Instant Guide

Why can't we log off for the holidays?

A new survey suggests that most people can't manage to take a vacation from their electronic devices on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other days off — and they're not happy about it

On Thanksgiving, many Americans helped themselves to "a scoop of mashed potatoes and a serving of iPhone," if a new survey is any indication. A poll of 2,179 people conducted by Harris Interactive in early November showed that more than half of American workers check their email on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas, and other holidays. Whether it's to avoid an email pileup after vacation, to escape from family, or simply out of compulsion, Americans can't seem to escape communicating with coworkers. Are we too obsessed with work to enjoy the holidays anymore? Here's a brief guide to the study's findings:

How connected are we?
About six in 10 working Americans said they look at their email at least once during holidays, with 55 percent saying they do it daily, and 28 percent confessing to checking multiple times a day. Perhaps most damningly, one in 10 respondents admitted to checking email at the dinner table, in the presence of family members. The study also found a significant gender gap: 67 percent of men logged on during the holidays compared to 50 percent of women.

Why do workers feel compelled to stay connected?
Forty-two percent of respondents said they believed that "staying up to date eases their workloads once the break is over." But that attitude can backfire, says Matthew Ingram at Gigaom. Staying plugged in "can also suck you into a vortex of work that leads to even more emails." A smaller number of people — 19 percent — said they were actually grateful for the distraction that checking email brought from family time.

Are people upset about staying plugged in?
Forty-one percent of respondents were "annoyed, frustrated or resentful" about it, and 12 percent reported downright "dread" at seeing a work-related email during a holiday. Younger people were much more likely to be bothered (56 percent of respondents aged 18 to 34, compared to 30 percent of those aged 45 to 54). But those who miss the days of communication-free holidays will probably have to compromise, says Chelsi Nakano at CMS WireBecause of the nascent integration of email and social networking, "the outlook for reducing the level of information consumption during so-called 'down time' is pretty bleak."

Sources: PC World, Newser, MSNBC, Gigaom, CMS Wire, LA Times

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