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Top A/E/P Management not Using Days Off

Professionals in the architecture, engineering, and planning (A/E/P) and environmental industry feel the need to work harder than ever to stay afloat. Taking work home, not taking paid time off, and staying connected even during time off are just a few of the ways they are managing to work more.

Even top management is taking on more work, business-management-services provider ZweigWhite’s 2011 Principals, Partners & Owners Survey suggests. Although firm leaders clearly are working more than ever, most using a median of five days' less paid time off than they are given, they may not be spending more time at the office. Of the hours they work, respondents said they spend 71 percent in the office, 8 percent in clients’ offices, 6 percent at home, 5 percent at project sites, and 5 percent at industry events.

Technology may be partially, if not entirely, responsible for this phenomenon.

“Certainly, the technology today has made us all far more productive," T.Y. Lin International Chief Financial Officer Tony Peterson said. "Along with this comes higher expectations from our clients and co-workers—thus, longer weeks and less time to recharge. However, at some point, we must draw the line and put down the iPhone or BlackBerry.”

But where is that line? Mark C. Zweig, ZweigWhite's founder and chief executive officer, speaks of the "BlackBerry prayer”—that moment at lunch when everyone is looking down with their hands clasped around their smartphones and does not think it is a bad thing. To Zweig, responsiveness is key, and staying linked is absolutely necessary.

“Everyone has to be overcommitted," Zweig said. "Then, it works. If something falls off, something else is there ready to take its place. Overcommitting is where the consistency and higher-than-typical profits come from.”

According to the survey, the vast majority of principals (88 percent) check in with their office and/or clients while on vacation. Principals who check in with their office and/or clients while on vacation do so a median of five times per week.

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