Surprise! Americans Can’t Unplug…

Over half of  the Grindstone readers who took our Thanksgiving poll  said that they would be checking in with work over the holiday, or maybe even working a full day. That means that even on one of the few national holidays a year, we simply couldn’t unplug from our professional lives. At The Grindstone, 66.5% would be working, or at least checking email. That matches very closely to Mashable’s survey, which found that 68% of Americans would be checking their work email over Thanksgiving or Christmas. Apparently, more mothers need to start banning laptops from holiday get togethers.

But the most surprising thing about these surveys might be that we find the results surprising. After all, Americans receive and use less of their vacation time than workers all over the country. On average, we leave over three vacation days untouched each year.

And with the advent of the company BlackBerry, corporations everywhere have convinced their employees to be constantly on call. We’re almost always connected to our work in some way or another.

It’s hard to diagnose just what drives Americans to be so work-obsessed, even on days that are designated as traditionally “work-free.” It could be our Puritanical Founding Fathers, who believed that we proved our morality through hard-work and dedication. It could be the competitive nature of American corporate culture, that demands more hours worked from each employee. Or it could simply be an advent of the technology era, whether employees can access their company information, even while sitting at their grandmother’s dinner table.

Whatever the cause, the outcome seems pretty clear. Even on two of the biggest holidays of the year, American workers simply refuse to unplug. According to Mashable, 41% of the people checking their email feel frustrated or annoyed that they need to attend to work matters during their holidays, but 19% welcome the break from family gatherings.

My main question is, if we can’t put down the computer on Thanksgiving and Christmas, how much else can we give to our employers? If even our family holidays aren’t safe, what else can we sacrifice in the name of the competitive edge? As more and more women struggle with work life balance, we need to create some barriers between our home lives and our professional lives.

My mother enacted a “No Computers” policy this Thanksgiving and I’m glad that I was forced to put down my computer for a day and concentrate on the blessings around me. It’s just another step in making my family a priority in my life. And if our loved ones can’t be our main focus on Christmas, what can we hope for the rest of the year?

I’m not surprised that the majority of working adults felt the need to check their email over the holidays, but I am hoping that it’s a trend we can change. We all deserve a day off. A real day off.


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