the technology exists, many clients also expect us to be constantly available. As self-employed freelancers, we could choose to leave our cell phones and laptops at home, but we may well lose clients if we are unavailable even for 2 weeks – let alone the 4 weeks of vacation common in Europe. On the other hand, without paid vacations, I do enjoy knowing that there is paid work waiting for me when I get back. As long as I can answer e-mails at my leisure, rather than within an hour or two of receipt, I don’t mind much negotiating projects with existing clients during vacation.

I do draw the line, however, at actually translating during that time or acquiring new clients. It takes time to perform due diligence research on new clients, and working on projects would clearly subvert the vacation’s purpose of relaxing with my family and learning about a new city. I will be on vacation until August 18, and may not post anything until after my return to the office. Then again, if I find any interesting tidbits about French (or Spanish) in New Orleans, I may post.

Laissez les bon temps roule (let the good times roll), as they say in New Orleans …

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