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For many, there’s just no getting away

Sat., June 2, 2007

WASHINGTON — Sun block. Beach umbrella. Laptop.

One in five people toted laptop computers on their most recent vacations, an AP-Ipsos poll released Friday said. Along with the 80 percent who said they brought along their cell phones, the survey shows going on vacation no longer means being out of the electronic loop.

Sizable numbers are interrupting their unwinding time to check in at the office and, even more so, to keep up with the social buzz.

About one in five said they did some work while vacationing, and about the same number checked office messages or called in to see how things were going, the poll showed. Twice as many checked their e-mail, while 50 percent kept up with other personal messages like voice mail.

The credit — or culprit, depending on one’s view — is in part today’s array of devices that can easily keep people digitally tethered to workplaces, friends and family. The electronic gear was most commonly brought along by younger people — one in four below age 40 brought laptops, compared with 15 percent of those 50 to 64 and even less for older people.

Reasons vacationers performed work-related tasks include an expectation that they be available; a worry about missing important information; or in some cases the enjoyment of staying involved, according to analysts and some of those surveyed.

“I’m the final guy, so I make sure my customers are happy,” said Don Schneider, 43, a plumbing contractor from Buena Park, Calif., who also runs an online business that supplies video equipment for plumbers.

Schneider says he limits his holiday check-ins to about a half-hour daily and tries to do it unobtrusively so he won’t annoy family and friends, making calls from his hotel room or car.

Nineteen percent said they worked on their vacation even though they were technically off. Twenty percent said they checked work messages like voice mail, and another 15 percent said they called to check in.

“It’s like a cloud hanging over my head until I get it done,” Lee Ann Harrison, 37, a third-grade teacher from Halls, Tenn., said of the work she did on a family trip to Southaven, Miss., for her young son’s baseball team. She said she found herself grading papers “between games, somewhere in the shade.”

Men — particularly white men — were the likeliest to have checked for messages or worked while on vacation. Higher educated and higher-earning people were also likelier to do work-related tasks, in part reflecting the demands of professional or managerial jobs.

“Increasingly, especially when you’re in a managerial sort of role, it’s very difficult to walk away from the job totally given the communications technology we have today,” said Suzanne Bianchi, who chairs the University of Maryland’s sociology department and said she checks in about weekly while off.

Some, like attorney Barry Eisenson, 64, of Hollywood, Fla., said it would probably be more stressful not to check in while away. He said he stayed in touch with his office during a cruise to Alaska last year but had trouble getting through while sailing off the state’s panhandle, “so I rested.”

People under age 40 were likeliest to check their personal e-mails, voice mails or other messages from vacation spots. But people checking for work-related messages tended to be a bit older, perhaps reflecting the greater work responsibilities that can come with age.


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