work to liveWhether you’re a communicator or marketer, it’s hard to escape the always-on nature of our respective industries.

Business owners tend to feel that pressure more than most.

But the very nature of the billable hour and selling your time makes the whole idea of taking time off—taking vacation time—abhorrent (or at the very least, difficult) for many of us, whether we own the business or not.

In turn, this week’s question was triggered thanks to yet another (lively) discussion around “time off” in our Spin Sucks Community.

Imogen Hitchcock made a relatively innocent comment: “Is anyone else NOT taking holiday this year?”

The group flocked to her question like, well, a flock of seagulls fighting over a lonely Cheezie (I’m probably not going to be very popular after comparing them to a flock of birds. And I love Cheezies).

One of the first responses came from Christopher Penn who unabashedly loves his work, and the technology he works/lives with so much.

One of my favorite quotes by a former high school classmate is, “If you live for weekends and vacation, your sh*t is broken.”

Meaning, we love our work so much that taking a vacation is LESS fun than work.

In that respect, every day is a vacation, and real vacations are just a lot of unpaid work.

So, with that in mind, this week’s Big Question is:

Do you work to live or live to work?

Is taking a break or vacation important if you love your job so much it pains you to be away from it?

Live to Work

Christopher Penn’s comment was one of the catalysts for the conversation, but it wasn’t his only contribution:

Most of my “work” is stuff I love to do. Being away from my work means being away from doing stuff I love.

I’m in the middle, right now, of examining the analytics around pet influencers. Why? Because I can.

I am fortunate that my company—and the marketplace we support—wants this kind of work.

I’d do it anyway, but then it would be a hobby.

Work to Live: A Question of Quality

Whether Christopher Penn is actually an android dreaming of electric sheep is a question for another day, but what many respondents focused on is the quality of our work.

Can you sustain a high level of quality indefinitely in your work no matter what, or will it wane, or our perspectives wander if we never take a break from it?

Deirdre Lopian found out the hard way:

The idea? The more I worked without a day off or a tech break, the better I would be.

I was very wrong, and I ended up burning myself out mentally.

I was not in a good place and it affected my business and my personal relationships.

It was a long slump I had to work out of myself. I now take a tech break on Sundays and don’t work on weekends.

I just started that routine in May and so far it has worked out.

Matt Maxey is on the same page:

I agree so much with that.

Coming from the world of politics PR, I was on 24/7, 365, and personally, I think that is a large part of why people who work in politics full-time are so angry.

You never have a chance to shut off and just enjoy the world without worry of a deadline or emergency.

Lifting that even in a small way has made so much of a positive impact in all aspects of my business and professional life.

Finally creating that self-discipline to set aside time to recharge (and a change to working in travel) have been the best moves I’ve made in the last 10 years.

Think of the Clients

Quality can suffer from burnout and fatigue, but Betsy Decillis argues that we would be hard-pressed to get better at what we do if we don’t stop and smell the proverbial roses.

People who don’t unplug and take a break from their work are doing a disservice to themselves and to their clients.

Vacation is where you explore and see the world differently.

If you don’t think that will bring something new and exciting to your work… I just can’t.

What ensued was a spirited back-and-forth between Betsy and Chris, fueled by their respective assertions.

Chris embraces technology and his work. He armors himself in it, girding and protecting against a somewhat dystopian worldview.

Whereas Betsy worries the bubble(s) we inadvertently (or, in Chris’ case, purposefully) self-impose adversely affect our ability to problem solve and be empathetic.

Work to Live or Live to Work: WWAD?

Really, as with many philosophical conundrums, we should really be asking: WWAD (What would Aristotle do)?

Christopher Penn summed up his philosophy neatly:

Mitch Joel has a great expression for this: work/life blend.

The idea that work and life are one and the same, as long as you love what you’re doing.

In a perfect world, sure, some of us (read: me) argued.

But you can have too much of a good thing. I may have even gone so far as to say that you might love (really love) pizza, but it’s possible to overindulge in what you love. I

f you’re looking at the big picture, mixing things up is likely good in the long term.


Enter Aristotle (and Betsy, again).

There’s no such thing as too much pizza. Why are you taking us off track again, Mike?

But you can’t have it both ways, can you?

Betsy Decillis:

Fun fact: Aristotle actually broke logical rules in his Law of Non-Contradictions.

His argument was that anyone that could keep two contradictory ideas in their head has the mind of a plant. Sometimes I have the mind of a plant.

Mic. Drop.


While the philosophical “work to live” vs. “live to work” debate continued, others picked up on the idea of unplugging, and how that’s also very important (especially during time off).

From Lukas Treu:

I actually wrote a post about this.

I think the notion that anyone feels that they can’t unplug is a bit sad, though I certainly experience it and won’t pretend I’m not anxious whenever I’m even temporarily disconnected.

Technology has made our jobs easier for sure, but it’s also added new expectations of connectedness.

When cars can self-drive, will we all be expected to work on long commutes?

Probably, if history tells us anything.

And I think we need to draw a line as people regarding what is the appropriate expectations of connectivity to have of one another because technology is never going to do that for us.

From Mary Barber:

It’s very challenging to unplug because we have trained ourselves to stay plugged in.

It’s how we make our money, but it’s also what makes us (I believe) thrive. But it’s also really critical to do it.

I just returned from a week away and it was incredible to be able to avoid it all and relax.

I returned rejuvenated and ready to tackle things again. And my clients were okay with it too.

Bottom line is we aren’t indispensable, even though we might want to think we are.

But we can get tired and we need breaks. Just like other folks in other professions do.

It’s okay and we need to promote it. For our own health.

Tressa Lynne agrees:

I have no problem unplugging from work—because I have an amazing co-worker who covers for me (and I for her).

I’ll admit to checking emails but it’s for my own sanity—to delete junk or file emails I just needed to read but no action necessary.

By doing that little bit, it makes it less overwhelming when I return.

However, my problem is I get annoyed at all the other (various social media, news, etc) notifications that “bother” me on a day off.

Work to Live: Take Care of You

Often, the question of balance quickly becomes moot.

It’s important, assuredly, but ultimately something and someone should/will always take precedence.

This is a passion of Sabrina Cadini’s:

Such great advice in this thread!

I love the question because it’s my passion and specialty for my coaching: Life-Work Balance, where personal life should come first, then work can get done.

You are the most important piece of the equation in your life, and you should take care of yourself BEFORE taking care of others.

We are always too busy and we completely ignore ourselves.

My program focuses on five principles to improve your well-being, and as a result, making you more successful and profitable.

I learned the hard way with burnout, and—thankfully minor—health issues a few years ago, and now I guide others to improve their life.

Live to Work: Forced Vacation

Because there are so many marketing and communication professionals who won’t take a break and/or unplug, many organizations (ours included) insist upon a minimum amount of time off.

Employees who work themselves to death, or simply lose perspective and some of the joy behind why they’re working aren’t benefitting the employer or themselves.

Similarly, employers don’t win if their team members don’t take time off.

Sure, they have an at-the-ready, hard-working team, but sooner or later someone will falter if they aren’t forced to take a break.

From Betsy Decillis:

Tired, less effective workers = crap products, higher turnover, etc. That’s a lot of wasted money.

At which point, even Gini Dietrich was forced to make an appearance:

What Betsy said… it’s not a win for either side. Which is why I force you people to take time off… unplugged.

I prefer flexibility to unlimited paid time off. We all take time when we need it and don’t track hours/days.

But I do force everyone to take at least two weeks off a year.


OMG, GUYS. GINI SAID I WAS RIGHT! *cue the parade*

It was bound to happen at some point. Should we also celebrate with squirrels?

It’s an inside joke. You’ll have to join the Spin Sucks Community to share in the fun.

Work to Live? Keep it Simple

Ultimately, Mike Schaffer provided a simple(r) perspective when it comes to the “work to live” or “live to work” question:

It’s simple—if you see work as a job, it’s that.

If your work is a passion, it’s that.

Unplug, recharge as you see fit. But there are pros and cons to both stances that you have to accept—some intrinsic and some extrinsic.

Some of us pushed back. Is it really that simple, Mike? To which, he responded:

I have friends who work 18 hours a day in the office six days a week. But leave work at the office.

I prefer a career that gives me more day-to-day flexibility… but harder to fully disengage.

Are any of these right or wrong? Dunno. But I am comfortable, happy, and fulfilled my way.

I hope they are with theirs.

Shane Carpenter agrees:

It’s all about balance.

But in saying that I think it’s important to realize that we all have different balance points.

What works for me may not work for you.

Up Next: Petfluencers

Speaking of balance, or lack thereof, one of our community members recently stated that finding out Instagram dogs (and cats) make more money than many of us do is a tough pill to swallow.

The crazy world of petfluencers on social media is just that: CRAZY.

It’s a little strange to see dogs and cats managing social channels better than their human counterparts (yes, we know the animals aren’t really managing their socials, but you get the point, don’t you?).

Begging the next Big Question:

What is Petfluence, and as a pet owner (or not) how does it affect you and why?

Ultimately, when it comes to social media, it’s about reach and engagement. And petfluencers dominate.

Why and how do they resonate with us so much?

You can answer here, in our free Spin Sucks Community, or on the socials (use #SpinSucksQuestion so we can find you).

Mike Connell

Mike Connell is the director of client services at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. He is also a contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks, the leading source for modern PR training, trends, and insights. Find more of Mike's musings on his blog, Communative. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

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