Top five ways to use social media to look like you’re working on vacation

We’ve put some distance between us and the September 2008 financial crisis, but unemployment – and tension the workplace – is still high. There’s plenty of anxiety over whether people appear to be working hard enough, because it’s safe to assume that the budgets being allocated or raises and bonuses are unlikely to be generous. So, in the quest to appear productive, employees need more tools. Thankfully, we have social media: use it wisely, and you can look wholly dedicated to your company and your job while you’re on vacation.

The trick, of course, is to look productive. Work through your vacation, and you give up an opportunity to relax … and risk annoying the friends or family traveling with you. I’ve written about tools you can use to look like you’re working even when you’re not, but the proliferation of social media options gives you new ways to snow your boss.1. Plan your lies
While you’re waiting at the gate or sitting on the plane, write out the tweets and Facebook status updates that make it look like you’re thinking about the office. Use brief mentions of activities that could look like work, such as “Taking quick look @ document before heading to pool”. Write enough so you have three or four a day (you don’t want to overdo it).

2. Schedule your tweets and status updates
Since you don’t want to give up vacation time to even the appearance of working, schedule your tweets and Facebook status updates. HootSuite’s my favorite, but there are other tools you can use, as well. I prefer HootSuite because I can hit Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn from the same place and schedule updates for each. Twitter may say you’re “taking quick look @ contract” but you’ll really be sipping something delightful on the sand.

3. “Favorite” tweets for @replying or retweeting later
Unfortunately, this requires that you actually do something while you’re on vacation, but it’s not as hard as it sounds (as long as you use a smartphone). While you’re waiting in line or running off to the bathroom, use a Twitter application (I use UberTwitter) to scan your stream and see if there is anything work- or business-related that you can retweet. Do some immediately, but mark most of the interesting tweets as favorites. When you get back to your hotel room, schedule the retweets over time, so it looks like you’re continually thinking about work.

4. Check in (with the office, that is)
Again, you can’t schedule this sort of behavior, but you can still fake it. During your flurries of @ replying and retweeting, dash off a few direct messages to key people at the office (peers are better than bosses, because I will seem more like real work) just to see how things are going and if anybody needs some help. The only risk is that you could get dragged into a conversation (or worse) if someone really does need a hnd.

5. Hire a helper
Find an unemployed liberal arts grad who’s willing to tweet and post for you for a few days. Pay him or her with access to your garage while you’re out of town and a hot meal when you get back. Hire a psych or philosophy major, and you can probably get away with cold pizza.

Congress says airline fees, basic math obscure deals

Deal-hunting used to be relatively simple. You’d fire up your computer, hit a few aggregators and online travel agencies, maybe a few airline sites. Then, you’d pick your ticket and pull the trigger. The lowest number wins, right?

Wrong … at least according to Congess.

Down in Washington, the folks who’d rather not be distracted by continued high unemployment or wars in two countries dispatched investigators to dig into the wave of new fees introduced over the past few years make it hard to figure out where the best deal is. Your cheap ride seems great, of course, until you want to grab a pillow and check a bag … or not check a bag, depending on the airline.

According to USA Today:

Since 2007, many airlines have been charging for services that were traditionally included in the price of a ticket. That’s improved airline bottom lines in a tough economy but raised the ire of travelers who find themselves nickeled and dimed to substantially higher costs.

The mathematical gymnastics involved – e.g., adding a bag-checking fee to the ticket price – are more common in Europe, where easyJet and Ryanair have forced passengers to do addition for years.

While Congressional investigators don’t think passengers can do the math for themselves, it’s clear that the airlines have figured it out: 10 U.S. airlines raked in $7.8 billion in ancillary fees last year. Delta led the pack with $1.6 billion.

Change the Trend: Use Your Vacation Days

Not everyone is as brazen as Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter. While his publication was in the middle of cutting 5 percent of its staff, he made himself scarce. But, you can do that when you’re the top dog. Most people don’t take vacations when the Grim Reaper is mingling among the cubicles. They’d rather be at their desks, they convince themselves, generating value for shareholders and demonstrating the return their employers get on their salaries. So, instead of going on vacation last year, many doubled down on the business of staying employed, always a priority when the unemployment rate hits double digits.

But, this can wear you down. Consider the factors converging on you: anxiety over your job, a shitty market for getting a new one, having to “do more with less,” survivor’s guilt, longer hours, smaller (or no) raises and bonuses and less appreciation. Now, take away the few days or weeks you take every year to recharge. What do you have left?

It’s a dismal situation, and it would be smart to commit to a vacation this year, especially if you didn’t take one at all in 2009.According to a new study by Right Management, the human resources consulting unit in Manpower, 66 percent of American employees didn’t use all their vacation days last year. Douglas Matthews, president and COO of Right Management was surprised: “We thought it would be about 50 percent.”

Doubtless, this was shaped by more than attempting to appear deeply committed to the job. Consumer spending spent most of 2009 in rough shape, as credit tightened and people repaid debt and held onto their cash in case they fell victim to the layoff trend. Dropping hefty amounts of dough on a trip entailed a financial risk that fewer people were willing to accept last year. Said Matthews, “The cost of taking a vacation is pretty high. He continued, Tons of people feel they don’t have the discretionary spending to take vacation, so they just stay at work.”

Simply staying at home while taking vacation time apparently wasn’t an attractive option. This feeds the other aspect of the dynamic. The notion that not going on vacation shows people how valuable you are was prevalent. Whether it’s a game of toughness among peers or jockeying for favor with the boss, there is a population that thinks it needs to make profound sacrifices to demonstrate its value.

Connie Thanasoulis, career services expert at, doesn’t see it this way. “It’s silly to think that giving up vacation is going to make your colleagues think how important you are,” she tells Forbes. “Take your vacation and let them miss you.”

Joan Kane, a Manhattan psychologist, is on board with this thinking, calling vacations “underrated.” She says, “People think they’re fluff. I believe they’re crucial.” In addition to keeping you on an even keel, vacations help you feel like you control your time. Even if this is only a brief sensation, it’s one you should allow your self to feel every now and then.

Kane notes, “On vacation you have no boss to satisfy … “You’re not under constant surveillance.

[Photo via MigrantBlogger]

Airlines watch 15% of last year’s revenue disappear

U.S. airline passenger revenue fell in October, completing a full year of dismal monthly performances. From October 2008 to October 2008, passenger revenue dropped 15 percent, according to calculations by the Air Transport Association. The study was based on a sample group of more than 24 air carriers. Falling ticket prices are said to be the problem … which means we can trace it back to household finances, throwing the job market into the mix.

With unemployment now above 10 percent, consumers are being careful with their extra cash (if they have any), and dropping cash on plane tickets is pretty difficult. Hey, that’s why more people are driving this year than in the past.

In October, the number of people flying on U.S. airlines fell 3 percent, and the average price to fly one mile dropped 13.5 percent. Basically, the number of people flying hasn’t fallen much, but they’re demanding much better pricing for their business. Airlines have to take it on the chin in order to bring any revenue in the door at all.

Will flights be less crowded next year?

The number of passengers passing through planes in 2010 is expected to decline again. The Boyd Group, a consulting firm in this industry, forecasts a decline of 74 million passengers relative to 2008 – down to 675 million next year. This means you’ll get a little more elbow room, as long as the airlines don’t respond with more route cuts. The fact that unemployment is likely to break the 10% level early next year isn’t helping, as people will be less likely to pick up a ticket and hit the road if they are worried about losing their jobs.

The year after is the one we’re all waiting for – the airline industry is expected to start to recover in 2011. It’s going to take a while, though. Even in 2014, there will be 16 million fewer passengers than there were in 2008.