"I'm Away But Still Here"
Hi, this is Bob and I’m out of the office. I’ve gone on vacation and I’ll be away for the next week. I’ll have limited access to e-mails and cell-phone service. Ditto Twitter, Facebook, walkie-talkies, smoke signals, carrier pigeon, megaphones, foghorns, semaphore, tribal drums, bird calls and tin cans connected by string.
Out of the office in this case means out, as in no longer in.
Unplugged, MIA, incommunicado. No guilt this time around, either, much less insecurity and paranoia. So please feel free to hesitate to call me. Hesitate indefinitely.
Listen, I’ve worked my behind off all year – literally – making it extremely difficult to sit. I’ve made all my numbers for the last three quarters in a row, even the stupid metrics nobody even counts anymore. Besides, vacations are good for you. “Vacation” means “to vacate,” as in vacate the premises as well as vacate your mind. You get away from it all – all the memos about why we’re doing too many memos and all the meetings about why we’re having too many meetings.
Hey, I know work has this nasty habit of going on even in my absence. But we do have 203 other senior vice presidents who could tee up that new org chart I’m supposed to do. Let someone else around here shift a few paradigms for a change. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I’ll be away with my family for our annual August reunion in Nantucket. “Family” being the key word there. Did I mention that my wife gives me dirty looks because I work all the time, or that our kids have stopped talking to me for the same reason, or that both my parents are getting really decrepit, or that I’ve gone three years without a raise? If not, then let me do that right now. Just saying is all.
Sorry for the long voicemail here, by the way.
That’s what I’m saying publicly anyway – that I’m unreachable, AWOL, out to lunch – but that construct is purely theoretical.
The reality is another story.
After all, it’s still the Great Recession out there, and it’s either letting up soon or getting worse, I forget which. In any event, it’s still all hands on deck everywhere you look. As it happens, our HR department recently issued guidelines calling for employees to swallow lunch without chewing just to save time. No wonder more than half of all American workers now leave at least four vacation days on the table every year. That whole work-life balance mantra we pay lip service to has gone in the tank.
So just between us, I’m actually at your service. I may be out, but I’m never out out, if you catch my drift, because out is technically the new in. In fact, consider me the very embodiment of round-the-clock availability. Right now I’m checking my BlackBerry while water skiing.
Already I’m looking forward to returning to the office. Truth be told, time off is too much work. Anything is easier, really, than taking it easy. So try my cell. Or my pager. Or my beeper. Or text me. Or tweet me. Or Skype my assistant. Or his assistant. Or implant a silicon chip in my brain. Let me even give you our address in Montauk. Whatever the case, please go ahead and reach out to me directly, unless you mind interrupting a guy on vacation with his increasingly distant wife and kids who hate his guts and his doddering and drooling parents. And do let me know if my career depends on my calling you back immediately. Because if you’re a client, I’m always in. And if you’re my boss, I never left in the first place.
Bob Brody is a public-relations executive and essayist in New York City. His essays have appeared in The New York TImes, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. He wrote this piece while on vacation.