What do you think when you hear the words “office” and “holiday”? If you’re at least middle-aged like me, the definitions you grew up knowing are changing significantly. I recently saw an article in Forbes analyzing these changes.

We grizzled veterans remember a time where “office” meant the structure in some location other than the one where you lived where you went to conduct business. There was such a thing as “taking work home with you” but it mainly consisted of you bringing physical documents to your residence. Similarly, “holiday” was a day designated by government and/or culture as a day where most people didn’t go to the “office” in observance of a tradition or event – you know, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Independence Day, Labor Day and whatnot. You probably get images like these: 


As the world has evolved into something more digital and “cloud-based,” the definitions of these terms are changing, and the distinction between the two is blurring. This isn’t a good or bad thing, just a different thing. Like most things, it’s what you make of it.

The “office” doesn’t have to be that one structure any longer. You can turn a coffee shop, the train, the beach or your spare bedroom into an office thanks to the online connectivity available. Along with “office,” there is a shift underway of what constitutes “office hours.” Again, we veterans have been taught all our lives that “office hours” are somewhere between 6 AM and 8 PM. There was a time when 8 hours within that range was considered a “workday.” These days, workaholism is glorified and encouraged. From talk show hosts screaming “the 40-hour workweek is for losers” into their microphones to corporate executives who give lip-service to “work-life balance” then only give coveted promotions to people who work 60-80 hours a week, it’s clear in Corporate America that if you want to get anywhere, work is to be the #1 priority at the expense of family and any other pursuits.

There is a rapidly-growing segment of the population that has decided this is not the way to live, and has decided to form their own businesses. Part of the allure is being able to work whenever you want instead of when some corporate suit orders you to work. You can go to the beach, work from sunrise to lunchtime, then spend the afternoon swimming and surfing. Do you despise any clock reading that has “AM” at the end of it? Fine. Sleep late, do fun stuff for a little while, then break out the laptop and work from dusk until no one else in your hemisphere is still awake. You can structure your day such that every day has some holiday hours in it. From the Forbes article, “American Express research found that 65% of those running their own company say they choose to work flexibly and a vast majority of business owners (88%) described the choice to work outside of the identified core working hours (i.e. flexible working) as a personal one.” An extension of this could then be that checking email while on “vacation” or “holiday” for the small business owner would not mean the same thing as it does to the employee that is part of the big corporate machine. The images of “holiday” could easily be “office” for the entrepreneur. 

For some business owners, the business grows to the point where they have to hire others to keep things moving along. The author of the Forbes article adds, “I encourage everyone in my team to schedule regular holidays, to switch off completely whilst away; to put their out of office on and to not check their emails, safe in the knowledge that all will be taken care of. I choose not to stick to this myself.” There’s an element of personal responsibility the business owner takes to ensure they never ask more of their employees than they are willing to do themselves. They then have to be extra intuitive to ensure they don’t burn themselves out.

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