I recently took my first vacation since the Covid-19 pandemic began. We travelled to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and to be completely candid, I was nervous. For the last 10 years, I have travelled often for work and pleasure, but this is the first time in over a year that we have been on an airplane. While I think my health is pretty good, I fall into the high-risk category for Covid-19 based on the official guidelines. The thought of going through an airport, getting on an airplane, and staying in a hotel for 9 days was daunting.
My wife had Covid-19 back in December, but I never tested positive nor had any symptoms despite being in close quarters with her during her recovery. This still baffles me as to why I did not get Covid-19 when she did, so I am still being extremely careful. We self-quarantined ourselves before the trip and as I write this, we are still in self-quarantine after our return home. Even though I was anxious, I felt it was important that we have a change of scenery after 9 months of pandemic "lockdown."
My primary employer required us to work 100% in the office prior to the pandemic. In March, the decision was made to send everyone home and transition to remote work. I was actually excited to return home, as I have been promoting more remote work since the day I started with the company. As a developer, staying productive in an office environment can be a challenge and I prefer my quiet, controlled environment in my home office. Over the following months, the management team saw how the entire team's productivity increased after the transition. I felt justified, but that is another story.
While I worked from home for 5 years before changing employers, I found a distinct difference in this new situation. In my previous experience, I made an effort to get out of the house, whether that was a date night with my beautiful wife, traveling to a conference to present sessions, or a pure vacation. Now, all of those options are either gone, or extremely limited. This resulted in every day looking the same and over time, I noticed a depression growing in me as it felt like I never left work. In September, we were able to travel to Branson, MO, for the North American Collaboration Conference (NACS), and that was a great experience. We chose to drive instead of fly since it was only 7 hours away. It was this trip that convinced me that we needed a complete break from the daily routine we had been following since March. Since we had travelled to Puerto Vallarta in January 2020 with a group of friends and we knew that trip was still scheduled, we managed to get ourselves added to the reservation.
I was determined to completely disconnect from work while I was on this vacation. My company helped by implementing in early 2021 a new policy prohibiting remote workers from accessing company assets, including things in the cloud, unless the employee is within 2 hours of their home location. So not only did I want to disconnect, I was basically being forced to (although I’m sure if the situation was dire enough, exceptions would have been made!) I had my (personal) laptop with me on the trip, but it never left the room safe the entire time we were at the hotel! Success! While this led to some anxiety, the beautiful beach and unlimited beverages helped me forget about work. 😊
There was one thing that happened that I found surprising. In addition to my primary job, I spend several hours a day participating in different technical Communities. I support these communities daily by reviewing dozens of blogs, interacting with others on Twitter, attending online meetings in the PnP community, writing this blog and much more. It is almost a full-time job just trying to keep up with changes to Microsoft 365, SharePoint, PnP, and other technologies. I intentionally did not disconnect from some of these things as I have many friends in these communities that are valuable to me and disconnecting from friends was not part of the goal of the trip. In fact, there were a dozen friends that were on the trip with us and most of them are from these communities.
What I found was things are moving faster than ever in the technology spaces I follow. I could see the announcements in Twitter and email. While I was trying to disconnect, seeing all of these changes made me feel like I was falling behind and could no longer could consider myself on the "leading edge" of knowing what is happening in my primary technology, Microsoft 365. More beach and more beverages helped me power through, but this situation bothered me much more than I expected. There was a comfort once we returned home and I could dig in to all of the things that happened. While I don’t think anyone is completely caught up when it comes to technology, I no longer feel out of touch.
The lesson that I am trying to promote is that we all need time to disconnect from "work." If you are like me and your work is also your hobby or passion, this becomes very challenging. The pandemic has magnified the need to disconnect. While this can happen in a micro-environment by doing anything to get out of the "office," like a walk in the park, building something in your shop or any other hobbies, I think it is important to schedule larger chunks of time to completely disconnect and keep your sanity in check! Beach and beverages definately work for me and my sweetie!