Bank Holidays offer a complete break from it all – except the BlackBerry

Workers are finding it increasingly hard to log off when they get time off, according to a recent survey. One investment banker’s wife describes the stress of vacationing with a workaholic husband

Did you enjoy your Bank Holiday? I hope so – but spare a thought for those who couldn’t, because their spouse was clamped to their BlackBerry.

Discussions about working while on holiday often neglect to mention the impact it has on families. I have countless examples of how work has interfered with our holidays over the past 24 years.

Our four adult children associate most of their family holidays with whichever deal my husband was working on at the time. For example, Portugal was the xxx IPO deal, Canada was the xxx takeover deal, and Wales was the xxx Christmas – such is his preoccupation with work while on holiday.

There have been many occasions when we have had to remain silent on car journeys while my husband has taken part in a conference call or we have had to seek out places with a phone signal and stay there for the duration of a work call (memorably on foot at the top of a Welsh mountain in torrential rain).

Only last year he had to put a dongle in a carrier bag, tie it to the top of a window-opening pole and climb an apple tree in the graveyard outside our Landmark Trust accommodation so he could get a signal. And that was in Somerset.

On another recent holiday he was involved in an hour-long conference call at 3am every morning – 9am UK time – so that our wake-up alarm was set for 2.45am every day.

These days the front passenger seat of the car, once the most sought-after spot for family members on a long journey, has now become the least desirable place to sit. This is because if my husband is driving, it is the front passenger who has to read out his incoming emails and type and send his outgoing ones. And this can go on for hours. Hardly a relaxing experience.

When he took a day’s holiday to go to our daughter’s graduation last summer my husband was wired into a conference call, on mute, in Durham Cathedral, even while the ceremony was taking place.

For the whole of the graduation dinner that evening, his place at the table was unoccupied and his food uneaten while he stood outside in the car park, on the phone trying to avert some disaster on the takeover he was involved with.

Perhaps most shocking is that our daughter wasn’t too upset by this behaviour, as she has grown so used to it over the years.

Even before the days of emailing and mobile phones, work interfered with our holidays. Back then, communication with the office involved faxing and using couriers, as well as the landline phone.

I remember spending hours in a car with four young children in a remote part of Portugal trying to find somewhere to buy a fax machine. My husband spent much of the rest of the holiday sitting by the pool studying rolls of faxed documents. Another time when we were staying with my mother she woke us in the middle of the night alarmed that there might be an intruder in her garden. In fact the “intruder” turned out to be a motorbike courier trying to find the letterbox. And then there was the courier in Italy who phoned us in the early hours because he’d got lost and needed directions.

One might think that the most remote places would be the best holiday destinations with a workaholic, but experience has shown us otherwise.

Then again, mobile signals across Africa are amazingly good, even in the most secluded safari camp. It is difficult, but not impossible, to talk on a phone while skiing, and easy to stop on the side of a slope wired up to an earpiece.

It is impossible to email and take part in a conference call while scuba-diving, but dives don’t last very long and you can’t do more than a few each day, which leaves plenty of time to return to emailing. I’ve lost count of the number of phones my beloved has broken by going for a swim in the sea, forgetting his phone was in his pocket, but it’s not long before he finds another one to use. I’m still waiting to discover the perfect getaway as he won’t go anywhere without his BlackBerrys (note plural), laptop and iPad.

In our experience the holiday has become more of a “take your family to work” week than a proper break, and can leave family members more frazzled at the end of the holiday than at the start. They say a change is as good as a rest – but I’m not so sure.

This article first appeared in Financial News, efinancialnews.com

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