On the Job Q&A with Hanah Cho

Sun Reporter

Welcome to On the Job.

Starting today, I'll be answering your questions on everything from employment laws to office politics to finding a new job.

Let me start off by introducing myself. I'm a 20-something reporter who writes about life at work. Like many of you, I'm still trying to navigate the challenges of a career in an increasingly competitive job market. All the while, I'm trying to maintain a personal life.

For the first installment, I thought I'd talk about something that is probably on a lot of people's minds right now: vacation.

With Blackberries, cell phones and e-mail, it's becoming harder to get away from the office.

Whether it's pressure from the boss or a desire to stay ahead, people still are choosing to work while on the beach, at a family outing or on an excursion at a faraway place.

But for all the talk that many of us check in while away from the office, a new survey shows that we at least seem to be getting better at really leaving work behind for R and R.

In CareerBuilder.com's annual vacation survey of more than 2,500 workers, 27 percent said they plan to work while on vacation this year. That's down from a peak of 51 percent in 2002 and 33 percent last year, according to the survey.

Still, workplace experts say many workers draw a line in the middle -- where they'll take emergency calls from their boss or respond to important e-mails.

Why? The recent survey found that 16 percent of workers feel guilty about missing work, while 7 percent fear taking time off could lead to unemployment.

"People want to stay in touch," said Terry Schaefer, a life coach in Baltimore who works with executives and professionals on balancing work and life. "They don't want to be left out of the loop."

Schaefer acknowledges he's guilty of having taken work on his vacations. But he's trying to resist that urge by taking vacations that keep him from working, like cruise trips where there's no cell phone reception.

To have a work-free vacation, experts advise managers and workers to have a plan, including getting the work done ahead of time and setting clear boundaries on when the vacationing employee can be contacted, if at all.

Because in the end, experts say a refreshed employee means a happy worker.

Any questions you've ever had about your workplace, but might have beenreluctant to ask your boss about? Send those my way at working@baltsun.com.

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