Thursday 29 September 2011

Worliday, Taking Control or Loss of Work Life Balance?

Worliday is a term coined by Lucy Kellaway, of the Financial Times, in an article earlier this summer. A ‘Worliday is a bit like a holiday and a bit like work. ‘It’s the future for most professional workers, and actually, contrary to what most people would have you believe, worliday is really rather nice’, she states.

Having just come back from my own worliday I entirely agree. As someone running my own law firm, the idea of a holiday without any connection to the office seems both challenging and unnecessary. Modern technology is a real boon in enabling people like me to continue overseeing the office whilst on holiday. As Lucy Kellaway points out ‘the worliday is not family unfriendly at all as families get twice as many holidays.’

However, the idea of taking a ‘worliday’ has received mixed reviews from bloggers.

Chris Abram of ‘Marketing Conversations’, blogged in praise of the worliday, claiming that ‘working at Abraham Harrison is a little like an everyday worliday if you play it right and get your work done’. 

On the other hand, Tim Bratton General Counsel of the FT who tweets as @legalbrat likes his holidays to be just that, a holiday. He wrote a blog disagreeing with Lucy’s pro worliday stance. He feels the need for a holiday that is totally work free. He wants to relax and recharge. George Marshall agreed with him, stating ‘Leisure should by default dominate every day of your life with work being a mere sideshow.’

Image by SP Ingram 

Although combining a holiday with work may seem the opposite of relaxing for these bloggers, in my view the ability to work remotely whenever we like, whether we are on holiday or travelling on business, represents freedom.                                         

I wonder whether this divergence of opinions has something to do with the fact that women are reportedly (though not scientifically proven) believed to be better at multi tasking than men. Or is it just that people who run their own businesses are never off duty (and possibly don’t want to be)?

Tim Bratton criticises technology for encouraging us to work more, asking ‘is that really what we’re inventing new technology for? To make it easier to work?’ 

I disagree with this view because I feel that technology enables people to have the freedom to work where they want and when they want. Having the choice is what matters.

Technology gives those of us who run our own businesses the opportunity to go on a relaxing holiday and spend time with our families, and yet not worry about how the business is doing, and whether it is coping in our absence. 

I have no problem combining relaxation with work. Indeed, I so love my business, that a worliday presents an ideal opportunity to work ON the business as it gives me more time to think when I'm sitting by the pool, or taking a walk. I come back recharged, with many new ideas for the business, while having spent quality time with my family. 

I do find working IN the business less pleasurable, and so avoid doing the actual work as much as possible whilst on holiday.  However, even when that is unavoidable, taking a half day to deal with something doesn’t spoil the holiday for me.  It doesn't mean I haven’t had “work life” balance. I wonder what fellow IP practitioners think?


  1. Why the need for the 'women are generally superior' comment? Is such a belief the reason why so many female-owned firms tend to have a high proportion of female professional staff? What is wrong with equality?

  2. Hello Anonymous
    absolutely nothing wrong with the quality! I presume you are inferring that 'the women are generally superior' because the blogger, Lucy Kellaway and probably Chris Abraham are female and seem to think that whirly days are a good idea and Tim Bratton is male and doesn't. But does being prepared to work all the time make you superior or just an idiot. It's a highly debatable point. if I were in Tim's position with Tim's team I would certainly be having a real holiday. Having chosen to work solo, I don't have quite so much choice, I'm certainly not going to get superior about it.

  3. My response is based in the comment "I wonder whether this divergence of opinions has something to do with the fact that women are reportedly (though not scientifically proven) believed to be better at multi tasking than men."

    In a discussion on working while on holiday (I'm not going to use the silly word, which will never, hopefully, catch on, not even in management-bull-speak circles) the issue of multi-tasking is not even a factor. Anyone can check their blackberry while their child enjoys riding the carousel. As for reading them a bedside story while taking a call from a client, that would be real multi-tasking. There is a reason why the sexist comment is not supported by scientific evidence and that is because it is false.

  4. Ah I get it.
    You're absolutely right. Real multitasking is impossible. Sometimes I find myself hopping from one thing to another but that isn't the way to do your best quality work. If the lawyer boasts about multitasking, it may not be the ideal marketing message.
    We will endeavour to ensure that the SOLO blog does not contain any sexist comments in future.

  5. It sounds like a "worliday" is most holidays that I take. I suspect that Lucy Kellaway is lucky enough to have a job that allows a partial immersion of the kind she describes (dip in and out).

    In my experience most holidays I take can end up with me working on client problems a large proportion of the time. Would it was possible to structure it the way Lucy does, but my work, and I suspect most people's work, can't operate like that.

    If you are available, people will use your time, is the experience of most office workers I know. Journalists may have an easier life.

    In other words, total cut-off is necessary otherwise its not really a holiday at all. I have a second "holiday" SIM for my mobile the number only known to my wife and mother and, if I want to have a proper rest, I swap it in, leave any wifi connected device behind and go somewhere remote and unreachable.

    Otherwise I really am at it for all hours.

  6. Many people who keep in touch with work while on holiday do so because they are unable to trust their staff to do the job while they are away. They have either hired the wrong staff or just have a general problem with lack of trust and letting go. Personally speaking, I always found myself to be more productive when my boss was away and never called them with a problem as requested because I somehow managed to deal with world-ending crises myself.

    Working as a sole practitioner is much more difficult in this respect, obviously.

  7. Not sure if my earlier comment was received, so trying again.

    As someone who has never left an anonymous comment on any blog, I'm always mystified about people who feel the need to be anonymous, and can’t really take their comments seriously.

    I knew my comment about the sexes would be provocative, but I wanted to generate discussion. However, I don’t think it’s sexist to discuss whether the anecdotal belief that women are better at juggling many balls than men has something to do with the reason why the women expressing opinions about the benefits of worlidays, including Lucy Kellaway the author of the original piece are women. There are books like Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars, (which I haven’t read by the way) so I doubt it’s sexist to air discussion.

    As for keeping in touch when on holiday, it’s actually an SRA requirement to supervise the office, and there is no easier way to supervise than to be prepared to look at emails, approve outgoing emails and so on. I would be stuck in the office if it were not for the freedom that modern technology gives.

  8. Why respond to an anonymous comment if you do not take them seriously? I personally contribute to many discussion forums under my name and also anonymously and there is no ulterior motive for the latter. I've never known anyone make such a comment over an anonymous posting that was a serious comment on an issue, but I suspect it has happened in this case because the original poster has been stung and is now trying to wiggle her way out of her predicament.

    When women in Saudi Arabia risk corporal punishment for driving illegally (anecdotal evidence suggests women are bad drivers does it not?) women in the UK who are doing well in society and who are not held back by discrimination should refrain from such comments.

    If Shireen wants this to provoke this sort of discussion on the sexes then she must be prepared for some honest feedback. So while we are on the subject, can someone explain why it is okay for women-only business networking events, while a men-only equivalent would be deemed sexist?

  9. It's a shame we've let sex take over a discussion of whether holiday time has to be worktime too. Shireen seems to be blaming the SRA for her interrupted holidays but that seems a little unfair as the indicative behaviours in the new handbook clearly demonstrate that managers are expected to have holidays and make appropriate arrangements for cover and in any event it is only the reserved legal activities and immigration that need to be supervised so if you're not involved in litigation you can have a holiday, isn't that nice. Since we are all supposed to be getting up to speed with the new SRA Handbook that comes into force on Thursday here is the link to the chapter on supervision

  10. I find it telling that people who share their views by writing blogs such as these are unable and unwilling to engage in debate when a comment is made challenging their position. Not what one would expect of a lawyer whose job is to argue a case on behalf of client.

    Keep quiet everyone, the bear is still in the room!

  11. Shireen, to return to your original question: "I wonder what fellow IP practitioners think"

    I agree that is a matter of choice. Personally, I favour taking regular holidays and try to avoid thinking about work when on holiday. Sometimes, this involves working harder in the run up to a holiday, including in the hours before my wedding.

    When I was a sole practitioner (for 17 years, until we converted to an LLP a few months ago), I arranged for a colleague to baby-sit clients during my holidays. In the early years that was Susan Singleton (who remains a sole IP practitioner to this day), and I did the same for her.

    At the same time, I find my iPad is a great invention - so convenient for browsing at an airport.

  12. Still no response from the blogger! On holiday not worliday perhaps?

  13. Dear Anonymous - Not really avoiding discussion. Simply not got anything to add except to Barbara's comment, but I had already replied to that on Twitter - having been to a number of roadshows to understand my obligations on supervision under the new OFR rules I disagreed with her.
    I have a hunch there is a difference between the sexes which would mean women are more likely to favour worlidays than men. It would be good if someone would research it to see if this hunch is well founded, but otherwise, I haven't got the time or inclination to debate the point.
    Mark - Thanks for your response.

  14. That's fine Shireen. I only read blogs that invite comments in order to debate. I shall continue to read those posted by Barbara, hopefully on Ipkitten. Apart from that, I have no interest in listening to self-promotion from people who like the sound of their own voice but have no interest in the views of others. Might I suggest TV, newspaper or magazine advertisement for one-way communication.

    The internet is wasted on "look at me, look at me, aren't I interesting" promotions. Sexist to boot!

    Anon - my last comment and reading of soloip, anonynmous or otherwise.