Does the internet have to go down for knowledge workers to take a guilt-free vacation?

Yesterday, major websites across the US slowed to a crawl when Level 3 Communications, which operates one of the largest internet backbones in the world, experienced technical difficulties.

For knowledge workers, losing internet access is a big deal. (How much of your job would be impossible without internet?) But the internet not only enables our jobs, it also frees us to collaborate globally while working away from our desks and away from the normal 8-5 (should we choose).

The freedom of working from home means we are not forced to leave work. The very technology that’s freed us has become our lifeline. As a result, this fascinating survey shows we now feel guilty if we don’t work during the holidays.

Currently, I’m writing from a friend’s ranch house in the middle of North Dakota. In previous years, my cell phone wouldn’t work, nor would my EVDO modem, and dial-up speeds never topped 30Kbps. Coming here meant zero functional internet–a guilt-free vacation.

But this year my cell modem works. Tonight, I’m able to wrap up some last-minute work. And I’m also faced with a choice–do I unplug for three days as originally planned, or do I check e-mail tomorrow?

Research shows knowledge workers can’t afford to NOT spend time away from work exercising, sleeping, and de-stressing. Continuing to work simply results in feeling productive, rather than being productive.  Personally, I find my creativity withers, my energy tanks, and my planning horizons shrink.

But knowing and doing aren’t the same.
As a co-worker observed, “This is the season when everyone PRETENDS to not work.”

See you in four days.