Bucket and spade – check, speedos – check…… Work phone and laptop with full remote login capabilities… Hmmm.
When I first started out recruiting lawyers in 2003 the title of this blog wouldn’t have made much sense to the majority of the population, though times have changed and it is difficult to know where expectations sit. Holidays used to be just that but nowadays it is increasingly common for people to log on whilst on annual leave and it gets harder and harder to actually have a break.
I am writing this piece having taken a two week vacation in June, where I got married and decided to leave the work phone at home. For the first time in years I had a complete break and it felt good. Best of all was that the world didn’t end and whilst my colleagues had to pick up the slack, everyone seemed to take it in their stride (thanks team).
Before I went away there was a considerable internal battle about whether I was doing the right thing and part of the reason I delayed this article was that I didn’t want any comments to change my mind. I’m in the fortunate position of enjoying my day to day job and over the last few years hadn’t seen it as too much of a chore to take the odd call and send the odd email here and there. My wife has always been understanding (insert joke here) and my children haven’t seemed particularly put out by the occasional interruptions. Whilst I work in a team, my job is similar to being self-employed and I have taken the view that if I am unable to provide a comprehensive service then some candidates might find another recruiter that can and it could have a negative impact on my end of year pay packet.
The enviable position that I find myself in is that I am in control of this decision instead of being told I have to work. No one has ever suggested that I work whilst away, so the guilt either way lays firmly on my shoulders. For lots of others that is not the case and lawyers are finding that their free time isn’t so free anymore and in many instances at the elite firms people will have holidays cancelled entirely.
This contrasts with a clear push from many law firms to increase their flexible working and allow regular working from home, flexible hours and more frequent sabbaticals. Firms are very keen to appear to be looking after the wellbeing of their staff, though particularly at the elite level the expectation is still that if a matter is urgent then it gets done regardless of what is planned outside work.
If the technology is around and people are willing to push the hours then working on holiday will probably always happen. The genie is out of the bottle now and will it go back in? Enforced no working holidays have come into place in financial services in recent times, so perhaps this will happen in big law one day.
It would be nice to think that as we learn more about the effects of completely switching off and the benefits to motivation and stress levels of having a proper rest, then maybe the tide will turn.
As a final point; whilst I didn’t do any work, modern smart phones make distractions very plentiful. Is it any better or worse to be distracted by (in my case) a general election or sporting event than a work email. Perhaps next time I need to go the whole hog and switch off all electronic communication entirely?
When not holidaying Andrew specialises in recruiting lawyers into private practice. If you would like a confidential career discussion then don’t hesitate to contact him on +44 (0)207 400 2050 firstname.lastname@example.org