- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 25, 2006

American workers are not only tanning or swinging golf clubs on vacation. Many are also pounding away on their laptops or BlackBerrys while sitting on the beach or in a tent.

The percentage of Americans who work on vacation has almost doubled in the past 10 years, and one in four Americans work at least three hours per vacation day, according to a study released last week.

The June survey of about 700 office workers across the country found that 43 percent worked on vacation, while a similar survey conducted in 1995 found that 23 percent worked on holidays, according to Chris Congdon, manager of corporate marketing for sales of Steelcase Inc. The Grand Rapids, Mich., company, which manufactures office furniture and technology, commissioned Opinion Research Corp. to do the study.

Art Ginolfi, 48, of Bethesda, recently traveled to a New Jersey beach for vacation only to find he spent most of time on his cell phone.

“I was closing a million-dollar deal on the Fourth of July weekend,” said Mr. Ginolfi, who is the northeast vice president of sales of Omega World Travel, a travel agency. “I was supposed to be on vacation.”

Mr. Ginolfi, who is also president of the Baltimore-Washington Business Travel Association, added, “When the customer calls, you need to call back. I can’t turn the phone off.”

The majority of those who worked during their last vacation, 80 percent, said they used technology to finish office work.

Americans’ growing dependence on technology, such as laptops and cell phones, may be why they are working more on vacation, said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray& Christmas Inc., a Chicago human resources management firm.

“I don’t think Americans are working much harder. It’s just that we carry work with us because of the technology,” Mr. Challenger said. “It’s kind of the way life is now — that you carry your cell phone, laptop or BlackBerry with you.”

“Most people feel untethered when they don’t have their technology with them,” he said.

Also, more Americans are carrying laptops with them to their getaways. About 41 percent said they use laptops to work on vacation, and about one-third said they use cell phones to work during the holiday. In the 1995 survey, the majority said they used cell phones to work on vacation.

“I absolutely got to take my laptop with me — I can’t afford to be away that long,” said 48-year-old Ray Ciecinski, a Bethesda resident who works in government sales.

“But what it does is that it actually enables me to take vacation when I wouldn’t be allowed to do it,” said Mr. Ciecinski, who took a Seattle trip with his family two weeks ago.

Mr. Challenger said this may be the upside to bringing work on vacation. Employees can stretch their vacation time, and three- and four-day weekends are more common.

“Technology has made the boundary between work and personal life almost meaningless,” he said, adding that “personal life has invaded work life.”

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