The August Work Ethic

Are you on vacation these last few days of August? If so then what are you doing staring at a computer screen, reading my blog?

Me, I’m at the office throughout this slow, concluding week of the summer. But if I weren’t, if I had time off, I think I’d do what I haven’t done yet all year, even on the ostensible holidays I’ve taken: fall off the grid entirely and relax properly — without telephones, without text messages, without the Internet.

We don’t do that enough in the States and I sometimes regret it painfully. European readers know what I’m talking about. Just before the calendar turns to September, the cities empty out and the shops close in a kind of workers’ solidarity like no labor strike ever seen on American shores.

Servers Are People Too

Hell, this even applies to the online stores, as I noticed when I went to buy dress shirts from Asole & Bottoni, a not particularly fancy Italian clothier who happens to cut reasonably handsome, ready-to-wear shirts in just my awkwardly excessive sleeve length. Here’s the message I saw when I pointed my browser at their Web shop:

Il nostro laboratorio artigianale è chiuso per ferie. L’attività riprende il 2 settembre 2007.

Amazing. Even the servers get to kick back in August over there. We’re doing something wrong.

  1. Let’s do it totalitarian style: Require all the servers to shut down for a few days in August.

    But you are right. If there is one thing I love about London, its that there is a real Summer feeling during the holiday period.

  2. I also echo these veiw points. Having been lucky enough to travel to Europe several times I know exactly what Nik is talking about. I love London, have friends in London and am always wanting to go back.

    After I was done feeling like a tourist on my first few trips, the thing that stuck with me the most was this difference in cultures, and how we don’t know how to relax over here. Or how Europeans know how to relax a lot better than we do. It is something that has stuck with me and a feeling I try to hold on to every time I come back from vacation.

    And for those of us who work in creative deadline oriented professions, all the more reason to take some time and relax – it so often goes against us in our jobs.

  3. Hi, here in Italy August is, in fact, a vacation month (often the whole month!). However most e-commerce sites accept orders in August; they just suspend shippings in the central week of the month (August 15 is national holiday).

    The site Asole & Bottoni is closed since it sells custom made shirts and their craftmen are currently “in ferie” (on vacation). So, if you need an Italian custom made shirt now, try Patro. They have a step to step process where you can choose any detail of your shirt.

    However consider that the finest shirt makers in Italy don’t sell online and their shirts are very expensive.

  4. I too with add a hearty “hear hear!” to your suggestion. I think it would do us all good to have more time “away”. In fact, I don’t get LESS productive because the of the relatively short vacation times I get, I tend to come home refreshed and end up being much MORE productive.

    We ARE doing something wrong.

  5. Yes thats all great, and here in roma (it) everything shuts down in august and we all run at the seaside… but this is my first week of work after holydays. Uff…………

  6. European readers know what I’m talking about. Just before the calendar turns to September, the cities empty out and the shops close in a kind of workers’ solidarity like no labor strike ever seen on American shores.

    Hmmm, not in the UK they don’t. There are a few less people around at work but the shops are certainly all still open.

  7. I’m going off the grid next week, on a 2.5 week holiday in Toronto visitng my wife’s family. We’re off to a cottage on one of the lakes so I’ll have one week where I’m not online, not on the phone! First time in a few years!

    Until then though, I stil have a few bits and pieces of work to do! ;(

  8. The only times I’ve fallen completly off the grid is when I moved and it was because I didn’t have internet hooked up yet, nor phone service, and it SUCKED BIG BALLS!

    I realized how AWESOME the internet REALLY is, and how much we are able to accomplish with its sensational powers…

    Getting a bit of quiet time is good though, I mean through out the work week I’m usually checking my e-mail every five minutes or so. Then on the weekends I usually check my e-mail once or twice a day. It’s always nice to just kick back and enjoy the family.

  9. I was on vacation, on-and-off, since mid June. I’m lucky enough to work for myself and since once of my biggest clients is a governmental education body I tend to have a lot of spare time in the summer.

    By mid week, at which point I was returning from a week with my wife’s family in the maritimes, I was ready to get back to work.

    It was a great summer, but sometimes it’s nice when things ends – even if only so they can begin again.

  10. Mr. Topley’s right about Britain. Indeed, Edinburgh is more full in August than any other time of year Ё though that does have a little to do with the festival going on. Bah humbug!

    I’m with the poster above: downtime is great. But having it with the web still at hand is better. How else are we to definitively settle pointless disputes!?

  11. Well, that European habit is true -especially to us, southern Europeans, who are kind of, cough!, lazy.

    But who can blame us? Who can work through 300 days of sunshine?

    (If only Greece wasn’t on fire this year…)

  12. Did someone say Europe? Thats a place I definitely want to visit. Sounds like everyone here has been on a short vacation, except for Khoi Vinh. Should I be ashamed of myself? I’ve been on vacation since May 9th when I quit my job.

    Not sure I would like to fall of the grid anytime soon. I lived without electricity for 5 days after Hurricane Dean faded, and it was awful. I was glad when they restored power to my district, the internet felt like heaven.

  13. That’s what I’m doing next week – sort of. I’m just going to go home to my parent’s house, swim in the lake, and eat good southern food. Not the whole time, still got some work to do, alas. But it’s better than nothing! Vive la 9 day weekend!

  14. Even worse than martian77: I work in Italy for a California-based multinational. We are slowly educating colleagues over there that meetings and conference calls on August 15th are for top management only!

  15. Very romantic! But, who wants to live like a full-time bum? Italy is great for vacations, period! I know many Italians that have moved here because they can find good jobs that allows them to have their own apartments instead of having to depend on their parents for shelter and also because they are sick of the Italian bureaucracy…

Thank you! Your remarks have been sent to Khoi.