Tag Archives: vacation

Blurring the Boundaries Between Work and Vacation

Image of day planner with work x-ed out and "day off" written in.I was recently at a car museum full of beautiful automobiles from the last 100 plus years. In one of the exhibits I noticed a gentleman on his cell phone conducting what sounded like a business conference. If he had a family with him, they had already moved on to another hall. I thought about that. Amongst all of these fantastic cars, he saw the need to divert his focus. Was he multi-tasking or was he truly missing out on the opportunity that surrounded him? I wonder if we haven’t blurred the lines between work and non-work until they are undistinguishable.

Two Weeks to Infinity

A number of companies, mostly high tech giants like Netflix, have introduced unlimited vacation time. Software developer Hubspot, has gone one step further and coined their vacation policy “two weeks to infinity,” which means they encourage their employees to take at least two weeks off each year, more if necessary. Software maker Buffer takes it one more step by offering employees $1,000 to actually use their vacation time. In other words, the company is paying employees to make use of a benefit they already have. No wonder we’re so tired.

The caveat behind most if not all of the unlimited vacation policies is the unspoken phrase “as long as you get all of your work done.” In a Harvard Business Review article last year the author argued that whether an unlimited vacation policy succeeds or not depends on trust within the company. Some companies have found that an unlimited vacation time policy actually resulted in employees taking fewer vacation days because they feel pressure to work more without the traditional boundaries. The Tribune, publisher of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, rescinded their unlimited vacation policy in 2014 just a week after implementing it. With no vacation bank employees could no longer cash out their saved vacation hours when leaving the company, which turned out to be a coveted perk. Workers preferred the cash to the vacation. It can be hard to keep up with work, and vacation time suffers.

There’s an App for That

While we need an incentive or a reconstructed vacation policy in order to actually take time off, we also have more tools for conducting business while away from the office. Tools such as WhatsApp, Cisco Spark, and Facebook Messenger allow people to receive e-mails, texts or video communication on any device. Some of these apps also provide for screen sharing. They make use of the cloud by providing dedicated rooms for conversations and document sharing. At the same time, security is also important, often through message encryption. So, now we are afraid to take vacation in case we get behind in our work and even when we do take vacation, we are accessible to colleagues back at the office. If we are never offline, is it really a vacation? Is this the new norm?


I would love to hear your thoughts on the value of time off. Does a working vacation provide the same recharge as one where you are completely unplugged? Is the idea of “time off” going to go the way of the flip phone now that lines are blurring between work and non-work? Perhaps we need a new definition of work? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Technology in the Air

Photo of modern airplane flying on autopilot.In light of upcoming summer vacation plans, I want to look at how technology works behind the scenes to keep us safe and comfortable as we travel. Recently I was on a plane and, as I often do, I looked in the cockpit at the instruments. I was amazed at the array of gauges and computer screens available to the pilots. How far have we come in the last 100 years in terms of technology in a plane? Is it better for the pilot? Is it safer for the passengers?

Electronic Flight Bag

My son is taking flying lessons and his flight bag seems to get heavier by the day. Every pilot takes a similar bag into the cockpit and it carries flight maps, aircraft operating manuals, and other documentation. Fortunately, an electronic flight bag has been developed that allows pilots to download maps and other useful information to a tablet. The iPad seems to be the tablet of choice for pilots and can be updated at airports or real time through wireless 4G. They can also hold apps such as weather maps, FAA updates, and GPS navigation aids. Such technology makes critical information much more accessible to the pilot.

Passenger Entertainment

There are many networked systems running in a plane, including the navigation systems, the point-of-sales systems for purchased food and beverages, and the passenger entertainment systems. On top of that, wi-fi has been added to many flights. It is a miracle that it all works and is a testament to good systems architecture and a robust network. I flew overseas last year and the plane had a seatback entertainment system with what appeared to be an endless array of music and movie choices. More recently I flew with a small airline that rented tablets connected wirelessly to an on-board server, with movies and in-flight entertainment. The options continue to grow as airlines try to differentiate themselves and become more sophisticated in their technology offerings.

Who’s Flying the Plane?

I read about the advent of driverless cars, but will we see a pilotless passenger plane anytime soon? Drones are available now that can take payloads that range from cameras to missiles. Passenger planes have autopilot, which can be used once the plane is in the air, but a human still takes off and lands. In a recent article, experts speculated on future technology that could possibly push pilots out of the cockpit. This debate has intensified since a German pilot deliberately crashed an Airbus A320 into a mountain last month. Completely remote aircraft management is being researched. In fact, remote control airports are already in use in Sweden and are being considered in other locations. The question I ask myself is do I trust the plane to a pilot or a programmer?


If your travels take you on a plane this summer, I hope you will appreciate the technological changes that have come to the airline industry, both for your safety and comfort and to help those charged with getting you safely to your destination.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Tech Fueled Vacations

shutterstock_133219739In April, my wife and I spent a few days in New Jersey and New York. I reflected recently on how much technology I used to plan and execute the few days there. I booked our flights online, secured a place to stay through Airbnb, and downloaded apps, which gave me maps and schedules of the New Jersey and New York Metro system. I secured Broadway tickets online and got recommendations for places to eat. When we got lost, I just asked my phone to guide us to our destination. This doesn’t include the countless hours spent on Google Maps ahead of time trying to memorize the landscape. Here are some other tech solutions that may help you with your vacation this summer.

Route Planning

A friend recently turned me on to the Waze app, which is a community-powered mapping and navigation app that gives you real-time traffic information and road alerts. Waze was acquired by Google last year and is available as a free smart phone app. It can help you in planning and executing your road trip by alerting you to traffic delays, road closures, speed traps, and changes in traffic patterns. It is a great way to get real-time alerts from other Waze users.

The Nearest Gas

One of the largest costs of an automobile trip is gasoline. While Waze provides gas station locations and prices, I have relied on the GasBuddy app, which is available for the iPhone, Android, or Blackberry platforms. This is a community-based app that relies on user input to locate gas stations and post their prices. People who input gas prices are eligible for possible prizes.

Price Comparisons

There are many travel sites on the web, but Kayak searches those sites to determine the lowest price airlines, car rentals, hotels, and more. This is available as a web app for planning your vacation ahead of time or a mobile app for planning on the fly. Kayak is a good way to make your vacation bargain hunting more efficient.

Where to Eat

At the end of the day, we all need to eat, but when you are on an adventure, you may not know what is available or where. For some it may be as easy as looking up to see the ubiquitous golden arches. For others, however, it may not be that easy. For example, if you are gluten intolerant and you are traveling in a strange town or country, how do you find a place that will accommodate your dietary restrictions?  Not to worry. There is an app for you! Findmeglutenfree is a web and mobile app that will search by location for local gluten free options. Other apps cater to needs such as a kosher diet. There are so many options available that it is a matter of finding the right one for you.


With all of these options available, I wonder if vacation planning or the actual vacation itself is more stressful or less stressful. The ability to secure every last detail ahead of time or on the road takes an incredible amount of time. Is the payoff worth it? Whatever happened to a spontaneous road trip? Do those exist anymore? Tell me about your vacation this summer and the tech that you use. I would love to hear about it.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at nigh